Coronavirus restrictions upped: Go to work, supermarket only or face fines

Coronavirus cases climbed to 1,442 on Monday, an increase of 371 in one day.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen addressing the State of Israel with updates to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen addressing the State of Israel with updates to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to dramatically increase restrictions on movement and has drafted an order to allow no travel except for work, food, medicine and other essentials to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The restrictions, which were announced on Monday, will last for seven days from the time of approval by the government. Individuals found flouting the new restrictions, expected to be approved by ministers during a late-night conference call, will be subject to a fine.
Existing guidelines will not change with regards to traveling to and from work, and the ability to buy food, medicine or other essential products will not be limited even after the decision is approved.
The decision came after Netanyahu convened a seven-hour meeting on Monday to discuss the possibility of imposing stricter restrictions on the public as the number of coronavirus cases in Israel climbed to 1,442.
A second possible death caused by the coronavirus is currently being investigated, Israeli media reported, following the death of a man in his 60s on Monday at Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital) in Tel Aviv.
As the latest round of restrictions rolled out, the government also vowed to introduce a massive aid program for self-employed individuals and small businesses. The plan is scheduled to be ready on Tuesday. Moreover, Netanyahu said he would implement a task force to examine how the country can further increase coronavirus testing.
Of those diagnosed with coronavirus, 1,331 are mild cases, 40 moderate cases and 29 serious ones – the highest number of seriously ill patients in Israel to date. One man, an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor, died over the weekend. So far, 41 people have recovered.
The Health Ministry reported that 346 individuals are currently hospitalized, and 126 people are recovering at the Defense Ministry’s three “coronavirus hotels.”
The government intends to further tighten restrictions on the public, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan told Kol Yisrael on Monday.
“We will gradually move toward imposing a lockdown,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of additional people will be required not to go to work.”
Israel will ultimately be divided into quadrants, and police and the IDF will work together to monitor those areas and ensure that the closure is maintained, Erdan said.
“My worry is about what will happen in another week or two,” he said, referring to a likely increase in coronavirus patients. “I already said two weeks ago that my position is that we should issue a full two-week closure with much more extensive enforcement.”
Police investigations have been opened against 135 individuals who violated their quarantine and 21 who published fake news about the virus, the Israel Police reported Monday. The police closed 32 businesses for not abiding by regulations, dispersed 74 gatherings that had more than 10 people and handed out 74 fines.
Last week, Netanyahu implemented further restrictions, forbidding people from leaving their homes unless “absolutely necessary.” Visiting parks, beaches, pools, libraries and museums is prohibited, as are all social interactions. Essential services have remained open, including supermarkets, pharmacies and most medical services. While citizens are encouraged to work from home, employees who work in critical industries or small offices are able to do so.
Reflecting health fears among the elderly population, the Association of Nursing Homes and Assisted Living in Israel called on Netanyahu and government ministers to implement coronavirus tests for all residents of homes where an outbreak is suspected.
The association also demanded greater protective equipment for nursing-home staff, warning that limiting the use of equipment to locations where a case is confirmed is likely to be “too late to prevent an outbreak of the virus.”
Despite a request by Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman on Sunday that daylight savings time be postponed a month to prevent Israelis from staying out later, the National Security Council decided that implementation of the summer clock cannot be postponed and will begin on Friday at 2 a.m. as scheduled.
The decision was made based on advice from the Israel Digital Authority that the date of transition between the winter and summer clocks is structurally defined in the operating systems of servers, computers, communications equipment and cellphones. To change the system would take longer than the time available, the authority said.
As of Monday at 5 p.m., the Israeli Employment Service said 584,688 new applications for unemployment benefits had been submitted since the beginning of March, including almost 22,500 on Monday. The total unemployment rate currently stands at 17.6%, with 91% of new applications submitted by workers placed on unpaid leave.
Histadrut trade federation chairman Arnon Ben-David sent a scathing letter to Netanyahu, urging him to immediately release funds to assist the survival of struggling businesses.
“Compared to the rest of the world, the State of Israel managed to be several steps ahead when it comes to health issues but is lagging far behind in its management of the financial crisis,” he said.
Ben-David called for immediate assistance for all companies experiencing a 50% drop in turnover.
Otherwise, “we will witness an economic domino effect that will continue to the door of every family in the country,” he said.
The resources that the state is refraining from giving to businesses will later need to be invested in funding unemployment benefits and rehabilitating an economy in recession, Ben-David said.
To support economic activity and ease credit conditions, the Bank of Israel said it would launch a government-bond purchasing program on the secondary market totaling NIS 50 billion.
The “economic conditions in the Israeli economy have worsened significantly” as a result of measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the central bank said. The bond purchases are intended to enable the bank to influence bond yields in the market and lower the costs of long-term credit for firms and households.
Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus tests has continued to climb, as promised by the Health Ministry. Over the past 24 hours, more than 3,200 tests were conducted. So far, four new drive-through testing centers have been established by Magen David Adom in conjunction with the Health Ministry, and at least two more are expected to open.
On Monday, members of the Arab Joint List met with MDA representatives at its Tel Aviv complex and discussed the need to open a testing facility in Arab population centers. Concerns have been raised among Israeli Arabs that they are not being tested enough.