By Abdelraouf Arnaout
JERUSALEM (AA) - Coronavirus cases in Israel rose to 5,591 while 21 deaths were reported so far, health officials said on Wednesday.
The Health Ministry said 233 new infections were recorded and 97 patients are in critical condition.
All schools have been closed and all public meetings in open or closed areas with more than 10 people have also been banned.
All trading firms except supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and banks have also been closed since March 15. Tel Aviv banned the entry of foreign citizens, except those who have residency in Israel.
In a related development, Israeli TV Channel 12 revealed that hundreds of Israelis had returned from countries where the virus is widespread without being tested or quarantined in hotels designated by the Defense Ministry.
Last week, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced a 14-day quarantine plan for returnees from the U.S., Italy, Spain and France. The plan's cost was estimated at 55 million Israeli shekels ($15.4 million), according to the Israeli channel.
However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided at a Cabinet meeting on Friday to halt the plan and only to oblige returnees from the aforementioned countries to enter a house quarantine without being subjected to medical checks.
The channel also said that a number of ultra-Orthodox religious Israelis returned from New York to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday, and went directly to their homes without any checks.
After first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the virus has spread to at least 180 countries and regions, according to U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
Its data shows the confirmed number of cases worldwide have surpassed 861,000, with the death toll over 42,0300 and more than 178,300 recoveries.
*Writing by Mahmoud Barakat