Health Ministry: Night closure could reduce infection by only 5%

Coronavirus cabinet to decide on schools, stores and night curfew on Sunday • Chezy Levy: Night curfew to decrease infection by only 5%

Prof. Chezy Levy, designated to be the Health Ministry's director-general (photo credit: BARZILAI HOSPITAL)
Prof. Chezy Levy, designated to be the Health Ministry's director-general
(photo credit: BARZILAI HOSPITAL)
The coronavirus cabinet is expected to reconvene Sunday to continue discussions about opening more commerce and classrooms, while at the same time implementing additional restrictions to slow the spread of infection.
The Health Ministry reported 748 people were diagnosed with the novel virus on Friday – 2.1% of those screened. Moreover, some 50% of new cases are from within the Arab sector, according to Ayman Saif, head of the coronavirus response in Arab communities.
On Saturday, some 294 people were in serious condition, including 130 who were intubated. The death toll stood at 2,720.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pushing for a night curfew. However, according to Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy, a night curfew alone will only be able to reduce the cases of coronavirus infection by about 5% because restaurants and other places of entertainment are closed anyway.
In a weekend interview with KAN News, Levy said that while a night curfew has not yet been ruled out, such a move only makes sense if it is accompanied by additional measures.
Levy’s comments came soon after the government convened late Thursday night a meeting of top officials at the offices of the National Security Council to discuss the possibility of such a curfew – despite health experts like Levy saying it would be ineffective. No agreement was reached.
The Justice Ministry has also explained that there may be legal difficulties in enforcing a night curfew.
Prof. Ronni Gamzu – who just resigned from his role as coronavirus commissioner – and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein joined Levy in his skepticism about night curfews.
So did MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, head of the Knesset Coronavirus Committee, who said that “it makes no sense. If the government wants to prevent weddings or other gatherings, it should focus on courageously enforcing against these events in all sectors. There should not be collective punishment because part of the public is breaking the law.”
Professor Gabi Barbash, a former Health Ministry director-general, told The Jerusalem Post: “If the government sends everyone into their houses and weddings continue because they cannot enforce against them, [a night curfew] will be a waste of time.”
Other ideas that the cabinet is intending to discuss include raising fines and increasing the number of red zones. It will also reexamine returning children in fifth, sixth, 11th and 12th grades to their classrooms.
The children were originally supposed to return to school on Sunday, but increasing infection pushed off any decision on the matter. The earliest they could return now is Tuesday.
On Saturday, Education Minister Yoav Gallant released a video on his Facebook page in which he said, “It is essential to send students back to school immediately – especially grades five, six, 11 and 12 for whom a decision was already made.”
Gallant said that “the education system is prepared. Our excellent teachers and principals... know what to do. Let us start learning!”
He wrote above the video in the post that “for the people of Israel, the children must come first.”
Last week, the Education Ministry released its final proposal for opening schools for children through sixth grade, plus classes for students in grades 11 and 12.
The new plan would put first and second graders back into their classrooms without capsules five days per week for five hours each day. Third and fourth grades would learn without any changes, with pupils learning in set groups of up to 20 five days per week for five hours each day.
Fifth and sixth grades would learn in set groups of up to 20 students, at least three days per week for at least 14 hours each week. No transfers will be allowed between groups. Finally, 11th and 12th grades would learn in groups of up to 20, at least two days per week.
Against the backdrop of Sunday’s meeting will be the understanding that infection is climbing.
The reproduction rate (R) rose to one on Friday, an average of the rates in the general society (0.94), ultra-Orthodox community (0.92) and Arab sector (1.07) – meaning that on average, each infected person is infecting one other.
Levy added in his interview with KAN News that he was concerned about the increase in the reproduction rate and that Israel should be careful not to open up irresponsibly. The Health Ministry had said that unless the reproduction rate is below 0.8 further reliefs should not be rolled out.
Newly appointed coronavirus commissioner Nachman Ash and Saif visited Kafr Kassem on Saturday, where morbidity has been on the rise. During the trip, Ash said that Kafr Kassem is a central Arab city with a lot of traffic and “we don’t want to see it become a hotbed of infection that sets the whole area on fire.”
Kafr Kassem Mayor Adel Badir said that of the city’s 91 sick people, some 70 caught the virus at a particular wedding. He asked for financial assistance to get morbidity under control and requested that the government impose a night curfew on the town in order to stop illegal gatherings from taking place.