Infections pass 4,000 as official casts doubt on effectiveness of curfew

Infection rate still doubling about every three days; health officials warn full closure might increase infections at home.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The number of Israelis confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus passed 4,000 Monday morning as a senior official warned that a pending curfew may backfire in some population sectors.

The Ministry of Health reported 4,037 Israelis were infected, with 80 of those in serious condition, 63 of whom were breathing with the help of ventilators. One hundred new cases were reported overnight, although the death toll stayed unchanged at 15, all of them elderly.

“I am assuming by the end of the week we will have over 150 patients in serious condition. I do not see a model that we are ending this (pandemic) event with a small number on respirators or dead,” Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov told Kan Radio. He said he stood by his earlier predictions that thousands might die from the disease.

Bar Siman-Tov warned that although the wider public was finally heeding health ministry guidelines to stay home, the proposed nationwide closure might actually harm some sectors of Israeli society with large families.

“We see a change in the behavior of the Haredi (Jewish ultra-orthodox) and Arab societies. (But) the majority of infection is within the home. If we impose a curfew, it will not help,” he said in a subsequent interview on Israel Army Radio.

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Bar Siman-Tov said it was unlikely schools will reopen when the upcoming Passover holiday ends on April 15, repeating the government’s mantra that “the key in the end is a deep change in the behavior of people.”

Health officials led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been pleading with Israelis to stay indoors to stop the spread of the disease. Although some workers are allowed to reach their jobs, people are restricted to within 100 meters of their homes unless getting food or medicine.

The extreme measures taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus infections includes a shutdown of the education system, closing most businesses and reducing public transportation to a minimum. With fears that tens of thousands of infected people would overwhelm the healthcare system, government officials have repeatedly warned that without everybody staying home and the infection rate dropping there would be no choice but to impose a national lockdown.

Last week police began enforcing stay-at-home rules and handing out fines of up to $1,400 to those loitering outside.