Health Ministry: No Lockdown During Chanukah

YERUSHALAYIM -
Police at a temporary checkpoint on a road leading to Ein Hemed, near Yerushalayim, on September 27, during a nationwide lockdown. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Coronavirus Cabinet is to meet Sunday afternoon to discuss new measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The ministers will convene for the first time in two weeks and will consider enforced quarantine for people arriving from “red” countries, after authorities saw that many were not adhering to directives to quarantine.

The Health Ministry on Sunday said that 986 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed on Shabbos from 25,808 tests conducted, indicating a 3.9% positivity rate.

548 patients are hospitalized, 329 of them are listed in serious condition with 85 of them on ventilators.

Some 40-50% of the cases come from the Arab sector. The Health Ministry has noted that tourists, returning primarily from Turkey, a country with a high infection rate, return to Israel and do not maintain the mandatory two-week quarantine.

Similarly, mass weddings and funerals are still held in Arab cities and the police have failed to effectively address the issue.

Much of the case rise in the Arab sector has been attributed to families returning from Turkey, which has become a favored destination for many.

Among the issues to be considered by the Cabinet will be an announced lockdown that will be scheduled in advance, if daily cases are found to be nearing the 5,000 per day mark, in six weeks time, in order to allow businesses to prepare as well as motivate the population and local authorities, to take steps to avoid contagion.

A proposal to impose the lockdown during Chanukah – which begins this week – was rejected by Health Authorities although citizens will be urged to celebrate with family only.

The ministers may also decide to extend local closures to communities with growing case counts.

The growing morbidity in the Arab sector is also of great concern and ministers will be asked to approve more enforcement measures to be applied.

Ayam Saif, who coordinates the coronavirus response in the Arab communities said on Thursday that there must be a greater effort to educate the community to the dangers of the virus.

“We see people who have been confirmed with the virus walking around,” he told Yediot Acharonot in an interview, “many people returning from abroad do not quarantine and the free passage between the Palestinian Authority and the Arab communities also contributes to the growing case load.

Coronavirus task-force manager Professor Nachman Ash visited localities in the Arab sector over the weekend, and said during his visit to Shefar’am that the Christian events in December should be celebrated with the nuclear family, and large celebrations with many participants should be avoided.