Israel: 39,871 Cases, 364 Deaths, Uproar In Likud As MK Defies Bibi & Reopens Pools & Gyms

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Likud coalition whip Miki Zohar at stormy meeting of the coronavirus committee. (Photo: Adina Wolman, Knesset spokesperson)

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Israel’s Health Ministry was significantly delayed in updating Monday morning’s coronavirus data, only publishing it close to 4 p.m. The ministry recorded 1,221 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, raising the number of active patients to 20,251, the first time the number of active patients has reached above 20,000. There are currently 160 seriously ill patients, 51 of whom are ventilated. The death toll has risen to 364.

Israel’s coronavirus committee voted to reopen gyms and pools against the advice of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Health Ministry‏‏ and overruling their decision minutes earlier to leave gyms closed and allow pools to open under certain criteria.

Netanyahu met with the chairwoman of the coronavirus committee, MK Yifat Shasha Biton (Likud), prior to the vote in an effort to convince her to reject the proposal against the reopening of pools and gyms in light of the skyrocketing coronavirus infection rate.

Likud coalition whip Miki Zohar whispered to Shasha-Biton immediately after the vote: “You’re finished in the Likud and I’m ousting you as chairwoman. Have a nice life.”

Minutes later, Zohar sent a letter to the House Committee head announcing his intention to replace Shasha-Biton as chairwoman of the coronavirus committee.

Israel’s coronavirus committee convened to discuss reopening gyms and swimming pools following an appeal by opposition parties in the Knesset, which presented the committee with data showing that less than 2% of coronavirus infections were contracted at pools and gyms. The appeal was also based on the fact that hotel pools were allowed to remain open.

However, the Health Ministry claims that the conditions at gyms, including crowding, close quarters, heat, humidity, heavy breathing [due to exercising], and shared equipment as well as the conditions at swimming pools, including the inability to wear masks, crowding, splashing, crowding, difficulty in maintaining social distancing and hygiene, will lead to an increase in virus infections.

Israel’s Swimming Pools Managers Association also filed a petition to the Supreme Court to reopen swimming pools since there is no data verifying that the coronavirus “can spread via contact with water.”

At the meeting, a Health Ministry official presented the data on which the decision to close gyms and swimming pools was based.

According to the data, in the past month, 170 virus carriers contracted the coronavirus at weddings, 35 Israelis contacted the virus at gyms, 21 at restaurants and six at bars.

However, according to Dr. Emilia Ennis, director of the Health Ministry’s Epidemiology Department, the source of infection is too difficult to identify in most cases, with the source of infection unknown in as many as one-third of cases. Others report this phenomenon as being even higher, with one Health Ministry report saying that the source of infection is unknown in as many as 58% of virus cases.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)