Israeli coronavirus cases jump, one of ‘unknown origin’ particularly worrisome

One case of ‘unknown origin’ means the virus may have already embedded itself in the population.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

The number of Israeli coronavirus patients jumped to 39 from 25 on Sunday. Most worrisome to Israeli health officials is case No. 29, a man in his 40s from the center (and most densely populated) part of the country, whose source of infection is unknown.

Until now, the Ministry of Health had known where each infection came from, whether someone who had traveled abroad or had been in contact with someone abroad. Israel’s Health Minister Yaakov Litzman told Channel 11 News on Sunday evening that the government had things under control, pointing to the fact that it could trace the origins of infection for every coronavirus case in the country.

The ‘unknown origin’ case changes all that. The man had traveled in public without knowing he was sick or infectious. He may have infected others give the disease is highly contagious. With a two-week incubation period, and in some cases little to no symptoms being shown by an infected individual, it may be that the virus has already entrenched itself in Israel. Only the coming weeks will tell.

Israel has taken aggressive steps to contain the coronavirus. On Sunday, the government came close to announcing that all Israelis returning from abroad must go into 2-week self-imposed home isolation. The announcement was put off but may come on Monday.

“We see a sharp increase in many other countries and we reached the conclusion that if we need to take other steps, this will, in effect, be applied to all countries. There is no reason to do this in a small way. But on the other hand, this decision is very difficult,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

An estimated 20,000 people are in isolation in Israel, either people returning from countries like Italy, which have seen a high rate of infection, or people who have come into contact with them.

The severe steps the government has taken until now appears to have kept the number of cases and infection rate low.

“The steps that we have taken up until today have proven themselves because we really are in a situation of control, and the spread of the disease is of a much lower scope,” Netanyahu said at the Sunday meeting called to discuss the coronavirus.

“We’re not talking about closing our gates, but rather to oblige isolation for those arriving to the country, Israelis and foreigners,” he said.