Coronavirus cases soar as Israel prepares tighter measures

Coronavirus cases soar as Israel prepares tighter measures
Director General Michael Halberthal, right, and staff in the underground parking of Rambam Health Care Campus, which has been transformed into a COVID intensive care facility, Haifa, Sept. 23, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 23 September 2020

Coronavirus cases soar as Israel prepares tighter measures

Coronavirus cases soar as Israel prepares tighter measures
  • Israel, a country of some 9 million people, now has one of the world’s highest rates of coronavirus on a per capita basis
  • The government reopened the economy too quickly, and a new outbreak has quickly spread throughout the summer

JERUSALEM: Israel on Wednesday reported a new record level of daily cases of the coronavirus, shortly before government officials were to meet to discuss tightening a new nationwide lockdown.
The Health Ministry reported 6,861 new cases on Wednesday as a raging outbreak showed no signs of slowing. Israel, a country of some 9 million people, now has one of the world’s highest rates of coronavirus on a per capita basis, and health officials say hospitals are quickly approaching capacity.
The government last week imposed a nationwide lockdown that closed schools, shopping malls, hotels and restaurants. The coronavirus Cabinet was to meet later in the day to discuss further tightening the restrictions.
Ahead of the meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that in light of the rapid spread of the virus, he would seek a “a broad general closure and significant tightening of restrictions immediately,” including the closure of large parts of the economy, his office said.
Israel won international praise for its handling of the outbreak last spring, moving quickly to seal its borders and impose a lockdown that appeared to contain the virus. But the government reopened the economy too quickly, and a new outbreak has quickly spread throughout the summer. The economy, meanwhile, has not recovered from a serious downturn caused by the first lockdown, and the new lockdown has led to a new wave of layoffs.
A new poll released Wednesday by the Israel Democracy Institute, a respected think tank, found that only 27% of Israelis trust Netanyahu to lead the country’s effort against COVID-19. That compares with 57.5% who trusted him in early April. The survey interviewed 754 adults and had a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.
The Health Ministry has instructed hospitals to delay non-essential surgeries and to open additional coronavirus wards as the number of serious cases continues to rise.
Beyond further limiting economic activity, officials have been discussing shuttering synagogues and clamping down on protests — both of which risk sparking a public backlash.
The limits would come at a time when Israeli Jews are celebrating the High Holidays and when weekly demonstrations have been held against Netanyahu and his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
The ongoing protests have bitterly divided the country, with religious leaders saying their public is being unfairly targeted by restrictions on public prayer while Netanyahu’s opponents continue to hold large public demonstration. Demonstrators say Netanyahu’s supporters are using the outbreak as an excuse to muzzle their democratic right to protest.
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said restrictions would have to be tightened in the near future.
“Educational institutions will be closed, the economy will be limited to essential work, synagogues will have no indoor prayers, with arrangements for outdoor prayer, and demonstrations will be allowed without protesters traveling between cities,” he told Channel 12 TV. “Everyone will demonstrate where he wants, will pray where he wants and will stay at home. That is what is required now.”


32 killed and 79 injured during deadly clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur

32 killed and 79 injured during deadly clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur
Sudan’s war-scarred Darfur region is always prone to communal clashes. (AP)
Updated 17 January 2021

32 killed and 79 injured during deadly clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur

32 killed and 79 injured during deadly clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur
  • The footage also showed women and children carrying their belongings, allegedly fleeing clashes in the camp

CAIRO: Clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur have killed at least 32 people, according to a local medical official, as Sudanese authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew on the province.
Darfur remains scarred by war after a rebellion in the early 2000s was brutally suppressed. The most recent violence comes two weeks after the UN Security Council ended the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force’s mandate in the Darfur region.
Salah Saleh, a doctor and former medical director at the main hospital in the provincial capital of Genena, said the clashes wounded at least 79 others. “It’s horrible,” he said. “Until now, people cannot reach any hospitals.”
Salah warned that the casualty toll was likely much higher. The violence erupted on Friday in Genena, when an Arab man was stabbed to death at a market in the Krinding camp for internally displaced people, aid worker Al-Shafei Abdalla said. He said the suspect was arrested.
On Saturday, the dead man’s family — from the Arab Rizeigat tribe — attacked the Krinding camp, burning most of its houses, said Abdalla.
Gov. Mohammed Abdalla Al-Douma said the government would impose a curfew that would include the closure of all markets and a ban on gatherings across the province. Al-Douma granted security forces and soldiers a mandate to use force to control the situation.
The prime minister’s office in Khartoum said in a statement a high-ranking delegation led by the country’s top prosecutor would head to Genena “to take necessary measures” to re-establish stability in West Darfur. The statement did not give a casualty toll from the clashes.
Adam Regal, a spokesman for a local organization that helps run refugee camps in Darfur, shared footage showing the burned homes and property in the Krinding camp following Saturday’s attack.
The video included graphic images of wounded people with blood-stained clothes. The footage also showed women and children carrying their belongings, allegedly fleeing clashes in the camp.