Edelstein Opens Shops, Says Partial Closures Didn’t Help

Israel’s Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein declared on Tuesday that shops and malls could now be open on weekends, after closures had not shown to affect the spread of COVID-19.

Edelstein said he was ending such half-measures, during a visit to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. “There’s no need for this, there’s no proof this helps anyone. In my opinion, aside from bothering the public it doesn’t achieve anything.”

In his remarks, Edelstein noted the average number of new COVID-19 cases per day hadn’t further risen.

“At the moment we’ve succeed in blocking the rise in the number of coronavirus patients… but we can’t live over time with these numbers,” he said, adding that it was necessary to lower the infection rate to prevent strain on hospitals.

However, Edelstein will have to contend with another crisis, as a deepening financial crisis brought on by the coronavirus crisis in the hospitals threatened to produce strikes.

Hospital directors have been saying that the outlay for special facilities to treat COVID-19 patients and the canceling of many non-essential surgical procedures has led to mounting deficits.

“I hope it doesn’t come to this but if there’s no choice we’ll declare a labor dispute. I call on the Finance Ministry and government officials: Come to your senses, allocate the funds,” Dr. Zeev Feldman, chairman of the Israeli Medical Association World Fellowship, told Ynet on Tuesday.

The hospitals are also struggling with staff shortages, and no doubt with the situation in mind, Edelstein said the Health Ministry will begin notifying hospitals and health maintenance organizations of how many new doctors and nurses they can expect to receive. The National Nurses Union and Finance Ministry reached a deal last month to add 2,000 temporary nursing positions and 400 doctors’ positions following a daylong strike over manpower shortages.