Israel publishes plan to protect elderly; death toll rises to 178

Gov't to decide whether bereaved families will be permitted to visit the graves of family members on Yom Hazikaron

A security guard checks the temperature of passengers at the entrance to the central bus station in Jerusalem, on April 20, 2020. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
A security guard checks the temperature of passengers at the entrance to the central bus station in Jerusalem, on April 20, 2020.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
The Health Ministry on Monday published a plan to protect some 90,000 senior citizens in nursing homes and assisted-living centers from coronavirus.
Among the 178 Israelis who have died from COVID-19, more than 60 were residents of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
The plan was developed by Ronni Gamzu, CEO of Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv. It stipulates that much attention and resources be dedicated to institutions that care for the elderly, “if there are aspirations for an exit strategy.”
Ten principles are identified in the plan, including management of the crisis by one government body, the establishment of isolated beds in geriatric rehabilitation centers for sick residents, increased coronavirus testing, additional staff and protective equipment, and emotional support to combat the impact of isolation and reduced social activities.
Roni Ozeri, chairman of the Association of Nursing Homes and Assisted Living in Israel, welcomed publication of the plan but said any assistance “must address the state’s criminal neglect in recent years.” The state must recruit and provide licenses for an additional 6,000 nursing staff to solve current shortages, he said.
“Nursing facilities, which suffered from a structural deficit of approximately NIS 1 million per year even before the crisis due to insufficient Health Ministry budgets, must receive an emergency budget with far greater amounts than currently being discussed,” Ozeri said.
A total of 13,713 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Israel at last count. Some 149 people are in serious condition, including 119 who require ventilators. So far, 4,049 patients have recovered.
Among those who have recovered is Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who paid tribute to the “dedicated work of the precious medical teams.”
The Health Ministry has exceeded its daily testing target of 10,000 in recent days. The authorities plan to shift the responsibility for testing from Magen David Adom to the four healthcare providers, Kan reported. That could happen next week, it said.
In light of decreasing infection rates, Litzman, Interior Minister Arye Deri and Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov agreed to reduce restrictions on haredi (ultra-Orthodox) neighborhoods in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak overnight Sunday.
The mayors of both cities committed to relocating at least half of their sick patients to “coronavirus hotels” by the end of the week.
Data published on Monday showed that 2,349 people have been infected in Bnei Brak, and 467 people have recovered, while 2,672 people have been infected in Jerusalem, and 405 have recovered.
While restrictions are being lifted in some places, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced tough measures for many towns ahead of Ramadan, which begins on Thursday.
From 7 p.m. until 3 a.m. every day, all businesses in towns with a Muslim-majority population and in East Jerusalem will be shut, except for pharmacies and critical industries. All crowds contravening Health Ministry guidelines will be dispersed.
The current restrictions, which will be enforced by an additional 3,000 police officers, will be in place for the first 10 days of the holy month before being reassessed.
Ahead of next week’s Remembrance Day and Independence Day, ministers discussed whether bereaved families should be permitted to visit the graves of their family members.
Amid fears that such visits could spread the coronavirus, especially among elderly visitors, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett will recommend to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that they be banned, Yad Lebanim director Eli Ben-Shem told Army Radio.
Netanyahu, whose brother Yoni was killed in Operation Entebbe in 1976, should announce that he will refrain from visiting his brother’s grave on Remembrance Day, he said.
Meanwhile, a tense standoff between the Israel Teachers Union and the government deepened on Monday, with union chairwoman Yaffa Ben-David reiterating that she opposes “even one day” of school during the July vacation to catch up with missed studies.
“Once schools closed, we were the first country that started learning remotely immediately,” Ben-David told Ynet. “Teachers don’t work 100%; they work 150%. Countries worldwide are paying [teachers] full wages, and they are doing just a smidgen of what we are doing.”
In response, Finance Ministry budget director Shaul Meridor said he had no doubt that teachers would be working in July, citing a major gap between teaching staff and those who represent them.