Netanyahu warns of renewed closures as coronavirus cases rise

Netanyahu warns the public that renewed closures will go into effect if people fail to heed health guidelines to get the infection rate back down.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Another 122 Israelis were confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus on Sunday, raising the active cases in Israel to 3,268, the Health Ministry reported.

In the past week, the number of those hospitalized in serious condition has almost tripled from 12 to 35, with 26 of those hooked up to ventilators to help them breathe.

The percentage of positive results from testing rose to 2.2 percent, compared with only 1.2-to-1.4 percent the previous week, the ministry reported.

Hundreds of schools have been forced to close in the past two weeks after students and teachers were found to be infected. The Ministry of Education said Sunday that 506 students and teachers have the virus, forcing them to close 183 educational institutions out of Israel’s total of about 5,200 schools and 20,000 kindergartens.

The closures sent 25,669 teachers and students into preventive isolation, out of 2.3 million students and 200,000 teaching staff.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a stern warning that in order to keep the economy open and avoid another nationwide lockdown, the public had to do a better job of complying with health regulations after another weekend of crowded beaches and parks where many people failed to wear face masks or keep social distancing.

“We are examining a return to the closure on a daily basis,” Netanyahu said. “If we do not see a change in the public’s behavior the number of sick will continue to increase and we will have no choice but to act.”

“The number of infections continues to be about 200 per day, which is a red light,” the prime minister said on Sunday.

According to Health Ministry statistics, 19,008 people have been confirmed to be infected with the virus during the pandemic and 15,360 of those have fully recovered. However, after closures were lifted when infections dropped to near zero there has been a resurgence of the virus.

To date, 300 Israelis have died from complications of the coronavirus.

While the recent outbreaks are centered in the Negev communities of Rahat, Khura and Aragab, as well as among illegal aliens in south Tel Aviv, health officials are trying to stem other active outbreaks in Bnei Brak, Jerusalem and Eilat.

A survey of those now sick showed that 62 percent of patients were exposed to the virus in their home or by a family member, 14 percent caught it in the workplace and a similar rate in schools, 5 percent in a medical institution and another 5 percent at a shopping center.