No coronavirus cabinet meeting planned as cases spike near 3,000

The government agreed last week that if Israel surpassed 2,500 cases a day, restrictions would be tightened.

Hadassah-University Medical Center now has three coronavirus wards open, December 2020 (photo credit: HADASSAH SPOKESPERSON)
Hadassah-University Medical Center now has three coronavirus wards open, December 2020
As coronavirus cases reached nearly 3,000 in 24 hours, according to data published by the Health Ministry, the government is expected to make a decision about tightening restrictions in the coming days. Nonetheless, there is no coronavirus cabinet meeting on the calendar.
The latest report shows that 2,862 people were diagnosed with the virus on Tuesday, with 3.5% of the 83,227 who were screened testing positive. On Wednesday, by 3 p.m., another 1,117 had tested positive.
Some 396 of the current patients were in serious condition, including 144 who were intubated. The death toll stood at 3,030, the Health Ministry reported.
The spike comes less than a week after the coronavirus cabinet voted that no new restrictions would be rolled out over Hanukkah, but that if cases topped 2,500 a day or the reproduction rate (R) hit 1.32 – where every three sick people infect four more – then Israel would enter a three-week period of "tightened restraint."
During such a period, shops, malls and marketplaces would be closed. Gatherings would be limited to 10 people in closed spaces and 20 in open spaces. The education system would stay open in green and yellow cities, but would close in orange and red ones.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein explained at the Knesset and in interviews that the number of cases had to average out to more than 2,500 per day, which is why the new restrictions had not yet been put in place. But by most estimates, tightened restrictions would be rolled out in four or five days.
Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem released a report recommending an immediate tightening of restrictions, saying that the rapid increase in morbidity was likely due both to the reopening of retail and Hanukkah gatherings.
ALTERNATE PRIME Minister Benny Gantz called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to convene the coronavirus cabinet to discuss the rise in infection and re-vote on moving forward with the restrictions. But Netanyahu said he refused to rethink the decision, which was made so recently, and no meeting was set.
“I ask everyone to look at themselves and say ‘What am I doing to keep the rules?’" the prime minister said in a video that he shared from his home quarantine. The prime minister will be in isolation until Friday after coming in contact with a sick person. "Here I’m sitting at home, the prime minister in isolation: I’m keeping all the rules.
“This is what you too need to do," he continued. "Take care of yourself, take care of others,” he said. “We are getting out of the coronavirus without any additional serious price. Not economically, not in human life and not in health. Please do this and go get vaccinated. Have a happy holiday!”
In internal discussions, representatives of the Health Ministry said they would recommend that all countries be designated as red for Israeli travelers at the Thursday coronavirus cabinet meeting, according to a report on N12. During the previous coronavirus cabinet meeting, such a suggestion was made by the Head of Public Health Services, Sharon Alroy-Preis, but had been disregarded.
Health Ministry deputy director-general Prof. Itamar Grotto favored allowing the United Arab Emirates to stay green, because of its morbidity data, while Alroy-Preis insisted that because of the influx of Israelis who may be carrying the virus, it should be designated as red.
Some 245 Israelis who returned from abroad have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past two weeks, Ynet reported. Some 30 flew to Israel from the US, 16 from Turkey, 27 from Ukraine, 11 from Russia, eight from Holland and four from England, according to the news site. Some 26 Israelis who tested positive for the coronavirus were returning from the UAE as well, according to the report.
In addition, some 250 Israelis entered isolation after returning from Dubai because four people on their El Al airplane had coronavirus.
Last week, the Foreign Ministry vetoed turning the UAE into a “red country,” which would have meant that arrivals to Israel would have to enter quarantine. The Health Ministry had decided to designate the UAE “red” earlier the same day, due to the large gatherings of Israelis in Dubai in recent weeks, but Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi asked Health Minister Yuli Edelstein to consult with the Foreign Ministry before any future decisions are made about the UAE.
At the same time, the government approved extending by 30 days the "green island" program for Eilat and the resort area of the Dead Sea late Wednesday night, making the program valid through January 16, 2021. In doing so, the government voted to increase testing of hotel staff to every 72 hours instead of every seven days.
Maayan Hoffman and Eve Young contributed to this report.