March 18, 2020
First responders at the site of a potential coronavirus cluster in Israel. (Photo: Yehonatan Shaul)
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel continues to rise. On Wednesday morning, the Health Ministry reported that 427 people have tested positive for the virus. Five of the patients are in serious condition, with 10 in moderate condition. Thus far, 11 Israelis have made a full recovery from COVID-19, the illness linked to the virus.
A total of 236 coronavirus carriers are hospitalized in isolation at the nation's various hospitals, while 71 are at home in quarantine. Eight patients have been accommodated in hotels for recovery.
Meanwhile, the government on Tuesday announced a series of new restrictions to check the spread of coronavirus, after many Israelis failed to take earlier instructions to heart.
The current situation assessment is that the virus will continue to spread rapidly and that the number of Israelis infected will soon reach 1,000. However, if the situation remains relatively in control, no stricter measures than those put in place thus far will be adopted.
If the spread of the virus slows and the health authorities are able to handle the number of cases, the partial shelter at home policy currently in place will remain in effect for two weeks, after which authorities will consider lifting some of the limitations.
However, should the situation in Israel deteriorate, as happened in Italy, the government could move to a non-optional full closure.
According to a senior official who is involved in the nation's handling of the coronavirus outbreak, "A full lockdown would come at a very heavy cost. We'll do that only if there is no other choice. As far as we know, the horses aren't out of the barn yet. But if we find ourselves in the situation of other nations, of a loss of control, there won't be any alternative," the official said.
The Health Ministry is currently conducting some 1,200 coronavirus tests per day, and expects that number to double within a week. Last week, the government set a goal of testing 2,000 people per day, but due to a worldwide shortage of testing kits, that has not been feasible.
Professor Avi Simhon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's chief economic adviser, stressed Tuesday that there was no danger of a food shortage.
Speaking to Israel Hayom, Simhon said there was no reason to panic. "I understand the people who are rushing to buy, given what they hear on the news. But there is enough [food] for everyone."