Passengers wearing masks push trolleys at Ben-Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, May 14, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun. – Israel’s Health Ministry held a special media briefing Friday, citing a troubling spike in the number of coronavirus cases diagnosed daily.

After several days in which the daily tally dropped to single digits and, at times, to zero, the ministry said that on Friday alone, 85 people had been diagnosed with COVID-19. By Saturday morning, that figure had risen to 121.

Outgoing Health Ministry Director Moshe Bar Siman-Tov attributed the spike to the public not following social distancing guidelines, as the country’s economy has been gradually returning to its pre-pandemic activities.

He noted that senior officials in the health, education, and finance ministries, as well as the National Security Council, were holding discussions on the latest developments and the best course of action to counter the increase in infections so as to prevent a situation where another lockdown is necessary.

“We had a period of euphoria. Now we have received a wake-up call,” said Bar Siman-Tov.

Ministry data suggests that the majority of new infections are in schools, with 7% coming from middle schools and 35% from high schools, he explained.

“We knew there would be a period of trial and error,” he said when asked whether the decision to reopen the school system had been premature. “If the data shows we need to close schools down again, we will do so.”

“We’re trying to reach a balance between maintaining a low number of infections and opening up the economy,” he added.

Bar Siman-Tov said the ministry is closely monitoring the centers of infection and assessing the situation.

So far, 17,024 Israelis have contracted the virus, of whom 14,812 have recovered. The virus has claimed the lives of 284 Israelis to date.

Noam Dvir and Gadi Golan contributed to this report.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.