Israel’s Health Ministry confirmed one more fatality from the novel coronavirus Friday, bringing the country’s death toll to 240. 

A ministry statement said 71 new cases were registered in the country over the past 24 hours, raising the total to 16,381.

It said 83 patients remain in critical condition while at least 10,873 have recovered and been discharged from hospitals so far.

Israel began taking measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus in late February, initially barring the entry of non-residents arriving from virus hotspots and gradually imposing a near-total air travel ban.

It also closed all educational institutions and prohibited citizens from leaving their homes except to buy food and medicines or visit a hospital.

A slowdown in new cases over the past few days has prompted Tel Aviv to start easing restrictions on movement.

The government approved several measures last week, including the reopening of some businesses and schools for children with special educational needs and a resumption of small-scale prayer gatherings.

Social distancing rules, however, remain in force and wearing face masks in public is still mandatory.

More than 3.84 million cases have been reported in 187 countries and regions since the virus emerged in Wuhan, China last December, with the US and Europe the world’s hardest-hit areas.

A significant number of COVID-19 patients – over 1.2 million – have recovered, but the disease has also claimed nearly 270,000 lives so far, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University of the US.

*Writing by Gozde Bayar

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