Health Minister: Full Lockdown Might Be Inevitable

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli police at a roadblock in the Romema neighborhood in Yerushalayim, Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that the notion of imposing a full countrywide lockdown “is expected to come up at the government meeting on Sunday.”

Given the rising rate of new cases of infection and the relatively small impact of the less stringent restrictions that have been imposed, Edelstein asked in an interview published in Yediot Acharonot: “What other tools do we have to prevent a full lockdown?”

“The steps that we have already taken are not enough, and we need to decide on new restrictions.

“I don’t believe we’ll go to lockdown this week,” Edelstein added, “unless there is a dramatic change in the models.”

The minister indicated that he would be willing to wait a few days to see if the restrictions that had been implemented on large gatherings had been effective in lowering the infection rate. “I’m no longer willing to play make-believe,” Edelstein said, adding that he would be willing to “give a chance” to other recommendations, like closing restaurants and cultural institutions.

“I was among those who opposed a shutdown,” Edelstein said at a meeting led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other officials on Tuesday, “but I studied the dynamics. The recommendations the Health Ministry presents are cut back more and more until in the end even the steps we approved last week were not dramatic.”

In closed-door talks, Edelstein discussed cases of coronavirus being spread at high school graduation parties (held privately) and a decision by the Knesset Corona committee to allow pools and gyms to open, against Health Ministry recommendations and against the position of the government.

“There was always a demand that we allow graduation parties in schools, and I said I wasn’t willing to allow them. There is no scientific proof and could not have been before it happened. It was just common sense. Numbers are important, but they’re not the only thing,” the health minister said.

The meeting Tuesday between Netanyahu, medical experts, ministers and Health Ministry officials ended without any decision made on further steps or lockdowns.

Likud officials blamed Blue and White leader Benny Gantz who reportedly objected to the recommendations, saying that it would be best to wait another week to see the effects of the latest round of restrictions before moving forward with additional measures.

Gantz and Blue and White were “undermining the necessary steps to slow the spread of the virus and save lives,” a Likud official quoted Netanyahu as saying on Tuesday. The official said Netanyahu was “furious.”

“This irresponsibility of Blue and White will definitely move us to a full lockdown and an unnecessary high economic price,” the senior Likud official said. “Gantz today opposed every measure to stop the spread of corona that could have prevented us from going to a general closure.”

Blue and White accused Netanyahu of playing politics. “Instead of giving up responsibility for managing the coronavirus crisis, Netanyahu should let the IDF win and let the Defense Ministry oversee the efforts in the field,” a senior Blue and White official said. “This is not the time for politics, or any battle that does not involve rehabilitating the economy, the health [system] and society.” Gantz serves as Defense Minister.