Shortly after imposing a second nationwide lockdown aimed at curbing “emergency” rates of COVID-19, Israel marked a new daily record of infections on Wednesday.
The Health Ministry announced 6,923 new confirmed cases, topping the previous single-day record of 5,533 cases last week. With more than 200,000 COVID-19 cases since February, Israel now has one of the world’s highest rates of the virus per capita.
Meanwhile, hospitals across the country are filling up. Some health facilities are so overcrowded that new coronavirus patients are forced to wait in ambulances for hours before a bed opens up, Haaretz reports.
On Monday, the Health Ministry ordered all hospitals to suspend elective procedures to make way for an influx of COVID-19 patients. Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu required hospitals to open additional virus wards, describing the number of serious cases as an “emergency."
Four months after lifting its initial lockdown, Israel entered another lockdown for three weeks beginning Sept. 18. Under the new regulations, schools, malls and stores are closed and most Israelis must stay within 500 meters of their homes.
The country’s coronavirus cabinet is due to announce a tighter round of measures following eight hours of meetings on Tuesday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is aiming for “a broad general closure and significant tightening of restrictions immediately,” his office said.
According to The Jerusalem Post, those restrictions could include orders to shut down synagogues and ban demonstrations, as well as scale back work in the private sector.
Trust in Netanyahu’s handling of the COVID-19 response has plummeted, with ongoing protests demanding he resign over corruption allegations and the state of the economy. A survey conducted by the non-partisan Israel Democracy Institute found that just 27% of Israels trust Netanayhu to oversee the crisis, compared to 57% in April.