Coronavirus Cabinet Holds Off on Lockdown Decisions

Israeli police officers patrolling to reinforce the coronavirus lockdown at the Mahane Yehuda market in Yerushalayim, Tuesday. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The coronavirus cabinet decided not to decide on Tuesday, deferring until Thursday decisions on the extension of the current lockdown amid public clamor to reopen schools and businesses.

A statement released by the Government Press Office explained that results of the lockdown that started on Erev Rosh Hashana were not yet conclusive and more time was needed to assess the situation.

“In consultations held earlier today, the head of the National Security Council, the Director General of the Health Ministry, the national coronavirus project manager and additional advisers pointed out the difficulty of making decisions now on measures to ease the lockdown, given that morbidity is still at a high level and that it is still not possible to assess the effects of the events of the Sukkot and Simchat Torah holidays,” the statement read.

“National coronavirus project manager Prof. Ronni Gamzu expressed great concern that 3,000 people were [still] being infected daily despite the conditions of the lockdown.

“Pursuant to the morbidity data, the Cabinet will decide on Thursday whether to carry out a preliminary move next week in the context of which small business that do not receive the public, carryout and frameworks for toddlers will be opened.”

Media reports on Tuesday evening offered a scorecard of the proceedings. Defense Minister Benny Gantz proposed extending the lockdown rules until Friday, but no later, Ynet said.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was said to be in favor of continuing the lockdown until Monday, lest it is lifted prematurely and “there will be outbreaks and [earlier] decisions [to apply the lockdown] will go down the drain.”

Netanyahu said he wanted to see the number of new infections drop to 2,000 cases each day before easing up.

National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat also said Monday would probably be the earliest day, and endorsed a proposal to impose night curfews in high infection areas to prevent people from gathering for anything except work.

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu recommended that the current terms of the lockdown remain in effect in virus hotspots even after the closure is eased in the rest of the country, according to leaks from the meeting.

Gamzu’s list was comprised mostly of chaireidi areas, according to the report.

Health Ministry figures published on Tuesday showed that 52% of Covid patients over the age of 65 in Israel are chareidi, and a large portion of those were infected during Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur tefillos. Chareidi citizens over the age of 65 are just 3% of the general population.

However, the overall rate of infection in the chareidi sector is now declining along with the rest of the country.

As of Tuesday night, there were 3,112 new coronavirus cases confirmed in the past 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry. The total number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic now stands at 296,215.

The number of serious cases stands at 802, with 254 on ventilators.

The death toll was 2,040, a rise of 24 since Monday evening.