Coronavirus cabinet fails to reach a decision as morbidity rises

The cabinet was meant to "tighten restraint," as per a proposal by coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash and the Health Ministry.

Israelis are seen walking in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda amid the coronavirus crisis, on December 13, 2020. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israelis are seen walking in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda amid the coronavirus crisis, on December 13, 2020.
The coronavirus cabinet convened Sunday to decide whether to impose further restrictions on the public – or possibly another closure – to cope with the rising mortality from the virus, but the meeting broke up after more than six hours without the ministers reaching any decision and without them scheduling another meeting.
As the vaccine drive, “Give a Shoulder,” went into full gear, the rising morbidity – approaching a weekly average of 2,500 positive cases per day, which is the number which is supposed to lead to a new lockdown – was a cause of concern for the cabinet. Several ministers pushed for a full closure without interim measures such as tightened treatments and discussions focused on what these tightened restraints would actually entail.
 The Health Ministry announced on Sunday morning a further 1,866 new cases on Saturday, with 466 of those in serious condition. Between midnight and Sunday morning 433 cases were diagnosed. The number of patients on ventilators stood at 113. The rate of positive diagnoses was 3.1%. The death toll stood at 3,082.
Coronavirus  Commissioner Nachman Ash released the current assessments of critically ill patients and mortality in the next three months, which were high and were a cause for concern. His report predicted that without any further limitation, between 1340-1900 people would be critically ill and between 3085-3700 would die; with tightened closure for five weeks, there would be 800 critically ill and 1250 dead; and with full closure for three weeks, there would be 700 critically ill and 1100 dead.
Ash also said Sunday that currently there are 70-80 new critically ill patients compared to 20 at the beginning of the month and that, as of today, there are 61 red, 83 orange, 123 yellow and 1,016 green areas.
Tightened restraint, as originally defined by Ash, means shops, malls and marketplaces would be closed; gatherings would be limited to 10 people in closed spaces and 20 in open spaces; public transportation would be reduced to 50%; and the education system would stay open in green and yellow cities only, but would close in orange and red ones. According to the most recent reports, beauty salons and hairdressers would remain open, as would other “one-on-one” services.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Sunday in the meeting that, “The difference between tight restraint and closure is education. And obviously, we will have to go into tight restraint or closure. There will be harm to trade, but it is money and it is not equivalent to education, so I prefer to leave education as much as possible.”
Science and Technology Minister Yizhar Shai asked, “Do you agree to a full closure in two weeks or three weeks?”
Edelstein replied, “By no means. It will cost a human life. And it must [be done] immediately.”
The Education Ministry released statistics today on morbidity within the school system, which said that there were more than 44,202 pupils and 3,644 staff members in quarantine. There are 5,287 pupils and 1,135 staff members currently ill with the virus, out of a total of 2.4 million pupils and 204,000 teaching staff. Fourteen schools and 482 preschools are currently closed, according to the report.
The specter of another lockdown or closing retail raised the ire of business owners. The chairman of the Yisrael Beytenu Party, MK Avigdor Liberman, held a Zoom meeting with the owners and CEOs of the closed malls and shopping centers, who expressed their anger and frustration over the prospect of a new closure.
Chairman of the Association of Commercial Networks Shahar Turgeman, said in the meeting, ”We represent all the chains and all the owners of the malls and commercial centers in the country, employ about half a million workers who were returned from the hospital after three months in a row... In the few weeks we are open to the public, we have sold about 20% of the winter stock we have in warehouses. An immediate closure of the trading industry at the moment is in fact a final death sentence for most companies.”
Earlier in the day, the cabinet did decide that people coming from England, Denmark and South Africa, countries that are plagued by the new coronavirus mutation will be required to isolate in state-run coronavirus hotels and/or be subject to coronavirus testing.
Mayaan Jaffe-Hoffman contributed to this report.