TEL AVIV – The upcoming holidays of Passover and Ramadan, which fall back to back this year, are a “danger” to the population and threaten to overwhelm the fight against COVID-19, the the Health Ministry’s director-general warned Thursday.
Eight Israelis have died from COVID-19 as of Thursday afternoon, out of 2,666 cases. 39 patients are in critical condition and Moshe Bar Siman Tov warned that that number is likely to jump to more than 200 in the next week.
Israel’s health system is unequipped to deal with so many critical cases, a new Knesset report showed, with only 758 ICU beds and 1,437 ventilators available.
With 926 doctors and 1,192 nurses in quarantine, Israeli hospitals are also understaffed, the report by the Knesset Research and Information Center said. Hospitals are also lacking masks and protective suits.
“This event is a tsunami that could not have been prepared for,” Bar Siman Tov said.
He said that the report skewed the numbers of available ventilators.
“We have in stock about 1,500 usable and available ventilators,” he said. “There are another 70 ventilators in the private sector that we will use as well. We currently have 2,864 machines above those currently in use, assuming they are all in working order.”
“We want to take hard steps now to allow us some degree of freedom after Passover to try to free the economy a little in a managed and controlled way… We especially want to reduce the number of patients who are suffering and conquer the illness significantly,” he said.
“We are very scared of what will happen on Passover and Ramadan when people come out and meet each other – this is the most dangerous thing there is. The next two weeks are critical for our success against the disease.”
“We are in a situation where the number of sick is doubling every three days,” said Bar Siman Tov.
Within a week, he said, Israel would have 200 critically ill COVID-19 patients.
“This is serious – a matter of days; I don’t like the word lockdown, but we are close to a full closure,” he said.
A day earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that if there was no improvement in the amount of diagnosed cases he would have no choice but to impose a total lockdown.
His announcement came just hours after a new wave of restrictions came into effect, which included limiting walks to 100 meters from people’s homes.
“The steps that we have taken here in Israel are being taken all over the world; however, they are not enough because the number of patients is doubling itself every three days. In two weeks we are liable to find ourselves with thousands of patients many of whom will be in danger of death,” he said.
“So, I am already telling you now you,” he continued, “unless we see an immediate improvement in the trend, there will be no escape from implementing a complete lockdown, except for essential necessities such as food and medicine.
“Stay in your homes and stay alive. Because the danger lies with everyone. It does not differentiate.”