Gov’t to meet on exit strategy, as coronavirus lockdown continues

Knesset set to pass protest limit Tuesday

Knesset coronavirus committee meets to discuss ongoing regulations in Israel, July 19, 2020 (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESWOMAN - ADINA WALLMAN)
Knesset coronavirus committee meets to discuss ongoing regulations in Israel, July 19, 2020
As Yom Kippur exited, the country was once again focused on the novel coronavirus, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informing the public that the coronavirus cabinet would meet on Wednesday to discuss next steps for managing the situation.
Moreover, the Knesset is supposed to convene on Tuesday to vote on changes to the Coronavirus Law that would limit protests. The controversial bill is expected to pass, despite pressure on Blue and White MKs to vote against and defeat it.
Given the high numbers of new patients, senior health officials and the government have insinuated that lockdown could last at least a month, with a possible reduction of restrictions on the labor market in the next two weeks. However, the prime minister said in a Facebook chat Monday night that if people followed all the rules the closure could last as few as 10 days.
Some 3,426 people were diagnosed with coronavirus on Sunday and another 826 on Monday between midnight and press time, the Health Ministry showed. However, given that only 25,204 people were tested, the infection rate holds at around 13.6% – a peak.
At press time, 763 were in serious condition, including 208 who were intubated. The death toll stood at 1,499.
The number of people being treated in hospitals continues to rise. On Monday, that number stood at 1,532 – more than the hospitals can comfortably handle by most accounts.
Due to the high load of coronavirus patients, Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon opened an additional coronavirus ward, the hospital said Monday night. The unit is being housed in an emergency parking lot.
Netanyahu released a statement on Monday night saying that he hopes to be able to increase the capacity of hospitals to treat as many as 1,500 patients in serious condition from coronavirus by October 1.
Netanyahu said that he had held a series of talks before the holiday with senior officials to determine immediate next steps and an exit strategy from the current closure.
In addition to enlarging the capacity of the country’s hospitals, the plan involves several other steps. These include defining an exit strategy, keeping updated on the status of developing a vaccine, purchasing rapid test kits, and discussing the use of digital tools in the fight against coronavirus.
The prime minister also said that there would be a hasbara (communication) campaign focused on the need to wear masks and social distance, as well as efforts to increase enforcement, which could include stepping up fines on those who violate regulations.
The Israel Police continued its operational activities to stop the spread of coronavirus over Yom Kippur and said it will step up enforcement still further during the work week.
Police handed out some 3,922 tickets to people for violating Health Ministry guidelines over the holiday. The majority (2,789) were for people leaving their residences for a prohibited purpose. Nearly 1,000 were distributed for not wearing masks.
The Health Ministry used the opportunity to increase testing among the Arab sector.
A recent Health Ministry report provided to The Jerusalem Post showed that around 10%-15% of Arabs screened for the virus test positive.
Ayman Seif, who oversees the Health Ministry’s efforts among the Arab sector, told KAN News that drive-in testing centers were opened throughout the Arab communities and, working with the local authorities, appealed to citizens to come and get tested.
“I have to admit that I expected to see a higher number of people turn out to be tested,” he told KAN, “because we were offering tests without a referral.”
Finally, Netanyahu said that officials are working on an integrated program to prepare the education system to better operate alongside coronavirus and a plan for ensuring protection of and assistance for the country’s elderly in the coming months.
The Black Flag Movement held small protests on Monday night outside the homes of Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Black Flag leaders Benny Gantz, Gabi Ashkenazi, Avi Nissenkorn and Eitan Ginzburg.
On Tuesday, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee will convene to vote on amendments to the Big Coronavirus Law. The bill was supposed to pass last week, but lawmakers failed to move it forward in time.
The change to the law would limit the number of people per protest and only allow them to demonstrate within one kilometer of their homes.
Immediately after the passage of the bill into law, the Movement for Quality Government and other organizations are expected to petition the High Court of Justice, which could overrule it.