Photo Credit: Gili Yaari / Flash 90
Israeli Police set up checkpoints at the entrance to Bnei Brak as part of an effort to enforce a lockdown, March 31, 2020

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Wednesday night with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and National Security Council chief Meir Ben-Shabbat to discuss rising COVID-19 morbidity data ahead of a decision to impose a lockdown on at least nine Israeli cities.

Netanyahu directed the Ministerial Committee on Declaring Restricted Zones be convened immediately as soon as the Health Ministry finalized its recommendations.

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Although the Prime Minister’s Office did not reveal which cities and/or towns are on the list for lockdowns, Channel 12 television news reported that either in whole or in part, the following communities are under consideration: Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Ashdod, Modi’in Illit, Ramle, Beit Shemesh, Kiryat Malachi, Lod and Ra’anana.

The city of Beitar Illit was already declared a restricted zone on Tuesday, and placed under a seven-day lockdown effective Wednesday afternoon.

Another Record Broken
The Health Ministry reported Wednesday morning that there were 1,320 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hour period – the highest total since the start of the outbreak in the Jewish State in March.

But the new cases have raised the total number of Israelis currently ill with the virus to 14,516. The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Israel since the start of the pandemic rose to 33,175.

There was also a spike in the number of seriously ill patients to 113 by Wednesday evening, with 39 requiring ventilator support, and another 82 patients in fair, or moderate condition. Six more deaths were recorded by Wednesday evening since Tuesday morning, raising the death toll to 344. There have been 12 deaths in the past two days.

Time to Shorten the Quarantine?
The Health Ministry is considering the possibility of shortening the mandatory quarantine period for Israelis who have been potentially exposed to the coronavirus.

The period under consideration is seven to 10 days, down from the current 14-day period, according to a report broadcast on Channel 12 television news.

Health Ministry officials are also discussing the possibility of abandoning the requirement of testing those who are asymptomatic, and cutting the authority of family doctors who refer patients for COVID-19 tests, according to Ynet.

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