Several days after the start of a second nationwide lockdown in Israel, the number of coronavirus infections has reached a new record high with nearly 7,000 cases.
According to the health ministry’s statement on Wednesday, 6,923 new patients were recorded the day before. The previous record was reached last week, when 5,533 new cases were confirmed on a single day.
Israel, a country of some nine 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.
There were 61,165 tests conducted on Tuesday, meaning that 11.7 percent of the tests were positive, slightly higher than the previous day.
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.
The government last week imposed a nationwide lockdown that closed schools, shopping centres, hotels and restaurants. The cabinet is set to meet later on Wednesday to discuss further tightening restrictions.
Israel moved quickly to seal its borders when the outbreak happened in March and imposed a lockdown that appeared to contain the virus.
But the government reopened the economy too quickly, and a new outbreak has quickly spread during the summer. The economy, meanwhile, has not recovered from a serious downturn caused by the first lockdown.
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 their High Holidays.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced a wave of protests since June, with Israelis calling for the long-serving leader to resign, criticising his handling of the coronavirus crisis, and saying he should not remain in office while on trial for corruption charges.
Netanyahu denies the allegations against him.