More than 1,300 COVID-19 patients hospitalized * Netanyahu shifts blame to MKs
Hospitals began turning away Coronavirus patients and shutting down internal medicine wards on Monday as the number of those seriously ill spiked.
The Coronavirus cabinet is expected to meet on Tuesday to outline a list of new restrictions that could be implemented immediately after Yom Kippur next week. Both Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital and Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on Monday said they could accommodate no more Coronavirus cases.
Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy called on hospitals to cease offering elective surgery and other services and instead focus on COVID-19. “This is urgent,” he said in a letter to hospital CEOs. “I expect everyone to act with personal responsibility and determination.” Meanwhile, the IDF on Monday announced it would open a 200-bed field hospital to help accommodate patient overflow.
The cabinet met Monday to discuss the next steps in the fight against Coronavirus. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein are pushing to step up restrictions immediately following Yom Kippur next Monday. They could include shuttering synagogues, requiring worshipers to gather outside, stricter restrictions on private businesses and more constraints on demonstrations.
The Coronavirus cabinet will meet again on Tuesday to debate possible directives. “Since we made the decision about the lockdown, there has been a consistent rise in the number of serious patients,” Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting. “Therefore, tomorrow at the Coronavirus cabinet meeting, we will consider further steps. “Anyone who violated the directives or, worse than that, any MK who pushed for looser restrictions, should not ask afterward why the infection rate is rising and should not now come with complaints. The reason for the infection rate is gatherings and people not wearing masks.”
Levy’s letter came as Assuta’s spokesperson said in a statement: “Assuta Ashdod Hospital is at maximum occupancy. The situation is clear, and the Health Ministry and Magen David Adom are aware. Verified patients who arrive at the hospital will be transferred to another facility.” Shaare Zedek issued the same message.
In Nahariya, The Galilee Medical Center director-general Dr. Masad Barhoum said his hospital would open a fourth coronavirus ward by Tuesday at the expense of an internal medicine ward. “This is the second internal medicine ward that is becoming a coronavirus ward,” Barhoum said. “We will have to use anesthetics as part of a [coronavirus] team to treat serious patients, so we will have no choice but to postpone elective surgery.” At the time of Barhoum’s statement on Monday, some 89 patients were hospitalized in The Galilee Medical Center, nearly 50 of whom were in serious condition, including 14 who were intubated.
On Tuesday, the Health Ministry reported that 3,858 new cases were diagnosed on Monday, as well as another 990 between midnight and Tuesday morning. However, only around 34,400 people were screened on Monday, meaning that roughly 11.6% of them or about one in every nine tested positive for the virus. More than 1,300 people are being treated in the country’s hospitals, including some 668 in serious condition. The death toll rose to 1,285 overnight.
Israel shut down beginning on Rosh Hashanah for what is expected to be a three-week closure. However, as many health experts have pointed out, the closure has a lot of flexibility of movement for citizens and is not expected to reduce morbidity very fast.
Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu last week said this type of lock-down could be expected to reduce morbidity to around 3,000 patients per day at the end of three weeks. The country could see 800 patients in serious condition within a week, he told Channel 12 on Sunday night.
If Israel has 900 serious cases, then the hospitals may not be able to provide optimal care, Levy told Channel 12 on Tuesday. In places where people are “defiant, we need to step up restrictions,” he said. Netanyahu said a decision would be made on Tuesday regarding hospitals.
DURING THE first wave of COVID-19 cases, hospitals were asked to cease all nonessential medical services. Many people who required treatment for diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes did not receive the health services and medicines they needed. “When diagnoses are not made, treatments start later, and people present [themselves at the hospital] with more severe diseases,” Arnon Afek, deputy director-general of Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, said in a recent interview. “The result is that patients will be sicker when they come in for care, and [there will be] more deaths.”
Despite the spike in patients, much of the public continues to break Health Ministry regulations. On Monday, N12 visited a neighborhood in Bnei Brak where a Talmud Torah religious school was open despite instructions that the education system remain closed. In addition, media reports and social media showed that several businesses across the country opened despite fines of up to NIS 5,000 and against Health Ministry rules.
Gamzu on Monday morning called on the public to stop gathering. “All the people who gather and look for loopholes – you have to understand, and I really trust the Israelis – this is our test at the moment,” he told KAN Radio. “This does not suit us; this is not [how] our country [acts]. The people need to wake up.” Gamzu also lashed out at protesters who continue to gather in large groups, many without masks. “We need to understand that we are in an emergency; this is a war,” he said. “We [may end] this week with 800 critically ill patients, and that requires a change in the behavior of all of us.” When asked if the demonstrations could be a Coronavirus incubator, Gamzu said: “It can be. Any gathering can be contagious; it doesn’t matter what kind of gathering.”
“People from another sector see a demonstration and tell themselves that people can be gathered in a similar way anywhere else in the country… When we take 1,000 people, there is a good chance that there is a Corona patient among the demonstrators,” he said. “We currently need to focus on one goal: reducing morbidity,” he added. “There will be time for demonstrations afterward.”
A fight over demonstrations erupted on Monday in the cabinet meeting between Transportation Minister Miri Regev, Internal Security Minister Amir Ohana and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit. Regev asked why the Israel Police did not enforce Health Ministry regulations and stop protesters from having a Rosh Hashanah meal on Balfour Street outside the Prime Minister’s Residence.
“Did the police suddenly forget how to enforce, or did the attorney-general not permit it?” she asked.
“There is difficulty enforcing capsules at protests,” Mandelblit said.