One day until the coronavirus lockdown and the gov’t is still zigzagging

Schools shuttered today * Over 5,500 people diagnosed with virus in 24 hours

Coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu  (photo credit: TAL SHAHAR/POOL)
Coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu
(photo credit: TAL SHAHAR/POOL)
Although parents and students are clear that there will be no school, beginning Thursday, for at least three weeks, many of the other details of the closure that is supposed to start Friday at 2 p.m. remain unclear – to both the public and the police.
It is also uncertain whether the lockdown will be effective.
The only thing that is for sure is that the number of people newly diagnosed with coronavirus is peaking nearly every day.
There were 5,510 people found to be infected with the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, the Health Ministry reported, and another 3,670 between midnight and Thursday evening. Some 549 patients were in serious condition, among them 140 who were intubated. The death toll hit 1,165.
The infection rate on Wednesday stood at close to 10%, meaning that almost one in every 10 people tested for coronavirus in the past 24 hours tested positive. It is an even more striking number when one considers that on Tuesday, Israel tested more people in one day than ever before: 57,697.
The final version of the lockdown regulations was provided to government ministers on Tuesday night. Explanatory notes on the regulations informed ministers that 97% of the cities in Israel with a population of over 20,000 are experiencing a high infection rate such that each person is infecting more than one other person.
A record was also broken in the number of people infected in the education system. According to a report released at the ministerial meeting on Wednesday, at which ministers decided to accept coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu’s plea to shutter schools immediately, there has been more than a 5% increase in new cases among students ages 10 to 19, compared to other age groups.
“The number of new patients each day, both students and faculty, is increasing – linearly over the past two weeks,” the report reads.
Data at the meeting also showed that while there were around 50 patients between newborns and 17-year-olds before September 1, now there are around 150 to 200 every day.
“We doubled the number of cases in two weeks,” Gamzu said at one of the recent ministerial meetings, Channel 12 reported. “There is an outbreak. Why would there be an outbreak in Holon or Rishon Lezion? Why would this happen? What is the reason? How can we turn it around? The education system is what did this.”
Gamzu said that while young kids do not catch coronavirus so easily, children over the age of 10 get infected and can infect “like adults. Every day is significant to us. The one thing I am counting on with this closure is the shuttering of the school system,” he said, Channel 12 reported.
The decision to close the schools came after the commissioner sent a letter on Tuesday to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Education Minister Yoav Gallant asking them to do so immediately.
“The government made the wrong decision, against professional recommendations,” Gamzu said in his letter to the ministers. “Moreover, we are seeing a spike in infection in general and specifically among the general public.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voted in favor of closing the schools early, as did Edelstein and ministers Amir Ohana, Amir Peretz and Tzachi Hanegbi. Gallant and ministers Ze’ev Elkin and Itzik Shmuli voted against.
The schools will be closed for at least three weeks. The goal during that time will be to shift to distance learning, at least for older students. The teachers said they will try, but parents, students and teachers remember how challenging that was the first time around.
The numbers reflect the need to take drastic steps.
An analysis of the country’s state of infection by the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center, operating under the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, showed that there has been a dramatic increase in patients not only in Arab and ultra-Orthodox society, but among the general public.
Some 89 cities were listed as “red” cities – more than double the 38 of two weeks ago. Some 6.5 million Israelis are living in red or orange zones.
Cities that were “green” two weeks ago, such as Hadera or Rehovot, are now red, as are several yellow cities, such as Rishon Lezion, Holon and Petah Tikva.
The large number of patients is putting an even greater toll on the country’s hospitals, especially in the periphery and Jerusalem. Some 140 moderate-to-serious patients (none of them on ventilators) are expected to be transferred from hospitals in the North and the capital to hospitals in the Center in order to help relieve the staff and the congestion.
The program, which kicked off Wednesday morning, will run until Friday when the lockdown starts.
Police have said that although the closure starts on Friday, they have yet to receive final directives, and it is still unclear exactly where enforcement will be most needed. They are also unsure whether they are up to the task, given the complicated outline of the upcoming lockdown.
Synagogue leaders themselves are confused about how many people can pray in their facilities, police have said. How will they know whether the prayer-goers are breaking the rules?
Even the health minister himself is not confident in the plans.
Channel 12 revealed comments that Edelstein made at a ministerial meeting: “I consulted with all the senior officials, most of them with advanced degrees and experts in the field, and asked them whether there is a chance that the infection rate will go down under these conditions,” he said, referring to the current closure outline, in which people can still go to work, the beach, etc. “To my great disappointment, I did not find anyone who was optimistic.”