Israel Struggles with Second Wave of COVID-19

Israel is struggling to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus breaking out. 1,253 new cases have been reported in just the first 10 days of June – already overtaking the total of 1,186 new cases during the whole of May.

The government has eased restrictions over several weeks, permitting schools and shops to open, and people to gather in larger numbers. But people have not followed Health Ministry regulations, such as wearing a face mask in public.

Israeli checkpoint for virus in MarchAn Israeli checkpoint for the virus in March (photo: Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Consequently, the Israeli police have now increased their efforts to enforce the regulations. On Wednesday they were seen in Jerusalem fining people who were not wearing a mask.

On Thursday evening, after more than 200 new cases were reported during the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed the economy is improving, but he also warned people of the risk posed by the increase in cases of COVID-19, saying:

“The rise in cases is steep and if it continues, we will be back to where we were at the height of contagion
and that would mean people being gravely ill and even dying and we must stop this now.

He urged people to maintain social distancing, wear face masks and focus on hygiene; commenting that he understood they had all let their guard down.

A new tactic in fighting the virus is to designate areas as “red zones” or hotspots for infections. Several Bedouin towns in the South of Israel and areas of southern Tel Aviv face immediate lockdowns as a result.

Outgoing Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov warned on Thursday:

“I’m afraid that in a month and a half we will see a mass of severely ill patients.”

The Education Ministry said on Thursday evening that 460 students and teachers have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total in isolation to 25,517; with 165 schools closed.

But Israel is not alone in facing this problem with a potential second wave. Nearly half the states in the USA are seeing the number of cases rising. This is a worrying trend for the country as it endeavours to return to work.

Hospitals have been told to prepare for the worst in Arizona, while Texas has more COVID-19 patients in hospital now than earlier in the year. The governor of North Carolina is said to be rethinking plans to reopen schools and businesses because of the increases.

Thursday saw what some described as a ‘rout’ on Wall Street as traders noted the virus numbers and comments by the head of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, that recovery for the world’s top economy ‘will come more slowly than we would like.’

His reminder of the reality of the current situation seemed to cause over-optimistic traders to think again.

UPDATE 15th June 2020

Addressing members of the Knesset on Sunday, Israel’s Head of Public Health Services reported that the country is now seeing around 200 new coronavirus patients a day, adding that:

“The defining characteristic of the wave we are experiencing now is that
it’s unfolding throughout the country, we have no way of isolating at-risk groups.
We observe its spread all around over a vast perimeter.”