Health Minister Yuli Edelstein gave Israelis what was, in effect, an ultimatum on Tuesday: Either obey the rules or we’ll shut down the country again.
“Whoever walks around without a face mask is like someone driving at a speed of 160 kilometers per hour (100 miles per hour),” Edelstein said during a tour of medical centers in the Negev.
“In the entire year of 2019 there were 349 fatalities in traffic accidents. Over the last three months, 298 people have been killed by the coronavirus and over 18,000 contracted it,” he said. “You can do your own math.”
Calling recent data on a coronavirus spike a “dramatic event,” he said enforcement of social distancing rules would have to be as strict as the enforcement of traffic rules.
Edelstein said the government was not yet ready to “go backwards” and begin reinstating closures, but insisted the public must do better.
A ministry updates on Monday night said there had been 179 new coronavirus infections over the previous 24 hours, the highest rate since late April.
The number of active virus cases, which had been steadily decreasing and dipped below 2,000 last month as recoveries outpaced new infections, has now surged to 2,620.
“We are heading rapidly toward more than 200 patients a day,” said Edelstein at Soroka hospital in Beersheva. “After we were at a lull, the disregard of regulations caused this spike. There is no magic involved: If you treat the instructions as recommendations, the coronavirus won’t leave us. It’s that simple.”