En route to more restrictions? Netanyahu to convene cabinet on Monday

Deputy Health Minister: ‘We are in the midst of a second wave that is worse than the first’

Israel Police officers giving out tickets for not wearing a mask in public (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israel Police officers giving out tickets for not wearing a mask in public
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene the cabinet on Monday to continue discussions about how to handle the coronavirus outbreak that is plaguing the country. Numbers continue to climb and health experts are saying that the government has lost control of the disease.
Ahead of the meeting, senior officials from the Health Ministry and the National Security Council are expected to meet through the night, to discuss the next set of restrictions. Among the ideas being considered: requiring summer camps to run in capsules of up to 15 students, limiting restaurant patrons to 20 people, and enforcing some level of gathering restrictions on beach fronts.
In addition, Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein are considering putting a “coronavirus commander” in place, the Hebrew network N12 reported. This person would be in charge of overseeing the country’s response during this second wave and especially of testing and epidemiological tracking, which has continued to hold the country back.
“We have lost control of the pandemic,” said Prof. Eli Waxman, who headed the panel of experts advising the National Security Council during the first wave of COVID-19, in an interview with N12. He said that if the country waits to take action any longer it could require a total lockdown again in two weeks or risk overwhelming the health system.
The meeting will come a day after the Knesset Coronavirus Committee met to approve the restrictions recommended by the coronavirus cabinet and the government last week: Event halls, bars, clubs, prayer houses and private parties in open spaces will be limited to 50 attendees; any other gatherings in closed spaces will be limited to 20 people; theaters and cultural centers can still have 250 people attend.
The restrictions passed with seven in support and three against and will go into effect at 8 a.m. on Monday.
Some 806 people were diagnosed with coronavirus on Saturday out of 16,749 tested – a rate of 4.8%, up from 4.5% the day before, the Health Ministry reported Sunday evening.
On Sunday, there were 11,677 sick patients in Israel, an increase of 719 from midnight, including 86 who are in serious condition, among them 27 who are intubated. Another person has died, bringing the total to 331.
“We are in the midst of a second wave that is worse than the first,” Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said Sunday at the committee meeting.
He said that experts expect as many as 300 to 400 patients in serious condition within two weeks.
On Sunday, the Health Ministry released a new chart demonstrating the differences between the ages of patients in serious condition throughout the coronavirus crisis. In March, when the outbreak began, the largest percentage of serious patients (31.3%) were between the ages of 70 and 79 and about a quarter (24.3%) were between the ages of 60 and 69. Some 88.7% of serious patients were over the age of 50.
By May, almost all of such patients (97.2%) were over the age of 50.
In March, only 5.2% of serious patients were between the ages of 40 and 49 while no patients in May were in that age range. In the first five days of July, however, the country is starting to see a different picture, with 12.5% of serious patients between the ages of 40 and 49.
“If we do not work to reduce the incidents, we will pay a heavy price… If we do not take difficult steps now, we will find ourselves in lockdown,” the deputy director-general said. “We are trying to preserve the economy as much as possible, and stop the crowds in places where it can be ‘super-sticky’ and accelerate the mass infection.”
At the same meeting, committee chairwoman Yifat Shasha-Biton said that “leadership is measured mainly during such difficult times. The government will impose these restrictions. However, we have a real moral obligation to compensate the people on which we impose them.”
Earlier, Netanyahu addressed the cabinet to discuss how, in the upcoming days, the government will present a special economic plan “designed to address the financial challenge troubling freelancers, contracted employees and businesses,” as cases continue to rise and businesses are at risk of new restrictions.
“We are in the midst of a very severe outbreak that is spreading across the world,” the prime minister said. “The World Health Organization marked the Middle East” as a hot spot, adding that “this outbreak will be accompanied with a rise in critical patients. We will be forced to take additional measures.”
On Sunday, some 210 students in a yeshiva in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak tested positive for coronavirus – a full third of the yeshiva’s student body.
Also, elite IDF commando unit Sayeret Matkal commander Colonel “Y” and his deputy entered quarantine after being exposed to a coronavirus carrier, according to Israeli media. Several dozen soldiers serving in the unit’s command post also entered quarantine after a female officer tested positive for coronavirus.
“The operational readiness of the unit was not harmed,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said.