Deputy health minister: Third closure will probably happen

Israel could be facing a third lockdown as early as Hanukkah

Israel Police prepare for new coronavirus lockdown regulations, Sept. 25, 2020 (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Israel Police prepare for new coronavirus lockdown regulations, Sept. 25, 2020
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Israel could be facing a third lockdown as early as Hanukkah, according to Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy.
“I do not know if there will be a Hanukkah closure,” he said during a briefing on Thursday, noting that the increase in morbidity may lead from a cessation of restrictions to a full-fledged closure. “If there is sweeping illness like on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, we will have to take broad steps. I can’t say if it will be on Hanukkah, but it could certainly happen if the increase in morbidity continues.”
His words were echoed by Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch, who spoke Thursday evening to N12. In his interview, he warned that there is great concern that a third lockdown is on its way.
“There’s something that worries me: We left the policy of not opening before seeing a declining morbidity,” Kisch said. “There is a fear that the State of Israel will reach a third closure… This is the first time I have said this. I have not said it before because we conducted ourselves in a very orderly manner. I see rising morbidity, I see malls that decide on their own to open without any instructions – it is absurd.
“A third closure will probably happen,” he concluded.
The Health Ministry reported 784 new cases on Wednesday and another 482 between midnight and press time on Thursday. Among all of those infected, some 315 people were in serious condition, including 127 who were intubated. The death toll hit 2,742.
The reproduction rate – the R or number of people each sick person infects – has reached a striking 1.08, the highest it has been since September, Levy said. He also noted that the number of daily cases of infection is on an upward trend, and the number of serious patients has stopped declining and has plateaued.
Levy said that the 1.08 is “much higher than what we said it needed to be able to continue with the exit strategy.” He added that the increasing number of patients is “not a rapid rise, but it is rising. This is the expression of the reproduction rate that has exceeded one.”
N12 reported that the city of Nazareth is expected to be deemed a red city on Friday and will be locked down, joining four other predominantly Arab cities, where the infection rate is even higher than the rest of the country. Some 224 new cases were diagnosed in that city alone in the last week.
Levy said that one way to prevent a wide-spread closure would be to implement a successful differentiated traffic-light model that could be presented and approved by the coronavirus cabinet. In that plan, orange cities will have restrictions and red cities closed.
 DESPITE THE rising infection, Levy said that unless there is a “catastrophe,” classrooms will open on Tuesday as planned for students in fifth and sixth grade. He called on the teachers of these students to immediately get screened for the virus.
Recall, the coronavirus cabinet last week approved the return of students in the fifth, sixth, 11th and 12th grades to classes in green and yellow cities only. According to the decision, students in grades five and six will return to classes on November 25 and the older students on December 1.
He said that as these classes open, there are additional restrictions being considered to help offset the expected rise in infection, including potentially closing all retail by 7 p.m. – despite the fact that most health experts have said that this would be largely ineffective.
At the same time, several malls have threatened to open against the new regulations, which only allowed strip malls and street shops to open. Malls have been closed since the start of the High Holy Day lockdown.
“This is not the time to open malls en masse,” Levy warned.
He said the Health Ministry agreed to a pilot program that will include several malls in various cities to see if there is an ability to control the number of shoppers entering the stores and to epidemiologically track them where there is an outbreak.
If it works, only then should other malls open, he said.