More than 3,000 people were diagnosed with coronavirus in the most recent 24-hour period – a record since the start of the pandemic. The Health Ministry published the number early Thursday, ahead of the coronavirus cabinet meeting, which began about midday.
The number of active patients rose to 23,698, including 426 who are in serious condition, among them 124 who are intubated. More than 9% (3,150) of the 34,324 people screened for the virus on Wednesday tested positive.
The death toll is 976.
Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu told The Jerusalem Post Thursday morning that the peak is a result, on the one hand, of the opening of yeshivas two weeks ago for the fall learning period and the continuation of the wedding season in the Arab sector. At the same time, he said that “the real issue is how the general population is involved.”
Israeli media reported Wednesday about a back-to-school party in Beersheba at which dozens of teenagers gathered without keeping restrictions, such as wearing masks or social distancing.
Later, it was discovered that one of the students was infected with coronavirus and the entire grade of 107 students had to enter isolation.
Similar parties, gatherings and even concerts took place in the Hefer Valley region and Dimona.
A senior official in the coronavirus cabinet told KAN news that the new data “will force the cabinet to decide on significant restrictions in red cities. The new figure may give impetus to a renewed demand for lockdown or extensive nationwide restrictions.”
Another cabinet member, Minister of Science and Technology Izhar Shay, cautioned that “we must prevent the flooding of hospitals and reduce the number of patients,” he told Israeli media.
He agreed that in order to prevent extensive countrywide restrictions, greater restrictions – and enforcement of them – must be implemented.
“Extend the closure of educational institutions; reduce the number of meetings between people,” he recommended. “It is in our hands,” Shay said. “It is a virus that attacks those who are not careful.”
On Wednesday, Gamzu visited the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) town of Beitar Illit, where he warned leaders that “Without a significant change in the extent of morbidity in the red cities, we will not be able to avoid a full closure.”
According to Gamzu, some 14% of the people screened for the virus in the city tested positive. Across the country, about 28% of infections are in Arab society and 22% are among ultra-Orthodox. The commissioner added that 80% of the new infections are in haredi cities – among them, hundreds of yeshiva students.
The cabinet will issue a final list of red cities on Thursday. In addition to around 20 cities that were named earlier in the week, the cabinet is expected to add to the list Bnei Brak and several neighborhoods in Jerusalem, as well as Haifa, Ofakim, Netivot and Kiryat Ye’arim.