Coronavirus Meeting Breaks Up With No Decisions on Elul, Chagim

YERUSHALAYIM -
Shamir Medical Center team wearing protective clothes as they work at the Coronavirus ward of Shamir Medical Center. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Israeli government’s coronavirus policy was in limbo on Thursday evening after ministers failed to agree on revised regulations during a meeting which featured a walkout by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏.

The members of the coronavirus cabinet clashed over proposed options submitted by Prof. Ronni Gamzu to cope with the danger of infection during the upcoming chagim, among other issues.

Gamzu outlined two approaches: “From containing to controlling” and a more stringent, faster-acting “tighter restraints,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

The first plan calls for restricting travel to Uman, establishing guidelines for tefillos in Elul, and closing schools with high infection rates, partially or completely.

A reassessment would then determine the policy for Rosh Hashanah through Sukkos. If necessary, further restrictions on tefillos, businesses and public gatherings would be reimposed.

“Tighter restraints” would mean closing malls, markets, restaurants and events. The education system would operate only through grade three. The public sector would maintain only emergency services, and businesses could only allow 30% of staff to come to the office. Designated red zones would allow residents to venture no more than 1,500 feet from home.

Gamzu said the goal was to bring the number of new infections down to below 400. On Thursday, the number 868.

According to Ynet, Shas leader Rabbi Aryeh Deri and UTJ MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman led opposition to the plan on the grounds that it would prevent tefillos on the holiest days of the year.

The Finance Ministry said it would cost an estimated NIS 3 billion to NIS 4 billion for every day of lockdown on the chagim, and 5 billion to 6 billion on a regular day. Finance Minister Yisrael Katz reportedly opposed any closure of businesses.

Head of the National Security Council Meir Ben Shabbat advocated a total lockdown to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

A vote on the proposals was postponed until next week, according to reports.

At the start of the meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu was quoted as saying that lockdown was a last resort: “There’s definitely a great effort to avoid this to continue with the rehabilitation of the economy. This will definitely be tied to the morbidity situation.”

But with some in favor of lockdown and others opposing even Gamzu’s phased plans, Netanyahu was unable to steer the ministers to a decision, and left.

The Health Ministry on Thursday reported six more deaths from the coronavirus, raising the national toll to 795.

According to ministry figures, 868 new cases have been recorded since Wednesday midnight, bringing the number of infections since the start of the pandemic to 99,201.

Of the 23,870 active cases, there are 389 people in serious condition, with 114 on ventilators. Another 159 are in moderate condition and the rest have mild or no symptoms.

The ministry says 28,391 tests were performed yesterday.