Netanyahu Puts Off Coronavirus Decisions 24 Hours

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein visit at Teva Pharmaceuticals’ logistics center in Shoham, where coronavirus vaccines would be stored and distributed, on November 26, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Despite pressure from the Health Ministry to impose new restrictions, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ announced at the end of a three-hour meeting of the coronavirus cabinet on Sunday that they would wait another day before deciding on further measures.

“We opened the economy and there was a wild increase in morbidity,” Netanyahu said during the meeting. “The geometric growth does not give us a chance to wait.”

But soon after, he appeared to shift gears, telling ministers: “Let’s wait 24 hours to make a decision about what measures will curb the rise in infection. We will continue the discussion tomorrow at 7 p.m.,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

The Health Ministry was reportedly recommending strongly that all businesses, except for essential ones, be closed in red and orange cities, along with a postponement of in-class learning for middle schools and high schools.

Coronavirus Commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash declared a third wave of the pandemic was already upon the country, which required immediate action.

He proposed again closing down all places of work that have face-to-face service, malls, markets and street shops, closing the education system in red cities, but not restricting movement, as well as alternate proposals.

About Chanukah, “we need to increase communication, refrain from holding large meetings, hold events modestly and not meet outside of our immediate capsules” or nuclear families and/or the people one lives with. But a general shutdown was apparently not being considered.

Par for the course, there were sharply differing views. In response to leaks about Ash’s recommendations, Prof. Asher Elhayani, former CEO Meuhedet HMO, called on the decision makers to “come to their senses… The drug (lockdown) must not be worse than the disease.”

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry reported that 986 new cases were diagnosed on Shabbos – 3.9% of the 25,808 people who were screened. Included in the newly infected were residents of about 67 senior living facilities across the country, the Association of Geriatrics in Israel said.

“The Health Ministry is not fulfilling its obligations and thus bringing dozens of institutions to the brink of collapse with its own hands,” the association said.

Several cities were found to have rising infection rates: Eight cities went from green to yellow and six from yellow to orange. The total number of red cities stands at 25, orange at 39 and yellow at 75.

According to a survey of the current situation presented by the head of the National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat, the reproduction rate (R) is 1.24.

Hebrew University researchers revealed a surge in infection across all sectors and the number of serious patients and deaths is expected to rise in the coming days. The number of patients is doubling every 16 days, they said.

“There is difficulty preventing leakage,” their report showed, meaning that coronavirus is traveling from city to city, including from red cities to other places. It also showed that two in every 10,000 people in Yerushalayim are contracting coronavirus, whereas 18 per 10,000 are getting it in the northern Druze town of Majdal Shams.

As for the impact of the much-anticipated vaccines, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the Health Ministry’s acting head of public health, told the coranavirus cabinet that even if vaccinations start in the next few weeks, it will be months before we start to see any effects from them.

“The arrival of the doses and vaccination on a significant scale will only occur in March. This is assuming they are effective and the public responds,” she said, according to leaks from the meeting.