Nearly 12 million people across more than 200 countries have so far been infected with COVID-19, with more than half-a-million people already dying after contracting the lethal bug. In Israel, there has been 32,714 reported cases – the 45th highest in the world – and 343 deaths since the outbreak began. The country appeared to have brought coronavirus under control as it was one of the first to impose strict entry and exit restrictions in keeping the number of infections to below 30 per day by mid-May.
But there are now increasing fears a second wave of coronavirus is devastating Israel after a huge spike in new infections over the past few weeks.
In the last seven days alone, Israel has registered over 6,000 newly infected people, and on Tuesday there were over 1,000 new cases alone.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Government have attempted to act quickly by imposing lockdown measures for the second time during the coronavirus crisis.
This includes closing bars, nightclubs and gyms, and placing heavy restrictions on public gatherings, with Mr Netanyahu warning the country is “one step away from a complete lockdown”.
A leader professossor and advider to the Israeli Government has issued a huge warning
There has been a worrying spike in coronavirus cases in Israel
But Professor Eli Waxman, physicist at the Tel Aviv Weizmann Institute and advisor to the Israeli Government, has issued a terrifying warning, and said: “We have lost control of the pandemic.”
The expert has lashed out the Israeli Government over apparent mistakes made in not doing enough to curb the spread of coronavirus in the first instance.
He told German newspaper BILD: “It was a mistake to allow larger gatherings of people for social activities – for example at weddings, church services, but also in bars or restaurants.”
Professor Waxman explained it has become increasingly difficult to determine which measure was particularly successful in the early fight against COVID-19, and the easing of which restrictions might have been the decisive factor for the spike in new cases.
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Benjamin Netanyahu warned Israel is ‘one step away from a complete lockdown’
He added: “We didn’t wait two weeks between the easing steps, as would have been correct.”
The expert also warned Israel did not set up an “infrastructure to curb local outbreaks”, which allowed coronavirus to spread more rapidly throughout Israel.
He explained that as soon as everyday life began returning to normal, local outbreaks were inevitable.
Professor Waxman warned: “That is why there is a need to get them under control quickly and regionally before national measures become necessary.”
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The number of coronavirus infections in Israel appeared to have been brought under control
Coronavirus testing is being stepped up in Israel
But despite increasing panic over the latest spike in cases, the Government adviser is reluctant to speak about a “second wave” but prefers instead using the term “new outbreaks”.
He explained: “I don’t use the term ‘second wave’ because it gives the impression that the virus is spreading in waves.”
The average age of those now being infected is much lower than it was a few weeks ago, spreading more fear throughout Israel.
Professor Waxman said: “In March, 30 percent of all infected people were over 65 years old, currently it is only nine percent. This also affects the number of severe cases.”
But he warned this is not a reason to give the all-clear.
Nearly 12 million people around the world have been infected with coronavirus
The Government expert explained: “The proportion of infected people being treated in the intensive care unit is now two percent, compared to three percent in March.
“But that only gives us an additional buffer of around three days to react.”
Despite the worrying trends developing in Israel, Professor Waxman is still hopeful the country can avoid another complete lockdown.
He said: “Currently, the number of infections increases by 8-9 percent every day, compared to up to 30 percent in March.
“This shows that less stringent measures may be sufficient to reduce the number of infections again.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.