19:55 GMT06 August 2020
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    Israel joined most of the rest of the world in instituting tough COVID-19-related lockdowns earlier this year, reporting about 20,700 cases and 305 deaths among its population of 8.9 million. Starting in late April, the country began a gradual reopening of stores, schools, and public areas. However, authorities have now warned of a ‘second wave’.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged his countrymen and women to stick to guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, saying the government will reinstitute lockdown measures if citizens fail to do so.

    “If the public does not stick to wearing masks and social distancing, we will be bringing back a full closure,” Netanyahu warned, speaking at a cabinet meeting on Sunday.

    “This morning, I asked for a meeting with the director generals of the relevant ministries, heads of local governments, head of the national security council and various experts who gave their assessments. They gave me different forecasts…but these forecasts are all tough. We must flatten the curve now,” Netanyahu added.

    Also on Sunday, Israel’s ministry of health ordered the “immediate” reopening of coronavirus units amid a “surge’ in coronavirus cases, with 294 new cases reported Saturday, bringing the total active cases to 4,669. On Saturday, Israel’s coronavirus information center announced that the country is facing a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus cases amid a steady rise in infections.

    On Saturday, Sigal Sadetsky, head of Israel’s Public Health Services, told Army Radio that while “we don’t want to go back to a lockdown,” if the rise in cases continues “we will have to go back.”

    However, Dr. Hagai Levine, chairman of Israel’s Association of Public Health Physicians, called the coronavirus information center’s warnings “unprofessional,” claiming the task force consists mostly of army intelligence officials, not epidemiologists like himself. “It is unprofessional and unserious for epidemiological reports to come out of Military Intelligence without [anyone’s name] being signed on them, certainly no professional from the relevant area,” he suggested.

    According to the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s finance ministry has called on authorities to increase the enforcement of coronavirus regulations, including the wearing of facemasks, and social distancing, as well as the reprimanding or closure of businesses which violate the rules. The health ministry, meanwhile, has demanded an increase in testing, and an improvement in ‘contact tracing’ (i.e. digitally assisted spying) capabilities.

    So far, Israel has reported a total of nearly 20,700 coronavirus cases, with the virus affecting an estimated 0.002 percent of the population. On Sunday, global total confirmed coronavirus infection rates spiked past 8.5 million cases (i.e. 0.001 percent of the world’s population), with the global death toll rising to 456,973 people. Nearly half of the cases and deaths are said to be concentrated in North and South America.

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