Israel’s Health Ministry recorded 1,024 new coronavirus infections as of Tuesday morning in the previous 24 hours. There have been over 6,000 new virus cases in the past week.
The number of active cases rose to a new record of 12,717, of whom 89 are in serious condition, with 36 ventilated and another 85 in moderate condition.
Four more deaths were recorded, raising the death toll to 338.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein delivered a televised statement on Monday evening regarding the new coronavirus restrictions. “The virus is changing its behavior and we must adjust ours accordingly,” Edelstein said, adding that the new restrictions are intended to prevent a total lockdown instead in a week or two.
The health minister admitted that the new restrictions will harm the economy but said the measures are necessary to save Israel’s economy in the long run, saying: “If infections decrease, the economy will increase. If they increase, it will be a serious blow to the economy. If we want to spare the economy, we need to flatten the curve.”
Edelstein said that contact tracing epidemiological investigations will be improved with a new smart system based on an artificial intelligence system. He also apologized for the lack of sufficient manpower at the Health Ministry’s quarantine call center in recent days. As the Shin Bet resumed its surveillance program, thousands of Israelis received orders to quarantine, some in error, and there were many complaints from people who called to appeal quarantine orders but received no reply or had to wait for hours. Edelstein said there will be a significant increase in staff at the call center.
The minister also said that he intends to soon appoint someone to lead Israel’s entire operational response to the pandemic.
The Knesset passed a preliminary reading of a bill on Monday allowing the government to impose emergency restrictions immediately before the laws have been brought to the Knesset for approval. According to the bill, the Knesset would be given a week to approve emergency regulations retroactively.
The Knesset also approved a bill on Monday increasing the fine for anyone not wearing a face mask in public from NIS 200 ($57) to NIS 500 ($145). The bill, which also authorizes fines to be issued by municipal inspectors and Israel Nature and Parks Authority inspectors passed through three readings in the Knesset plenum.
Head of the Health Ministry’s Public Health Department Prof. Sigal Sadetzki announced her resignation on Tuesday, writing in her resignation letter that she has come to the conclusion that she can no longer assist with coping with the coronavirus “under the new conditions in which her professional opinions are not accepted.”
In her letter, which she sent to the ministry’s Director-General Chezy Levy and posted on Facebook, she criticized the government’s response to the pandemic as “frivolous,” with decisions made without consideration to long-term public health implications and warned that she feels the coming months in Israel will be difficult and even tragic.
Sadezki said that although Israel’s response to the coronavirus was initially successful in the first phase, the second phase was characterized by opening the economy, including schools, much too quickly and extensively. She added that once it became clear that the reopening of the economy was leading to an increased infection rate, the government should have responded quickly but the Health Ministry ignored professional advice.
Sadetzki was one of the main decision-makers during the first wave under the ministry’s previous director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov and health minister Yaakov Litzman. Apparently, with the change of leadership under Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Director-General Chezy Levy, her professional opinion has not been heeded.
Sadetzki, who was appointed to her position in 2019, was previously the head of the cancer and radiation epidemiology unit in the Gertner Institute for Health Policy and Epidemiology at the Sheba Medical Center.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)