As holiday celebrations under lockdown become a near certainty in Israel, the number of coronavirus carriers in the country continues to rise, reaching 38,008 as of Sunday morning.

The Israeli Health Ministry reported on Sunday that 1,056 COVID patients were hospitalized nationwide, and the number of hospitalized patients listed in serious condition is at a new peak—513, of whom 139 were on ventilators. Another 206 patients were listed in moderate condition.

The percentage of positive test results also continues to climb, with 9.2 percent of the more than 30,000 tests processed since Saturday returning positive results. The number of COVID deaths nationwide stood at 1,108 as of Sunday morning.

Hospitals across the country are reporting more and more COVID units at or over capacity. Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon was at 112.5 percent capacity as of Sunday, whereas Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem was at 107.69 percent.

On Saturday evening, the Health Ministry reported that only 2 percent of Israelis live in cities, towns or local authorities coded “green” under the “traffic light” system, down from 8 percent last Thursday.

Less than a week before Rosh Hashanah, 129,520 Israelis were in quarantine. Since July 1, nearly a million (978,000) citizens have been instructed to quarantine themselves after suspected contact with confirmed carriers, according to data the Health Ministry reported to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Committee chairman MK Zvi Hauser (Derech Eretz) has asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Defense Ministry and the coronavirus cabinet to look into the possibility of shortening the mandatory period of quarantine from 14 days to 12 if individuals test negative on the ninth day in quarantine. Shortening the quarantine period by two days would save some NIS 150 million ($43 million) per month and NIS 500 million ($145 million) per year.

“Israel must update its quarantine policy as part of its exit strategy from the upcoming lockdown,” said Hauser. “Keeping the mandatory quarantine at 14 days harms the public’s trust and the Israeli economy. We cannot keep putting thousands of people in quarantine every day without a clear policy on the matter.”

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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