Israel’s current coronavirus lockdown will last at least a month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clarified Tuesday during a Facebook briefing. During that time, he said, the government will prepare a proper exit strategy.
“I want to be honest - it will not be less than a month. It may take much longer,” the prime minister said.
He then verbally presented a number of his goals for the next few weeks, similar to those that he had released in a statement after Yom Kippur: preparing the health system, ensuring the public wears masks, implementing rapid tests and, of course, reducing the country’s rate of infection.
He stressed that the number of patients is climbing fast.
“There are more than 800 serious patients,” Netanyahu said. “The number of dead is also rising.”
According to the Health Ministry, 1,151 people tested positive on Yom Kippur - a small number, but close to 15% of the less than 9,000 people screened for the virus over the holiday. The number of serious patients was 810 on Wednesday, including 205 who were intubated.
The death toll stands at 1,547, as of Wednesday.
ISRAEL SURPASSED the United States in the number of deaths per day from coronavirus relative to the population, a report by the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center revealed on Tuesday.
“I do not remember a Yom Kippur holiday as difficult as it was this year,” Dr. Masad Barhoum, director-general of Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya said on Tuesday. He said that the number of serious and intubated patients in his facility is increasing and they are considering opening a fifth coronavirus ward.
“We are moving from fighting coronavirus to battling on three fronts,” the director-general continued: “fighting coronavirus, fighting the flu ahead of the winter season and fighting to protect our patients.”
He said hospital patients are often surrounded by visitors and it is hard to know in advance who carries the virus.
Barhoum added that he thinks the current closure is “breathing too much,” and needs to be further tightened in order to stop the spread of the virus.
During his Facebook briefing, Netanyahu was asked about the exit strategy, including if and when the education system might open. He spoke only about first and second graders returning to school in capsules and not older children.
The prime minister held a late-night discussion on the state of affairs of the country’s vaccine development on Tuesday. He also was briefed on how quickly Israel could implement rapid testing.
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch tweeted Tuesday morning that Israel had purchased hundreds of additional rapid coronavirus tests.
“The goal is an additional 20,000 rapid tests per day,” Kisch wrote.
He said the tests will be deployed in hospitals, health funds, nursing homes and clinics, and used by the Home Front Command in its work. They will be administered like a standard PCR swab test and require the supervision of a doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
The coronavirus cabinet is set to meet on Wednesday to review these issues and begin exit strategy discussions.
HEALTH MINISTER Yuli Edelstein and Internal Security Minister Amir Ohana also spoke to the public on Tuesday, this time to review how the Health Ministry guidelines will be enforced.
During his speech, Edelstein also discussed the need for a proper exit strategy.
“We will not repeat mistakes” of the past, he said, when Israel opened too rapidly.
“We will be very careful not to give in to pressure. No lobby will be able to help,” the minister stressed. “We will release the economy and life with medically necessary care.”
He commented on the violation of guidelines on Monday night in Bnei Brak, where several hassidim held events of several hundred people. He said these violations “endanger us all. Scientists do not know everything, but one thing everyone agrees on - the virus has no political views.”
OHANA SAID that he forwarded a video of the event in Bnei Brak to the Israel Police, which immediately ticketed the guilty yeshiva NIS 5,000.
“The police do not discriminate between populations and neither does the virus,” he stressed.
Edelstein spoke directly to the observant community, calling on them not to host guests in their sukkahs (temporary outdoor booths). The holiday of Sukkot begins Friday at sundown.
“There is no happier event than Sukkot,” he said. “I want to tell you unequivocally that… a sukkah that is built properly is a closed space… It is forbidden to entertain people in the sukkah.”
He added that, “We need to trust the public. We will not have a policeman who enters your house or your sukkah. Adherence to the rules and maintaining public health is in the hands of all of us – and we will win together.”
Edelstein added that the infection rate rose as high as it did partially because of “the incessant questions about exactly how many were infected in the gyms, how many were infected in restaurants and how many exactly on one street or another,” the minister said. “No such data exists and will not exist in any country in the world.”
Similarly, Ohana said to “those who claim there is no data on the infections from the demonstrations: I reply that there is no data because a person who is infected knows to say whether he is infected at work, in a restaurant, at a demonstration or on a bus.
“The only way to save the country is to leave all the arguments you hear in the background,” he continued. “This is a world war… and the whole world is in this struggle.”
He then asked for the public’s help in the fight against the virus: “Call out to the public, to your friends, to your families – stop the coronavirus. Do not wait for the state to do it. Chances are you will do it better, more efficiently and faster than we can.”
IN ORDER to ensure that the lockdown is successful, Israel Police stressed on Tuesday that “they will continue to work with the authorities and other law enforcement agencies to curb the spread of the virus.”
The police said that they issued some 5,194 tickets in the last two days to people who violated Health Ministry restrictions, most of them for leaving one’s place of residence for a prohibited purpose and almost as many for not wearing a mask in a public space.
“The Police are calling on the public to obey the instructions,” it said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Gantz visited the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) city of Bnei Brak Tuesday morning, where residents were caught breaking restrictions after Yom Kippur. He urged the public to adhere to the guidelines.
“I welcome the excellent cooperation of the Home Front Command, Magen David Adom and the Bnei Brak Municipality,” Gantz said, “but another collaboration that is critical is with the citizens themselves. I urge everyone to obey the instructions.”
He also said that people should cooperate with the IDF in its efforts to cut the chains of infection.
“When you hide information, someone is hurt by it,” he said.
While the closure continues, however, more Israelis are becoming unemployed. Some 42,545 new job seekers have been added since the full lockdown began last week and 163,297 since partial lockdown restrictions began.
One employment service support hotline, “Ta’asu Kav,” reported that before the coronavirus struck, it received an average of 100 applications per month. By March, that number quadrupled. On Tuesday, it reported expanding its workforce by 250% to accommodate the increase in applications.