JERUSALEM

Israel confirmed two more fatalities from the coronavirus on Saturday, taking the death toll to 277.

The Health Ministry said 51 new cases were reported in the country over the past 24 hours, raising the total to 16,152.

It said 107 patients remain in critical condition, while at least 9,400 have recovered and been discharged from hospitals so far.

Israel started taking measures to stem the spread of coronavirus in late February, initially barring 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 supplies and medicines or visit a hospital.

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

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

A significant number of COVID-19 patients – over 1.05 million – have recovered, but the disease has also claimed close to 240,000 lives so far, according to data compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

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