Warnings Issued Ahead of Coronavirus Cabinet Meeting

Jerusalemites wearing face masks in the Old City. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ and Defense Minister Benny Gantz may not be able to agree on a state budget, the conduct of foreign policy, or appointments to the law enforcement system, but on Monday they did find something to agree on: that people should follow the pandemic health regulations or risk another shutdown.

At the start of the weekly Likud faction meeting, Netanyahu said that the coronavirus cabinet will meet later on Monday and make “correct, determined, non-populist decisions.” He warned that “with the end in sight, if we don’t act correctly, people will fall ill and die,” according to The Times of Israel.

At his own Blue and White faction meeting, Gantz likewise said the “vaccine campaign” hasn’t begun yet and declared “a battle for human lives that will continue and not end soon.”

The National Security Council is recommending a nighttime curfew from the beginning of Hanukkah for a three-week period in order to damp down rising infection rates, though previous reports said that ministers would probably not back a curfew.

Coronavirus commissioner Nachman Ash is dubious about the effectiveness of such a measure, according to Ynet.

Ash also noted that “every step we take begins to take effect only two weeks after it is taken. If we now start with these steps we will anyway, as we showed yesterday, reach 3,000 patients with 450 in serious condition. It will happen anyway. These steps will only affect then,” said Ash, according to N12. He said it would not be easy to reach just 1000 confirmed cases of the virus per day.

Finance Ministry acting director-general, Eran Yaakov argued against closure: “We have not completed the second closure. There are still hotels and malls that are closed. Trade is mostly closed. Culture and restaurants are closed. This has great economic significance and is not a trivial matter. The cost of closing trade is NIS 5.6 billion a month and it will add 100,000 unemployed. This is a significant price. Remember that it is added to half a million unemployed today.”

Finance Minister Yisrael Katz said he would vote for a curfew if it would prevent a third lockdown. “We are in favor of the night closure starting immediately, not on Hanukkah. It is forbidden to move to extensive closures easily.”

On the agenda for the Monday night meeting, among other issues, is whether to continue to allow malls and street stores to operate despite the rise in the infection rate.

There were 1,230 new cases diagnosed on Sunday, the Health Ministry reported Monday – 3.3% of those who were screened tested positive. The death toll is inching closer to 3,000 and stood at 2,914 on Monday morning.

The number of serious ill patients is also on the rise: 331, including more than 100 who are intubated.

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