Some 4,953 Israelis tested positive for the coronavirus since Tuesday, bringing the country’s overall tally since the start of the pandemic to 239,806 cases, the Health Ministry stated, adding that on average, 15 percent of those screened tested positive.

So far, as of Wednesday, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 1,547 patients, while 173,109 have recovered.

Health Ministry Director General Hezi Levy has instructed hospital administrators to prepare an additional 1,500 beds for patients. This was after several hospitals warned last week that their coronavirus wards were nearing full capacity, and that more beds were necessary to ensure patients received adequate care.

The Health Ministry plans to open 750 beds by Oct. 5 and another 750 by mid-month, said Levy, adding that 80 percent of the beds will be for patients in critical condition and the remaining 20 percent for patients who do not need respiratory support.

Speaking with Channel 12 News on Tuesday, he urged Israelis with other health complaints not to avoid seeking medical care, saying that hospitals nationwide are fully equipped to treat all patients, especially in life-threatening situations, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Also on Tuesday, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef issued a decree barring mass gatherings next week during the Sukkot and Simchat Torah holidays.

In a dramatic departure from custom over the pandemic, Yosef has barred the traditional Simchat Torah hakafot (“laps” or dancing with the Torah scroll) and ordered followers not to attend the Priestly Blessing—a rite held annually at the Western Wall in Jerusalem that customarily draws tens of thousands of Jews from Israel and abroad.

As the service is broadcast by various media outlets, Yosef has decreed that this year, worshippers could watch the prayer service on television.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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