Israel enters lockdown as virus cases spike to record high 7,755

Country to lock down for two weeks as record numbers reported for infections and hospitalizations, especially those in serious condition.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A government-ordered nationwide lockdown was set to go into effect Friday as Health Ministry statistics showed that Israel’s coronavirus numbers had reached record levels.

The education system and most non-essential businesses will be closed for at least two weeks with Israelis restricted to remaining within one kilometer (0.6 miles) of their homes except to get food and medical care.

Health Ministry statistics released Friday showed 7,755 Israelis tested positive for coronavirus in the past day, bringing the total number of confirmed active infections to 61,031. Of the 1,390 people hospitalized with coronavirus, more than half, 700, are listed in serious condition with 176 people breathing with the help of ventilators.

The number of those hospitalized has doubled in the past two months. Several hospitals reported they have exceeded their capacity and were sending coronavirus patients to other healthcare facilities.

Since Thursday the death toll from coronavirus rose by 29 to 1,405. With dozens of dead now adding to the daily count, health officials expressed fears this week that another 1,000 people or more might die in the next two months.

The two-week lockdown is aimed at keeping millions of Israeli Jews from gathering together over the Yom Kippur and Sukkot holidays, when extended families traditionally get together. The government has not yet decided how many people will be allowed in synagogues on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, which begins Sunday evening. Yom Kippur services are traditionally packed to standing room only.

“Due to the sharp increase in coronavirus morbidity in Israel, we decided today on necessary measures to save lives. These lockdown measures are not easy but saving lives takes precedence over everything,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday evening in a televised address to the nation.

“This is a national emergency. We are in the midst of a prolonged war – the coronavirus war. This is a war for the economy, for health and again – this is a war for life,” Netanyahu said.

The prime minister warned that “the pandemic is expected to exact an additional very heavy price in human lives. I regret telling you this but it is the truth,” he said, calling on the nation to pull together and comply with health regulations aimed at stemming the rampant spread of the disease.