Coronavirus night curfew off the table as gov't meeting postponed

Malls, markets and museums approved to operate.

An empty Knesset Plenum  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
An empty Knesset Plenum
The government meeting regarding the proposed night curfew, which was supposed to take place Tuesday night, has been postponed to Wednesday and the likelihood of a night curfew being approved at the meeting seems unlikely.
Following opposition from senior officials in the Health Ministry, representatives of the attorney-general made it clear to the cabinet Tuesday that without sweeping support from the Health Ministry, the night curfew would not be enforceable and it would not be legally defensible in the Supreme Court.
Many health officials questioned the efficacy of a night closure, including the coronavirus commissioner Nachman Ash, who has voiced objections to the idea of starting a night curfew and has contended – in line with health professionals’ opinions up until now – that the effectiveness of a night curfew is unknown.
Senior Health Ministry officials speculated that Israel would face a tightening of restrictions soon, according to a report on the N12 website, to prevent large gatherings for Hanukkah, which begins Thursday and also for Christmas and New Year’s Eve later in the month. The only question, said the officials, was whether the increased regulations would be put into place this week or next.  
The idea of a night curfew was rolled out by Meir Ben-Shabbat, head of the National Security Council (NSC), and supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The cabinet approved the operation of malls, markets and museums, including the operation of small shops located in those businesses Tuesday evening. The number of occupants allowed in each store will depend on its size, with an exception made to essential stores such as ones that sell food or  hygiene products. 
In stores under 150 square meters a total of one occupant per seven square meters, and in larger stores one occupant to 15 square meters will be permitted. This includes malls and markets as well. However, in Green Island cities amendments to the ratio will be made. 
In order to regulate the number of occupants inside malls, a computerized system will be set up and will be operated by designated ushers. Similarly, ushers will be appointed to ensure regulations are followed in markets and museums.
Some 1,837 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in Israel on Monday, with 2.8% of tests returning positive, according to a Tuesday morning update by the Health Ministry.
Of those infected, 315 were in serious condition and 107 were on ventilators. Since Monday morning, the death toll rose to 2,924.  On Tuesday, 1,233 middle school students tested positive for the coronavirus, the Health Ministry reported. Overall, 2,642 students in the Israeli public school system are currently sick with the virus. An additional 567 staff members tested positive as well.5,000 schools have closed due to infection rates, at 0.26% total.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem released a report Tuesday evaluating the possible benefits of a night curfew by looking at curfews in France and in Melbourne, Australia. They found that after 12 days  of a curfew in France, the morbidity had gone down somewhat but that a lockdown was required anyway. In Melbourne, a curfew was used as part of a gradual exit from a lockdown and resulted in an infection rate of less than one.
While in recent months, the morbidity rate in the ultra-Orthodox community has gone down, on Tuesday the coronavirus commissioner in the ultra-Orthodox sector, Roni Noma, said that according to data from the corona tests, it appears that the ultra-Orthodox society is tested significantly less than the general public, according to the Walla site. The general public has 77 tests per 10,000 people performed per day, compared to only 26 in the ultra-Orthodox sector. The percentage of positive tests Tuesday in the sector was 4.7% compared to 2.8% in the general public. Also, out of 1,837 people who tested positive for the virus, 140 of them, or 8%, are from ultra-Orthodox society.
As the coronavirus cabinet met Monday night, in Bnei Brak, hundreds took part in a wedding in which few wore masks and there was no social distancing, with no interference from police. Increased fines for large gatherings have been proposed but have not gone into effect yet, apparently out of political considerations.
The Coronavirus Committee toured the Coronavirus Laboratory at Ben-Gurion Airport Tuesday and received a briefing on the procedures for incoming and outgoing passengers.
The visit follows controversy this week when it was revealed that measures for monitoring passengers returning from abroad, including countries deemed red, has been extremely lax. On Monday, the coronavirus cabinet approved the tightening of regulations for returning travelers and said that coronavirus testing will be required for all those who return to the country from abroad, and especially for those arriving from red countries. Anyone who is not tested will be required to enter a coronavirus hotel.
The committee's chairman, MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, emphasized, “We must find another way to manage the crisis correctly. A way that will take all the health, mental and economic consequences into account.”
During the airport visit Tuesday, Shasha-Biton suggested checking the procedure for conducting two negative tests for those entering the country, the first upon entry and the second after 5-7 days, thus shortening the isolation period, so that it would be possible to open the sky and encourage the public to be tested. The airport is prepared to accommodate many passengers, while conducting a large number of tests, all according to regulations.
Amnon Shmueli, director of border control at the Population Authority, warned that there is currently no way to enforce isolation for those entering the country, even for those who announce in advance that they do not intend to enter isolation.
According to reports, as many as 4% of passengers returning to Israel from Turkey and Serbia are infected with the coronavirus in recent weeks.
Maayan Hoffman and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.