The number of people infected with the coronavirus Covid-19 in Israel has jumped by 294 per cent in one week as the country struggles to contain the pandemic.
Latest reports indicate that as many as 2,666 Israelis have tested positive for the virus, with the vast majority of cases said to be showing mild symptoms. Last Thursday, the figure was 677 according to the Ministry of Health. While 68 people have recovered, eight patients have died and 39 are in a serious condition in hospital.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that deaths from coronavirus could reach 10,000 by next month.
Measures to limit the movement of citizens and trade, closing cultural and recreational establishments as well as schools and universities, and banning gatherings of over 10 people have been approved by the government in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.
Moreover, no foreigners are allowed to enter the country, unless they apply for special permits from the Foreign Ministry in advance and can prove that they are able to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival.
Israel's embattled Prime Minister has also taken the controversial step of approving emergency moves for security agencies to track the mobile-phone data of people suspected of having the coronavirus. Critics have accused Netanyahu of exploiting the situation to strengthen his hold on power.
The spread of the pandemic has shattered Israel's economy. Some 573,000 Israelis have lost their jobs over the past few weeks, pushing the country's unemployment rate to 17.6 per cent. Before the outbreak, the rate was 3.6 per cent, one of the lowest among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.