Israel reported two deaths and a slightly higher number of new coronavirus cases on Wednesday.

The Health Ministry said 54 people tested positive for COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, up from 34 reported on Tuesday and 23 on Monday.

The overall case count in Israel is now 15,782 and the death toll stands at 212, according to the ministry.

It said 120 patients remain in critical condition, while 7,929 have recovered and been discharged from hospitals so far.

Israel started taking measures to stem the spread of the 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 dramatic slowdown in new cases over the past few days – the figure plunged from 345 this past Saturday to just 23 on Monday – 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 3.12 million people in 185 countries and regions have been infected by the coronavirus since it emerged in China last December, with the US and Europe being the world’s hardest-hit areas.

A significant proportion of patients – nearly 935,500 – have recovered from COVID-19, but the disease has claimed over 217,500 lives so far, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the US.

* Writing by Zehra Nur Duz

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