COVID-19 in Israel: 39,015 new cases, Finance Min. Liberman among them

Some 519,066 Israelis have received the fourth COVID-19 vaccine to date, the Health Ministry reported on Saturday evening.

 People some with face masks shop for grocery at the mahane Yehuda market  in Jerusalem on January 13, 2022.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
People some with face masks shop for grocery at the mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on January 13, 2022.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

There were 39,015 Israelis who tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, with 14.02% of the 265,009 tests taken coming back positive, the Health Ministry stated on Saturday evening.

Among those who tested positive over the weekend were Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, Yesh Atid MK Moshe Tur-Paz, and Likud MK David Amsalem.

They join the ranks of several other ministers and MKs who have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last two weeks, including Construction and Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin on Friday morning.

Currently, 387 patients are in serious condition, with 93 on ventilators and 11 connected to ECMO machines.

The number of serious patients increased by 81 between Thursday and Friday. An additional 15 people were on ventilators, with the number rising from 78 on Thursday to 93 on Friday.

 Herzog hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of the Herzog Medical Center in Jerusalem, January 13, 2022.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Herzog hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of the Herzog Medical Center in Jerusalem, January 13, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

In addition to Elkin, National Security Adviser and head of the National Security Council Eyal Hulta tested positive for coronavirus on Friday morning.

The Knesset Spokesperson’s Office also announced that one of their employees had fallen ill with coronavirus.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Hulta came into contact with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his staff, but they all received negative results from antigen tests.

Elkin shared on Twitter that he had been feeling sick on Friday and went home. He did an antigen test, which came back positive. The minister requested that anyone who met him “in recent days perform a test according to the rules of the Health Ministry.”

“Next week, I will continue, with God’s help, to manage the activities of the Construction and Housing Ministry from quarantine at home through Zoom,” he tweeted.

ONE OF the serious cases reported on Friday was an 11-year-old girl who is hospitalized at Kaplan Medical Center.

“The girl suffers from preexisting conditions and came to us with breathing difficulties, and had previously received one vaccination dose,” said Dr. Alex Guri, acting director of the Children’s Division at Kaplan Medical Center, from Clalit.
“Although there are about 85,000 children diagnosed with corona, so far the number of hospitalized children has remained relatively low, despite other trends we have seen in the US and UK, where there has been a significant increase in the number of children hospitalized due to Omicron,” he said.
“At this stage, we’re prepared with the Coronavirus Department for Children, in case we need it,” Guri said. “We understand that many children will be tested during this wave, and even if the vaccine does not completely prevent the chance of getting sick, it is very likely that it prevents serious illness.”

To date, 519,066 Israelis have received the fourth COVID-19, the Health Ministry reported on Saturday evening.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is among those who received their second booster shot, he announced on Friday morning. Earlier in the week, he had received criticism for apparently not yet having received it, but since his announcement, both he and his wife, Sara, have been vaccinated with a fourth dose.

Also on Friday, Wolfson Medical Center in Holon announced that it will be adopting a policy of one visitor per patient in order to minimize unnecessary contact as part of the national fight against the coronavirus.

TAKING TO Facebook on Friday, Liberman addressed the current COVID-19 wave sweeping Israel, acknowledging the difficulties that people are facing, and the growing calls for government financial assistance to be given to people and businesses in need.

“I want to be clear and unequivocal: Whoever needs and is entitled to assistance as a result of government policy in the current wave will receive it,” he wrote. “No tycoon here will wake up and find out that he has received NIS 750 in his bank account.

Liberman explained his decision to not follow the steps taken by the previous government, which deposited that amount into the bank account of every Israeli during a previous wave as a means of offering financial assistance. This method, he said, did not really solve the problem.

“It would be easiest to now pour NIS 10 billion” into the coronavirus crisis, the finance minister said. “I’m sure I’d get nice headlines in the media and likes on Facebook. But if I did that, I would be sinning in the position of finance minister. I will not carry out such an irresponsible act.”

Doing so would cause a devastating effect, one that could be seen in “the hyperinflation that is knocking on the door of the United States,” he said.

If the government were to provide financial aid to every citizen regardless of need, it would be “like putting a Band-Aid on necrosis,” he added.

“My job is to preserve the Israeli economy. Neither I, nor any of my colleagues in the government, have any interest in keeping money unnecessarily in the public coffers. This is money that you work for every day and our mission is to make sure it is utilized in the best way for you,” Liberman said.

“I understand your concerns. Financial uncertainty is an existential anxiety, and I will fight so that all businesses and all citizens can breathe a sigh of relief,” he concluded. “The economy will be strengthened, and most importantly, none of you will get hurt.”

AN ESTIMATED 187,000 people across Israel are currently in quarantine, which has put a heavy strain on many businesses.

Due to the sheer number of Israeli railway and bus service workers in quarantine, the country can expect reduced bus and train service in the North and South starting Sunday.

Earlier this week, Israel Railways had already issued an announcement informing the public that it will be reducing the frequency and operating hours of several train lines across the country due to the number of workers in quarantine. Trains to Ashkelon, Sderot, Netivot, Ofakim and Beersheba will only arrive once an hour instead of twice during peak travel times.

Since then, the company announced that train lines in the North of the country from Beit She’an to Haifa Hof Hacarmel would not be running and the stations would not be open. Additionally, trains on the Dimona-Beersheba line in the South will not be running, and the Beit Shemesh train station will be temporarily closed. Other train lines will be running reduced hours, Israel Railways said.