A day after Israel saw its highest number of new cases of COVID-19 in more than a month, coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash warned Tuesday that the country was in the midst of an emergency due to soaring infection rates.
Israel is still emerging from a month-long national lockdown implemented in mid-September, with schools and businesses still under mitigation regulations. Earlier in the week, health officials said the number of people battling the virus in Israel had exceeded 10,000 for the first time since July.
"Immediate measures must be taken to curb the spread of the virus," Ash said. "COVID-19 cases are rising but public perception is that the pandemic is all but over."
Ash told reporters that health officials were to convene soon to decide on urgent mitigation measures to present to the government, while intense efforts to test, trace and isolate people with COVID-19 continued.
There are currently 264 people in serious condition being treated in hospitals, including 99 patients on ventilators.
Since the start of the pandemic, 2,865 people have died in Israel from complications of coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toured an Israel Police command center on Tuesday to observe the enforcement of health directives.
"There is a massive effort being undertaken by the police," Netanyahu said, but added that, "we would like to improve policing in areas with high morbidity."
The prime minister said police enforcement is concentrated in the Arab sector where people have been moving in and out of the Palestinian Authority and returning from trips to Turkey, both locations with a high rate of contagion.
"By violating isolation directives, people are placing entire communities at risk from the disease," Netanyahu said.
"We are increasing lockdowns in red zones, but this is not just a policing problem. There are legal issues that must be addressed," the prime minister said, adding that lockdowns are the method adopted by other democracies to deal with the pandemic.
"We open and then close and try not to impose measures that are too harsh. Lockdowns are a necessity at this time," he said.
The Military Intelligence coronavirus task force also warned Tuesday of a potential global spike in COVID-19 cases due to public indifference and a perception that a vaccine will become available soon.
In its new report, MI said the advances made in the search for a vaccine should not be reason to lift restrictions.
First published: 12:24 , 12.01.20