Israel’s Health Ministry has reported a drastic increase in the number of patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Some 569 people tested positive out of the total of 17,472 that were tested over the weekend, which catapulted the infection rate to 3.3 percent.

As usual, the number of tests conducted over the past weekend was below average. This might be the reason for the increase in the number of positive tests, a ministry official said.

Israel has recorded 335,132 corona cases since the pandemic erupted in mid-March. There are currently 9,923 active cases, with 510 patients in the hospital. Of those, 273 are said to be in serious condition and 112 are on ventilators. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 2,854 Israelis have died.

The government launched a pilot program on Friday to open 15 shopping malls across the country. Hundreds of Israelis lined up for Black Friday sales.

Former Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov said on Saturday that “the lines in the shopping malls can contribute to the spread of the virus. It could endanger us all.”

Health Ministry Director-General Hezi Levi told Israel Hayom, “The situation cannot continue like this. The photos we saw from [Jerusalem’s outdoor] Machane Yehuda market are disturbing. The Health Ministry created guidelines and they are not being followed.”

Coronavirus Project Coordinator Nachman Ash visited the Nazareth municipality and the northern Arab village of Yafia on Saturday after both were declared “red” zones and are now restricted areas. Ash thanked all those present for their efforts, especially during the upcoming holiday season. He expressed hope that Nazareth will overcome the crisis and return to being a “green” city again.

Ash reported earlier that the possibility of a third lockdown is not off the table. He stressed that a lockdown is not a punishment, but rather an efficient tool to reduce morbidity and halt the spread of the virus.

At the start of Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “we must do everything in order to prevent the situation from worsening, which could bring us to even harsher places, even harsher than we have known up until now.”

He added that though Israel’s morbidity rate, “relative to [other] OECD member states, countries that we are always compared to and which we compare ourselves to, is good,” the country is in danger of not containing the situation.

“We are constantly evaluating the data and measures to ease restrictions that we have enacted,” he said. “If necessary, we will halt the continued easing of restrictions and even tighten those we have already given. I ask citizens to continue following the rules and adhering to Health Ministry instructions.”

The prime minister also stated that during the coming week, the Cabinet “will discuss the outline for allocating the vaccines. Last week, I was at the impressive Teva SLE logistics center. We are prepared to receive these vaccines, millions of vaccines, freeze them and also distribute them. Our policy has been, and remains, to bring as many vaccines as possible from as many sources as possible to as many citizens as possible as quickly as possible.”

JNS contributed to this report.

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