“We must return to the reality of restrictions in order to flatten the curve,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday as he announced new limits on events and gatherings in closed spaces.
Effective Friday at 8 a.m, event halls, bars, clubs and prayer houses will be limited to 50 attendees. Any other gatherings in closed spaces will be limited to 20 people.
“At the beginning of the week, we had about 450 infections a day,” Netanyahu said. “Today, we are close to 1,000.” He noted on March 31 the country had 730 new diagnoses.
“Anyone who says, ‘But there are no serious patients’ - at first it really was that way,” but he said they have begun to infect others. “The data is sharp and clear and leaves us with no choice. We have to go back to the reality of restrictions in order to flatten the curve.“We have to change direction and now” he went on. “We know what happens when people meet, dance and sing – they infect each other, first the young and then the older ones.” The prime minister said that the number of patients in serious condition has increased by 50% in the last week.“In recent weeks, we have taken various steps to open the economy. I attach great importance to resuming economic activity in the economy. However, I emphasized that opening the economy is contingent on the health guidelines – wearing a mask, distancing and maintaining hygiene.”He did emphasize that he intends to pass an economic plan that will take care of business owners over the next six months.Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, who spoke after the prime minister, described the situation as “worrying” and explained that in all of June the hospitals treated 103 patients in serious condition. In one-and-a-half days of July, 10 are already being treated.“The virus is contagious,” he stressed, “and older people and those with preexisting conditions are catching it. This is the emergency hour.”The press conference came after Netanyahu left a meeting of the coronavirus cabinet in anger on Thursday night and warned Blue and White ministers that if they did not become more disciplined, Israel would go to an election.Netanyahu was angry at Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz for releasing a statement during the meeting about the Defense Ministry needing to take over the fight against the coronavirus.“They are engaging in petty politics,” Netanyahu said. “If it continues this way, it will lead in only one direction.”Edelstein also expressed outrage, accusing Gantz of “playing politics at the expense of the citizens of Israel.”Edelstein said he is ready to cooperate with the Home Front Command and IDF officers, whom he called “our dear partners,” but he said the authority over the fight against the coronavirus must stay under the Health Ministry.The health minister’s statement came in the aftermath of comments by Science and Technology Minister Izhar Shay, who said that had the Defense Ministry been in charge there could have been 25,000 tests a day and results within 12 hours.Health Minister Deputy Director-General Itamar Grotto called Shay’s comments “populism.” Gantz responded that “the entire operation should move to the Defense Ministry.”Gantz on Thursday held a meeting with top security officials, at which he approved the recruitment of an additional 500 reservists through July, most of them for the operation of the Home Front Command’s “coronavirus hotels,” and to help support communities that have to be locked down.He also said the army should prepare to assist the Palestinian population.Opposition leader Yair Lapid responded to the fight by saying this is what happens when there are too many ministers, and no one understands what they are responsible for. He said the current government was too disconnected from reality to be able to handle the coronavirus crisis.The coronavirus cabinet convened Thursday afternoon as Israel hit a new record Wednesday with 965 new patients diagnosed in a day – the highest numbers since the start of the pandemic.There were 9,176 active patients Thursday night, the Health Ministry reported, including 690 who tested positive since midnight. Of the patients, 65 are in serious condition.At the same time, a report by the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center, which is overseen by the IDF Intelligence Corps in cooperation with the Health Ministry, showed Thursday that the number of days it is taking for infections to double is only six. Daily growth in cases stands at 13%.On May 4, when Netanyahu announced that the country was re-opening, the prime minister set three criteria that could put Israel back under lockdown: should there be 100 new daily cases of infection – excluding individuals arriving from abroad, outbreaks in retirement homes and those living in towns or cities currently defined as outbreak hot spots; should the rate of infections return to doubling itself within 10 days; or should the number of patients in serious condition reach 250.Israel has crossed all those red lines.The IDF report also showed which cities have the highest number of new cases in the last day: Bnei Brak, Lod, Bat Yam, Ashdod, Rahat, Dimona, Arara in the Negev, Kfar Kasem, Modi’in Illit, Jerusalem and Beit Illit.Late Wednesday, the Ministerial Committee on Declaring Restricted Zones named areas of Ashdod and Lod as restricted zones.
Earlier during the coronavirus cabinet meeting, there was another fight over enforcement over current coronavirus directives after Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir said enforcement “was not felt.”Public Security Minister Amir Ohana responded that the facts are different and Netanyahu mocked Zamir, a former Tel Aviv deputy mayor, saying “this is not the city of Tel Aviv; it is a meeting of the cabinet.”