Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
Israel's coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash seen during a visit at the Jerusalem Municipality on November 22, 2020.

Israel is in a state of emergency again according to the country’s new coronavirus commissioner, Professor Nachman Ash, who is warning that an increase in morbidity along with a public feeling that “the coronavirus is gone” have become the precursor to a third wave of the virus.

The coronavirus cabinet is meeting “to think about what immediate steps should be taken” to deal with the impending crisis, he added.

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The Health Ministry is also gearing up to deal with the impending crisis, and preparing plans for a possible third national lockdown even though it is likely not to take place at least before January, according to a report by Israel’s national public broadcasting network, Kan News.

Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy is also worried about the latest COVID-19 data. In an interview Sunday with Galei Tzahal Army Radio, he said “there is an increase in the reproduction rate which is 1.16 percent.

“There is an increase in the number of verified cases every day, although the rate remains constant,” he said. If that reproduction rate continues to climb, he said, the government will be forced to restore restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“We need to do everything we can to limit gatherings and the increase in morbidity,” he added, pointing out the crowds that packed into shopping malls as soon as they opened this past Friday. He added that December is a “veritable minefield” with the holidays of Hanukah and New Year’s celebrations.

“That’s now on the table for discussion – whether it would be right to impose restrictions and whether we need to have Hanukah celebrated only among nuclear families, rather than mass celebrations.”

Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said in an interview two days later with Galei Tzahal Army Radio, “We have hit the highest level of daily confirmed infections for this period.”

The ministry is considering a call for a lockdown when the number of new daily coronavirus cases reaches 2,000, and the infection positivity rate reaches 1.3 percent.

On Monday there were 1,227 new confirmed cases of the virus, Kisch said. There has been a steady rise in the number of new daily cases for more than a week.

As of Wednesday morning, there were 1,182 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in the past 24 hours, with 266 patients listed in serious condition and of those, 94 on ventilators. There are 11,072 Israelis currently fighting the virus, the highest figure since October 30.

The death toll remains steady at 2,877.

Since the start of the pandemic, 338,591 Israelis have been diagnosed with COVID-19. On Tuesday, 62,734 Israelis were tested for the virus; 1.9 of those tests came back positive.

Professor Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science said in the last month, verified daily cases have risen by about 50 percent, from about 600 to around 900. However, the number of tests has also increased by about 50 percent, from around 30,000 to around 45,000, and the number of new patients and those in serious condition has remained stable.

Segal warned the nationwide data are hiding the increase in morbidity in the Arab sector and among younger people, and said both can increase their numbers and cause the spread of the virus.

Israel’s situation is “fragile,” he said.

The IDF is moving forward on the assumption that the third wave has already begun and has already ordered its troops to prepare for another curfew of up to a month, due to the increase in the number of soldiers infected with COVID-19, TPS reported earlier this week.

This is the third time the IDF has prepared for a COVID-19 related lockdown.

Likewise, Public Health Services director Sharon Alroy-Preis expressed her deepening concerns at a briefing on Tuesday, warning that Israel is again entering an emergency situation.

“During the exit from the lockdown we were at fewer than 600,” she said. “The reproduction rate today is 1.17 and constantly increasing. We don’t even know what the impact will be after all we’ve opened in recent days, with commerce, fifth and sixth grades returning to school.

“This is the start of the third wave.

“The trend in infection is worsening in some 90 localities in the State of Israel,” she said. “We enjoy seeing the green part of the map, but the orange and red parts are starting to rise. Let’s not deceive ourselves that the whole country is in the green.”

As of Tuesday’s briefing, there were 27 cities in orange zones, and 16 cities in red zones, according to Alroy-Preis’ data.

“This is an emergency,” she declared. “We see a significant increase in morbidity and already know to recognize that this is the beginning of the third wave.”

Given the current data, Alroy-Preis made it clear that in this current state of infection, “we cannot open more.”

At present, a night curfew is under discussion, though no decision has been reached. “We are trying not to close down on the holidays,” she said, but added that “it is impossible to predict” what will be five days from this point, let alone for Hanukah, on Dec. 10.

TPS contributed to this report.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.