An additional three Israelis succumbed to COVID-19 overnight on Tuesday, bringing the national death toll from the coronavirus pandemic to 187, Israel’s Health Ministry reported on Wednesday.

The ministry also reported a spike in the number of new confirmed cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the total figure to 14,326, up from 13,883 on Tuesday. It was unclear however whether the rise was related to an increase in coronavirus testing.

More than 400 COVID-19 patients are currently in serious condition, 111 of whom are intubated, while 124 are listed in moderate condition with another 8,906 in light or minor condition, according to the ministry. In total, 483 corona patients are being treated in isolation wards at Israeli hospitals and medical centers. Another 2,210 are being treated or are in isolation at hotels, with another 6,469 under home quarantine.

As of Wednesday, 4,961 Israelis have recovered from the virus.

Despite the increase in cases over the past 24 hours, ministry data indicates that the rate of infection has in fact slowed. The doubling period of confirmed cases now stands at 20 days, compared to just three days at the height of the outbreak. In the past month, an average of 266 new cases per day have been recorded.

Also on Wednesday, hospital directors lashed out after Israel Hayom reported that Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov had warned hospital administrators that continuing to provide nonessential medical treatment would be considered a violation of the law.

Dr. Zeev Feldman, head of pediatric neurosurgery at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, who also serves as chairman of the Organization of State Employed Physicians of Israel and deputy head of the Israeli Medical Association, said on Wednesday that “it is inconceivable that the Health Ministry director general will turn all the directors of the hospitals that are leading the battle against [the coronavirus] into criminals with a wave of his hand, and threaten them with criminal action under the Public Health Directive.”

Hospitals, said Feldman, were doing their utmost to provide treatment for all in need.

“Hospital directors, who are currently treating [coronavirus] patients, are at the same time preparing to treat the rest of the citizens of Israel who are not sick with [coronavirus] and need treatment. They are doing their utmost to save lives on every front and provide solutions for patients based on medical considerations while taking pains to protect patients and medical staff,” said Feldman.

“Casting doubt on the judgment of those who are at the front of the battle for the health of the public is not only an outrage, it is also inappropriate. I urge the Health Ministry director-general to take back his threat,” he added.

‘We won’t confront bereaved families’

As part of Israel’s campaign to contain the coronavirus, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided on Tuesday not to allow bereaved families to visit the nation’s cemeteries or memorial sites on Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron, which begins on the evening of Monday, April 27.

The decision was made in a meeting attended by the heads of the health, public security, defense and culture and sports ministries, along with the head of the National Security Council and the attorney general.

The Israel Police has been assigned the responsibility of closing off access to the sites, and the families are being encouraged to use the days leading up to Memorial Day to visit cemeteries, while adhering to social distancing regulations.

According to a police representative present at the meeting, measures will be taken to avoid police having to turn away families at cemetery gates.

“We won’t confront bereaved families. We won’t stop bereaved families at the cemetery gates; we’ll set up roadblocks about a kilometer away,” said the representative.

Eli Ben-Shem, chairman of the Yad Labanim organization, which commemorates fallen soldiers and provides support to bereaved families, urged families to abide by the government’s decision and visit cemeteries in the days before Memorial Day, to avoid crowds.

Tami Shelach, chairwoman of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization, said “these are difficult days for all of us as we fight the coronavirus, but who knows better than we do that the important thing right now is to preserve life. The IDF Widows and Orphans Organization supports the prime minister in his decision.”

Ariel Kahana and Itsik Saban contributed to this report.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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