Israel hits 100,000 COVID-19 cases amid criticism of government response

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a face mask to help fight the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) walks past shops in a market in Jerusalem's Old City July 6, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Israel officially reached a tally of more than 100,000 coronavirus cases on Friday as the government struggled to contain a resurgence in infection rates.

The latest daily tally showed 1,496 new cases, bringing the total number to 100,716, the health ministry said. Israel has reported 809 deaths among its 9 million population.

In May, Israel lifted a nationwide lockdown that had flattened an infection curve, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials celebrated as a success. Daily cases that numbered in the hundreds dropped to low double digits.

But a second surge of cases and ensuing restrictions have kept many Israelis out of work. Some restrictions have since been lifted to revive business activity, but unemployment still hovers at 21.5%.

Netanyahu’s government has come under fire by Israelis who have taken to the streets in near-daily demonstrations to demand better economic aid. [nL5N2EY3GJ]

The protests have also focused on corruption allegations against Netanyahu, which the right-wing premier denies.

An August 5 poll from the Israel Democracy Institute found that only 25% of Israelis approve of Netanyahu’s handling of the pandemic, while some 58% identify with the protests against the government’s economic policies.

Reporting by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Angus MacSwan