Coronavirus cabinet to convene today, discuss next stage of lockdown

Health experts: 'cautious optimism' * Netanyahu: 'No decisions until Thursday'

Coronavirus test site for the residents of Bnei Brak (photo credit: ROI HADI)
Coronavirus test site for the residents of Bnei Brak
(photo credit: ROI HADI)
The coronavirus cabinet is expected to meet on Monday to start discussions about the next stage of the lockdown. While some ministers support opening part of the economy immediately after the holidays, the prime minister said it is too early to make such decisions.
“There are those who already say that they have cautious optimism that the closure is starting to work, that we are flattening the curve,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday in a video statement. “I’m more cautious than the cautious, I want to wait for at least 10 days to pass [from the start of the strict lockdown]. This means that the decisions on the continuation of the closure after the evening of Simhat Torah will be made only on Thursday.”
The percentage of patients who tested positive on Sunday was in fact another indication that the national lockdown is starting to work.
Some 2,576 patients were diagnosed with the virus on Saturday out of 25,144 who were screened, meaning a 10.2% positive result.
The number of active patients also dropped to 69,248 from 71,504 the night before.
In a tweet, Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, expressed “cautious optimism.”
“The increase in morbidity in the general sector may have been halted, and the rate of infection there is around one,” he tweeted. Segal noted that the infection rate in the Arab community had also decreased, though it seemed to still be high among the ultra-Orthodox.
Israel’s partial closure began two weeks ago, when around 9% of all people screened were testing positive. Between September 18 and September 25 – the date that Israel enacted a more complete nationwide lockdown – that percentage rapidly spiked.
The infection rate rose to 10% on September 20 until it peaked at 15% on September 28. Since Wednesday, the infection rate has been declining, from 13% on Wednesday to 12% on Thursday and by Saturday around 11%.
Netanyahu said the cabinet, which is expected to meet at noon, would discuss the long-term exit strategy, preliminary data, protecting the elderly population, increasing fines and stepping up discipline and enforcement.
Meanwhile, discussions are underway among some ministers about slowly releasing the economy. Finance Minister Israel Katz and Economy Minister Amir Peretz support opening at least 50% of the economy as early as next week. They also plan to push for the reopening of preschools.
Although some health experts support this stance, it does not appear that Netanyahu plans to shift his position, as the infection rate remains high, despite its decline.
A report published Sunday morning by the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center, which is overseen by the IDF, said that while the decline in infection should be recognized, 10% positive tests are still too high and even dangerous.
The Health Ministry reported some 890 patients in serious condition, including 215 on ventilators. The death toll spiked to 1,707 – 21 people died between midnight and press time.
The IDF report, like the prime minister, noted that the situation would need to be monitored for several more days and that it is important to remember that Israel’s ability to cut the infection chains was still not up to par.
It also warned that a sukkah (even though it is outside) is considered closed and that the risk of getting infection in a sukkah gathering was high. The report’s authors called on the public to wear masks and social distance.
“The quarantine guidelines are not against you, they are against the virus, and if we all work together, we will defeat that virus,” Netanyahu said in his video. “I ask all of you to unite like the four species for the benefit of our people and for the benefit of all citizens of the State of Israel in the face of the global coronavirus plague – we will win.”