Coronavirus committee votes against Netanyahu, reopens gyms, pools

The prime minister, as well as Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, had moments earlier announced that only swimming pools would open.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with ministers to discuss the proposed restrictions on ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, July 13, 2020  (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with ministers to discuss the proposed restrictions on ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, July 13, 2020
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Health Ministry director-general Hezy Levy on Monday said he is worried about the spike in the number of infections and that decisions the authorities are taking are intended to lower the morbidity rate while avoiding a general lockdown.

His remarks came before a Channel 13 report said Health Ministry officials said there was no other solution for the country except a second national lockdown.

Some 40,632 cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed since the beginning of the outbreak in Israel, 1,336 of whom were ascertained in the previous 24 hours, the ministry announced Monday night. There were 20,560 active cases, while 21,568 people have recovered, it said.

The number of patients in serious condition and intubated also was on the rise, with 183 in serious condition (an increase of 32) and 54 patients (an additional eight) since Sunday night. There are 365 patients who have passed away since the outbreak began.

“We are all responsible one for another. Whoever does not wear a mask endangers all those around,” Levy said during a press conference.

He said he was saddened by the choice of the Knesset Coronavirus Committee to reopen gyms, which he described as places where it is easy to get infected.

“We are working to avoid a general lockdown, which would clearly cause economic, health and psychological damages,” Levy said. “We are trying to implement restrictions to prevent gatherings that are at the root of the infection.”

The committee voted in favor of the measure just moments after the prime minister’s spokesperson announced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein had decided to allow outdoor pools to reopen under stricter requirements but to leave gyms closed.

The committee allowed both kinds of facilities to start operating again.

Immediately after the vote, coalition chairman Miki Zohar called on the committee to replace Knesset Coronavirus Committee Chairwoman MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Likud). She was eventually suspended.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and senior Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich both called on Blue and White MKs not to allow Shasha-Biton to be removed from her position.

Liberman said if Blue and White representatives in the coalition would “have a drop of self-respect and responsibility left,” they would oppose Shasha-Biton’s removal. Smotrich sent a letter to Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, arguing that the Knesset needs to be “protected from being trampled on,” not only from the High Court of Justice but also by the government.

Earlier in the day, Israel Association of Biochemists, Microbiologists and Laboratory Workers Union head Esther Admon warned that labs performing coronavirus tests were on the verge of collapsing.

The number of daily tests has significantly increased compared with the first wave in the March-April period. Between 20,000 and 30,000 tests have been performed every day countrywide over the past few weeks. On Sunday, 21,539 tests were carried out.

“All labs are in crisis. We are not going to get to the winter,” she said during a meeting of the State Comptroller Committee at the Knesset, as reported by the Hebrew website Ynet. “There is an overload, and we can’t recruit workers.”

Nurses warned that they were near the breaking point and threatened to go on strike.

“The nurses are collapsing. We are no longer able to continue,” Nurses Union chairwoman Ilana Cohen said during an interview on 103 FM, as reported by The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv. “Before the election, everyone talked about the healthcare system that was drained, about the need to hire hundreds of people, and after the election, everyone forgot.”

As of Monday night, there were 2,894 medical staff in isolation after coming in contact with coronavirus patients, including more than 800 nurses.

In the morning, Netanyahu met with Interior Minister Arye Deri and Construction and Housing Minister Ya’acov Litzman, leaders of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, respectively, to discuss the lockdown imposed on several haredi towns and neighborhoods around the country. In recent days, protesters in some of the areas clashed with police.

During the meeting, it was agreed that the designation of further restricted areas will be discussed with the leaders of the haredi sector.

The Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.