Israel records 200th death as coronavirus numbers continue to flatten

Confirmed infections up slightly, but hospitalizations continue to drop as more stores set to re-open across Israel in cautious steps to get the economy moving again.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The number of Israelis seriously ill with coronavirus dropped Sunday, continuing the downward trend in hospitalizations even while the number of confirmed cases continued to rise.

The health ministry said one person died Sunday morning from coronavirus-related causes, bringing the death toll to 200. Another 250 people were confirmed infected in the past 24 hours ,bringing the total number for the country to 15,398.

Ministry statistics showed 403 people are hospitalized with coronavirus, a drop of almost 50 percent from the peak of 783 on April 15. Of those in hospital, the number in serious condition dropped by 6.5 percent to 130 with 102 of those breathing with the help of ventilators, a drop of almost 5 percent in one day in the need for ventilators.

According to the statistical website Worldometer, Israel with its roughly 9.2 million citizens is ranked 46th in the world with a coronavirus death rate of 23 per million residents. One of the worst hit countries is Belgium with 6,000 deaths among its 12 million residents, giving it a per capita rate of 612 deaths per million. The United States with almost 55,000 dead from coronavirus has a rate of 164 deaths per million, 16th worst in the world.

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Some easing of economic restrictions went into effect Sunday with thousands of street-front stores now allowed to open, while shopping malls remain closed along with most of the education system and places of entertainment.

Health ministry officials warned the public to comply with health regulations and maintain social distancing, reminding Israelis that most restrictions remain in place, including staying within 100 meters of their homes unless going to work or for essential tasks.

Visiting friends and relatives is still prohibited, and those caught violating the restrictions faced fines of up to $1,400.

“Going out of the house for these needs is considered prohibited and this is a criminal offense,” Health Ministry legal advisor Uri Shwartz told Ynet. “I recommend not doing that.”

“It has to be emphasized that the other side of all the (economic) relief we are giving is the intensifying of enforcement. Many things will be allowed and along with this we are increasing enforcement.”

Also Sunday, the health ministry issued a firm denial after a media report alleged the government allowed the IKEA home furnishings chain to reopen after its owners made a donation to Health Minister Yaakov Litzman’s Gur ultra-Orthodox sect.

“The reports of an association between IKEA executives and haredi elements that led to the opening of the network are nonsense,” the ministry said. “These are the decisions of the relevant professionals and at the request of the Ministry of Finance, without any connection to Minister Litzman.”

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However, health ministry director general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov said the ministry erred in allowing the well-known Swedish home furnishings chain to re-open.

“For me it was a mistake to confirm the opening of IKEA because it is like a shopping mall,” he told Kan Radio.