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Coronavirus cases soar in Israel, cabinet to vote on restrictions on Sunday

Second lockdown not completely rolled back yet as third lockdown on the agenda

Ziv hospital team members work at the Coronavirus ward of the Ziv medical center in the northern Israeli city of Tzfat, on December 17, 2020. (Photo: David Cohen/Flash90)

With the Health Ministry reporting 2,802 new corona cases on Thursday and 400 people in serious condition, including 150 patients on ventilators, a new round of restrictions is looming on the horizon.

More than 80,000 people were tested Wednesday with morbidity now at 3.4% and Israel’s death toll at 3,040 as of Thursday. On average, 10 people have died from the virus everyday in Israel in the past month.

Even though Israel expects the arrival of some 4 million doses of Pfizer vaccines by the end of December, Israelis now face a period of uncertainty and likely a return of tough restrictions on the economy and the education system.

Despite the number of daily virus cases nearing 3,000 on Thursday, no restrictions have yet been rolled out. In interviews, Israel’s Health Minister Yuli Edelstein explained that once the average number of daily corona cases surpassed 2,500 - a threshold set by the government - tighter restrictions would be imposed including closing down the education system and businesses in red and orange municipalities, color codes for cities with high levels of daily virus cases.

Israel’s corona cabinet is expected to convene this Sunday to discuss and vote on tightening restrictions. In addition to closures on marketplaces and schools, gatherings would be restricted to 10 people in closed spaces and 20 people in open spaces. The recently reopened education system would remain open in cities with low (green) and moderate (yellow) numbers of daily virus cases. However, schools would be closed in municipalities with high (orange) and very high (red) numbers of daily cases.

Since March, Israel has gone through two national lockdowns. According to Israeli Channel 12, if Israel does not manage significantly to bring down the number of daily virus cases, a third full lockdown could be in place in just three weeks.

As the government is set to vote on renewed restrictions Israel is fast tracking a “green passport” — a card or mobile phone app which will be given to citizens who take the coronavirus vaccine — and will be the first country to use such a tracking system.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Israel has registered 366,182 corona cases. There are currently 21,829 active virus cases in Israel. While the vast majority are people with mild or no symptoms, the number of seriously ill patients has risen.

Like the rest of the world, Israel is simultaneously facing an unprecedented health crisis along with a financial crisis due to high levels of unemployment because of the lockdowns.

According to a new report published by the Latet NGO, poverty rates have soared some 50% in Israel due to the coronavirus crisis.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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