Ministers, Hospital Directors, Clash With Health Officials in Heated Cabinet Meeting

YERUSHALAYIM -
Magen David Adom workers wearing protective clothing outside the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek hospital in Yerushalayim on Sunday. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Following the criticism by Cabinet ministers and the resignation of Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, hospital administrators who attended Sunday’s Cabinet meeting also argued that a full closure is not necessary at this stage.

The director of Shaare Zedek Hospital in Yerushalayim said that a closure was not the solution, while the deputy director general of Sheba Hospital emphasized that there was no danger of the health system collapsing.

The director of Rambam Hospital in Haifa also agreed, saying that the coronavirus morbidity numbers are rising, but not on the scale of a collapse.

The director of Beilinson Hospital said the trend has indeed changed since mid-August but the potential collapse of the hospitals is not an issue. He said there is unnecessary anxiety and a full closure is not required.

During the meeting, Minister Yuli Edelstein was furious at the attempts to dissolve the outline of the closure approved by the Coronavirus Cabinet.

“I want it to be clear – apart from cosmetic changes, I will not allow negotiations on the plan. I say clearly at the beginning of the discussion – if the plan is not accepted I will withdraw it and not bring alternative plans.

“The corona is neither a political matter nor a matter of populism. It is a matter of life and death. I suggest to anyone who claims otherwise, to do tours of the hospitals, corona wards, and see the situation,” Edelstein said.

It seems that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appeared to be moving away from the proposed restrictions of movement initially laid out in the lockdown plan. Under the proposal, in the first phase beginning Friday, Israelis must remain within 500 meters of their homes; in the second phase, intercity travel is banned.

“It appears Netanyahu is accepting the approach that the lockdown proposed by the Health Ministry must be softened, and that it must allow business activity to continue,” a minister told Yediot.

The Cabinet has decided to keep schools open until Friday, rather than Wednesday as had previously been announced under the lockdown proposal.

The decision comes following pressure from Education Minister Yoav Galant.

Among the other issues being discussed are the operations of Ben Gurion International Airport during the lockdown. A special ministerial panel will likely be formed to decide how the airport will operate once a lockdown is imposed on the country.

Meanwhile, reports said that the government may set out regulations for demonstrations, which Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has said cannot be banned under the government plan.