Israeli Hospitals Reaching Their Limit

Despite its early success in tackling the coronavirus pandemic, Israel is now one of the countries with the highest number of daily cases per 100,000 people.

The leader of the country’s coronavirus task force warned on Sunday that the number of infections was reaching “emergency” levels, and he ordered hospitals to add new virus wards.

His concern is that the number of COVID-19 patients in serious condition may reach 800 by the end of this week, and that number has often been said to be the most Israeli hospitals can cope with.

Health workers at Israeli hospital in SeptemberHealth workers at Israeli hospital in September (Nati Shohat - Flash90)

Both Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital and Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem said on Monday that they could not take any more coronavirus patients. So, Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy has asked hospitals to focus on COVID-19 and stop other surgery and services.

He wrote in a letter to hospital Chief Executives that:

‘This is urgent. I expect everyone to act with personal responsibility and determination.’

As another part of the the country’s efforts to tackle the virus, the IDF announced on Monday that it will set up a 200-bed field hospital to accommodate any overflow of patients from the main hospitals.

The Israeli cabinet has approved NIS 10.5 billion ($3 million) of aid for businesses and the self-employed, as well as a 10% pay cut for members of the Knesset on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “we all must carry the burden.”

This expansion of the previous aid package is said to provide immediate assistance, with additional payments to cover employee retention and hasten payments for businesses hit by a loss of 25% or more.

Israel is by no means facing this crisis alone. The UK has the highest official COVID-19 death toll in Europe and is awaiting the latest government measures later today, in the face of a rapidly increasing number of infections.

But Europe’s fastest spread of the coronavirus is taking place in some of Madrid`s working-class neighbourhoods. Measures to tackle it have produced a heated debate about inequality in Spain, just as the same debate is under way in other countries.

Strict measures, including the need to justify trips out of a neighbourhood, affect some 860,000 people in Madrid and have caused protests because many people believe the authorities are stigmatising the poor.

Madrid has become the epicentre of infections, with a rate of 682 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in two weeks. Around Europe last week that rate was 76.