Coronavirus: Gov’t promises no closure in the coming days

Gyms to open Sunday * School system to operate through August 6 * More than 2,000 new patients in one day

Israelis, wearing face masks for fear of the coronavirus, shop for grocery at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on July 14, 2020. Israel has seen a spike of new COVID-19 cases bringing the authorities to reimpose restrictions to halt the spread of the virus (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Israelis, wearing face masks for fear of the coronavirus, shop for grocery at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on July 14, 2020. Israel has seen a spike of new COVID-19 cases bringing the authorities to reimpose restrictions to halt the spread of the virus
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
The public will be able to visit their favorite tourist attractions over the weekend, workout at the gym on Sunday and be confident that their children will have a camp to go to next week, as the government and the parliament made decisions on Thursday to keep the country open.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in consultation with the coronavirus cabinet and the country’s newly appointed coronavirus commissioner Ronni Gamzu, agreed to continue with the status quo and avoid a general closure in the coming days – aiming to reach August 6, the last day of summer camps and summer school.
The decision was made because the infection rate and the “doubling rate” have both dropped in recent days.
“We will try to avoid a general closure, but if we have to, we will do it,” the prime minister said at a late-night press conference. “It is very easy to be a populist, but we will make decisions based on professional considerations – while maintaining health, saving lives and, of course, maintaining the economy.”
At the same time, Netanyahu, Gamzu, National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat, Education Minister Yoav Gallant and Health Minister director-general Chezy Levy agreed that summer schools and camps would continue to operate according to their current format.
These announcements came against the backdrop of what appeared to be a high level of infection. The number of serious coronavirus patients surpassed 300, the Health Ministry reported Thursday evening, reaching 302 at press time.
Some 2,033 people were found to be infected Wednesday, the ministry said on Thursday. Moreover, another 1,022 had already been diagnosed between midnight and 7 p.m. Thursday. The death toll also rose, reaching 440.
The Knesset Coronavirus Committee also made a decision to further open the country, including allowing tourist attractions to operate on the weekends and gyms to open beginning next Sunday.
The gyms will need to follow certain guidelines, such as positioning equipment two meters apart and limiting the number of people in the facility to one per every 10 meters. Tourist attractions will need to continue operating under the Health Ministry’s safety guidelines.
“It is necessary to geographically disperse the population and open the attractions over the weekends in order to prevent overcrowding in certain places,” committee chairwoman and Likud MK Yifat Shasha-Biton said. She added that she wants “every decision the committee makes here to be the best decision, because the industry needs stability.”
The meeting took place against the backdrop of a Knesset decision late Wednesday night to pass the “Big Coronavirus Bill” into law.
The law allows the government to declare a state of emergency and to implement emergency regulations for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, while bypassing the Knesset.
Under the law, the government will be able to declare a state of emergency for a period of 60 days, which can be extended with Knesset approval through June 2021, when the law becomes null and void.
“In the transitional government in the first wave we could act quickly; we made decisions quickly because we had emergency regulations,” Netanyahu said at the press conference.
He said that Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz had agreed to cut the size of the coronavirus cabinet by half and that this body will now have the authority to approve “speedy regulations for the benefit of public health.”
“Anyone who seeks power struggles, ego, conflicts – will find nothing,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein stressed at the same press conference. “We all have one goal: to defeat the coronavirus. To do this we will work together and with all of our force.
“Only determined and quick action will help us overcome the virus,” he said.
The press conference centered on the appointment of Gamzu as the new commissioner. The prime minister explained that Gamzu’s foremost task will be to figure out how to cut off the chains of infection.
“For this purpose, he will be given all the powers in three areas – testing, investigations and isolation,” Netanyahu said. “He will manage the isolation of carriers and patients that have been identified in order to interrupt the chain of infection.”
He added that the IDF will play an important and central role going forward as well.
He noted that once the disease is under control, “we will implement the strategy formulated by Prof. Gamzu to open up the economy, the education system and other areas. This way we can continue in the long term – until a vaccine for the virus is found.”
Gamzu said that he, too, sees cutting off the infection chain as the foremost task, calling on the public to partner with him: “This is a task that we need to do together – the Health Ministry, the government and the Knesset. This is not just my task. We are all in this together – it can be done.”
He said that closures are easy and are being done in many, if not most countries. However, the Israeli government is trying to avoid lockdown.
“We are trying to do it… We are trying, trying and trying,” he said. “It’s very complex.”
And he reminded the public that while they walk the streets, perhaps wearing masks or holding antibacterial gel, the doctors are overloaded with sick patients.
“It’s a wonderful system that works hard – but it also has a threshold,” he said. “It, too, may reach a limit at some point. That’s why we need to work.”
He asked the citizens of Israel to trust him to do his new job.
“First and foremost, public trust,” Gamzu requested. “Trust in you and trust in the whole health system. I know this work. Everything that will come from here will be true and real.”