Two elderly patients succumb to coronavirus as infections continue to rise; IDF to deploy first 500 troops to assist Israeli police in enforcing expected national curfew.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
The death toll from coronavirus climbed to 10 Friday as the number of infected Israelis shot past three thousand, the Ministry of Health announced.
A 93-year-old man died at the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba and a 76-year-old woman succumbed at the Sharon Hospital in Petah Tikva. Both had preexisting health problems.
As of Friday morning 3,035 Israelis were confirmed to be infected, with 49 listed in serious condition, including 38 on ventilators to help them breathe, the ministry said. On Thursday health officials warned that “the worst is still ahead” amid fears that tens of thousands of Israelis will be sick with coronavirus in the coming weeks.
With pressure on the health care system growing and thousands of medical workers forced into precautionary isolation after being exposed to infection, last week the Ministry of Health called for a national shutdown to slow the infection rate. Resisting a total shutdown Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned earlier this week that if the epidemic could not be slowed, there would be no choice but to impose a nationwide curfew.
Netanyahu will convene a meeting Friday with top officials to discuss increased restrictions, Kan Radio reported, including the ministers of health, defense, finance, internal security and the head of the country’s National Security Commission. Officials fear a long economic shutdown would leave Israel with a huge unemployment problem after the pandemic ends.
The Israel Defense Force said it was preparing to deploy the first 500 troops on Sunday to assist police.
“In light of the situation assessment, following the request of the Israeli Police and with the approval of the government, the IDF is preparing to allocate some 500 soldiers to assist the Israeli police in its tasks in light of the guidelines from the government and the Ministry of Health to reduce the spread of the corona virus as of March 29, 2020,” the IDF said in a statement.
Interior Security Minister Gilad Erdan asked for 16 battalions of unarmed soldiers to be deployed to assist the police in enforcing a curfew under which the country will shut down except for essential services.
Israelis will only be allowed out for food and medicine as the country clamps down on movement in a bid to reverse the exponential infection rate that has been doubling roughly every three days.
With the education system shut down and most businesses already closed, Netanyahu told Israelis this week to “stay at home, stay alive.”