Coronavirus Cabinet to Meet Tuesday, as Seriously Ill Surge

Police at a temporary “checkpoint” in Ashdod on Friday. (Flash90)

The Coronavirus Cabinet is expected to meet on Tuesday afternoon to outline a list of new restrictions that could be implemented perhaps even before Yom Kippur.

Both Assuta Ashdod University Hospital and the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Yerushalayim on Monday said they could accommodate no more coronavirus cases. Health Ministry Director General Chezy Levy called on hospitals to cease offering elective surgery and other services and instead focus on COVID-19.

“This is urgent,” he said in a letter to hospital CEOs. “I expect everyone to act with personal responsibility and determination.”

Guy Choshen, director of Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital’s coronavirus ward, said the hospital has begun admitting patients from Yerushalayim and districts in northern Israel “because of [their] incapacity to handle this increase in numbers.”

Meanwhile, the IDF on Monday announced it would open a 200-bed field hospital to help accommodate patient overflow.

The Cabinet met Monday to discuss the next steps in the fight against coronavirus. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein are pushing to step up restrictions immediately following Yom Kippur next Monday. They could include shuttering shuls, stricter restrictions on private businesses and more constraints on demonstrations.

“Since we made the decision about the lockdown, there has been a consistent rise in the number of serious patients,” Netanyahu said at the Cabinet meeting. “Therefore, tomorrow at the Coronavirus Cabinet meeting, we will consider further steps.

“Anyone who violated the directives or, worse than that, any MK who pushed for looser restrictions, should not ask afterward why the infection rate is rising and should not now come with complaints. The reason for the infection rate is gatherings and people not wearing masks.”

Coronavirus Commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu will present to the Corona Cabinet meeting his recommendations on the possibility of tightening the closure. Gamzu recommends reducing workplace activity so that the private sector will work at 50% and the public sector in an emergency format. Also, according to the projector, all shuls should be closed, broad holiday gatherings should be banned, the markets should be fully closed and the ban on gatherings on Yom Kippur should be strictly enforced. Sukkos markets, which sell the daled minim, would be also be closed.

According to Gamzu, if the Cabinet decides to tighten the restrictions that came into force last Friday for three weeks – all the tightening should be imposed together and as soon as possible.

Along with the possibility of tightening the closure, Gamzu clarified that the public complied with the instructions thus far. According to him, it is evident that during Rosh Hashanah there was a very high response to the restrictions of gatherings and traffic, except in exceptional and isolated cases and the closure of businesses was also respected.

As for the outline for the shuls, according to the corona commissioner, it is clear that in most places an effort was made to meet the guidelines. Alongside this, there was a series of violations in some communities.

On Tuesday, the Health Ministry reported that 3,843 new cases were diagnosed on Monday, as well as another 413 between midnight and Tuesday morning. However, only around 33,119 people were screened on Monday, meaning that roughly 11.6% of them or about one in every nine tested positive for the virus.

More than 1,300 people are being treated in the country’s hospitals, including some 653 patients in serious condition.