In Brief: Israel freezes further lifting of restrictions as coronavirus cases mount

The Israeli government decided this week to freeze the further lifting of coronavirus restrictions and step up the enforcement of social distancing requirements and other regulations as cases in the country continued to grow. The Health Ministry announced today that a further 88 coronavirus cases were diagnosed overnight. The number of active virus cases has risen to 2,761, after having dipped below 2,000 last month before restrictions began to be eased. Thirty-one of those people were in a serious condition, including 24 on ventilators. Earlier in this week 179 cases were identified in 24 hours, the highest number of daily cases diagnosed since late April. The number of Israelis who have died remains just under 300 at 299. The rise in cases has been linked to the reopening of schools in the country in May. Tel Aviv has the highest rate of infections.

Last week, the government opted not to shut all schools but only to target for closure those where pupils had tested positive. Health minister Yuli Edelstein said yesterday that the new outbreak was becoming a “dramatic event”. To prevent the tight lockdown being reimposed, he said social distancing rules would be enforced as strictly as traffic rules. “Whoever walks around without a face mask is like someone driving at a speed of 160 kilometres per hour,” Edelstein said. City officials have been given the power to join police in enforcing mask-wearing and rules against large gatherings. Plans to allow trains and concert venues to open have been put on hold. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 554 people have tested positive for the virus and two people have died. One person has died in Gaza and 66 were diagnosed with the virus.
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