In Brief: Israel covid death toll rises as ministers consider easing weekend rules

Israel saw the deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic this week, as ministers prepared to meet today to consider a relaxation of some weekend restrictions. On Tuesday, the Health Ministry announced that 15 people died on Monday, the highest single-day death toll since the pandemic began. Three more deaths Wednesday morning brought the death toll to 564. The number of new covid cases has risen by 1,700 in the past 24 hours, with 24,866 active cases. There are 355 patients in serious condition and 104 on ventilators. In the West Bank, there are 7,824 active cases and 80 people have died. In the Gaza Strip, 72 people were diagnosed and one person has died. Israel locked down early and fared well in international comparisons of covid deaths per population. However, tight restrictions were lifted in May and the virus has surged again over the past month, with new measures being introduced. One of those measures – weekend-only restrictions on economic activity – will be discussed by the “coronavirus cabinet” on Wednesday afternoon. On Tuesday, health minister Yuli Edelstein said that the government would lift the restrictions, which closed malls and shops. “There’s no such thing as a half-pregnancy. There’s no need for this, there’s no proof this helps anyone. In my opinion, aside from bothering the public it doesn’t achieve anything,” he said. At today’s meeting, Ronni Gamzu, a former head of the Health Ministry recently appointed to lead the country’s response, is expected to propose plans to allow cities more freedom and flexibility in introducing their own restrictions. A colour-coded system would determine areas that have avoided outbreaks which would be granted more autonomy, while those doing worst would be managed at a national level.
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