Surge in daily infection rate puts Israel in embarrassing position after conquering the first wave earlier this year.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
Israel’s soaring coronavirus infection rate is now the worst in the world, statistics from Johns Hopkins University showed Thursday.
The weekly corona data report from the respected American university showed that over the past seven days Israel averaged 199.3 new infections per million people. That puts Israel in the ignoble position of having the highest rate of new cases, followed by Brazil, Spain, the United States and France.
Ministry of Health statistics released Friday morning showed another 2,766 Israelis tested positive for the virus in the past day and there are currently 25,277 active cases in the country.
Of those infected, 828 are hospitalized with 416 of them in serious condition and 123 patients breathing with the help of ventilators.
The death toll in Israel climbed to 991 as the government moved to impose lockdowns on more than 30 cities where the infection rates are soaring.
Of the 30 cities designated as “red” areas due to the infection rates, full restrictions will only be imposed on 10 of them with almost all the red cities having mostly Arab or ultra-Orthodox Jewish residents. Residents will be restricted to remain within 500 meters of their homes, public transportation will stop and non-essential businesses and all schools will be closed except for day-care facilities and special education programs.
At a cabinet meeting, public health experts warned that there would be no alternative but to impose a full nationwide lockdown, because local closures on red cities alone would not stop the spread.
“This is a message to all of Israel: No weddings. No mass gatherings. No ignoring [guidelines] at a restaurant or anywhere,” warned coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu. “I’m sorry to be emotional. This is a pivotal moment … all of Israel is at war.”
“Anyone who doesn’t put on a mask and who disregards [instructions] is spitting in the face of doctors and nurses who are working 24 hours a day at coronavirus wards,” Gamzu said.
The lockdowns are only scheduled to go into effect starting Monday and there is already opposition being voiced in the government that the closures cannot be imposed during the Jewish high holidays that begin in two weeks.
Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party, a former health minister, lashed out at Gamzu over the talk of closures even though public health experts say the upcoming religious holidays will be an incubator for infection growth unless a closure is imposed.
“You [Gamzu] want a lockdown during the High Holidays because you don’t want people praying … we will not let this happen,” said Litzman, who was reportedly infected himself with the disease when he violated Health Ministry rules earlier this year and attending morning prayers in a synagogue during a lockdown when group gatherings were banned.
Experts have warned that Israel’s healthcare system could collapse unless the infection rate is turned around. A Hebrew University study showed that serious cases are expected to go up by 30 percent in the next two weeks alone.
The situation is the opposite of when Israel received praise for being one of the first countries to get the first wave of infections under control in the spring. However, after health restrictions were eased (most agreeing in retrospect too quickly) and the economy was allowed to reopen, infection rates rose.