Israel on Brink of Ten-Day Lockdown

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israelis wear protective face masks as they walk in Tel Aviv. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A ten-day lockdown appeared imminent on Tuesday, amid media reports that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ and Defense Minister Benny Gantz have reached an agreement.

During a protracted coronavirus cabinet meeting on Tuesday evening, Netanyahu issued a statement that left no doubt stricter measures were going to be taken: “We are in the midst of a global pandemic that is spreading at top speed with the British mutation. It has reached Israel and is claiming many lives.

“We need to impose a full lockdown immediately. We are in a Cabinet meeting and I have no doubt that the Cabinet will approve this and that the Knesset needs to pass it immediately.

“Every hour that we delay, the disease spreads even quicker and it is exacting a heavy price. Therefore, we need here not only the cooperation of the Cabinet ministers, and we have it, we need the cooperation of the citizens of Israel and I am certain that we have that also.

“This is the saving of lives, nothing less,” he concluded.

The coronavirus cabinet convened on Tuesday afternoon to make a decision which has been debated for some days as infection rates have risen alarmingly.

The Health Ministry was said to be recommending that the closures begin on Friday, though the PM’s statement indicated it could begin sooner.

In addition to closing all schools and most businesses, the plan will also see supermarkets closed at 7 p.m., according to Army Radio. In previous lockdowns, essential businesses such as groceries were allowed to operate normally.

Both Netanyahu and Gantz seemed to attribute the sharp increase in the virus to the recently discovered British variant.

In addition to closing all schools and most businesses, the plan will also see supermarkets closed at 7 p.m., according to Army Radio. In previous lockdowns, essential businesses such as groceries were allowed to operate normally.

Both Netanyahu and Gantz seemed to attributed the sharp increase in the virus to the recently discovered British variant.

“The mutation is out of control, and here, too, we see a rise,” Netanyahu told the ministers, according to leaks in the Israeli media. “The hospitals are warning that we are entering the most dangerous wave since the start of the pandemic and that if we don’t act immediately, we’ll lose many more people.”

According to the Walla news site, Gantz said: “There is no doubt that in light of the basic reproduction number of the mutation, we must take broad, general steps to reduce morbidity.”

Education Minister Yoav Gallant, who has argued against school closures throughout the pandemic, maintaining the system was not the source of serious outbreaks, has also agreed.

“I will agree to shut down the whole school system if a general lockdown is decided,” said Gallant, according to Channel 12.

Over one-quarter (25.9%) of active virus cases in Israel are children and teenagers in school, according to data submitted to the cabinet ahead of a ministerial meeting later on tightening the lockdown, Army Radio reports.

There are currently 56,223 active cases — meaning that over 14,000 students are ill with COVID-19.

That’s slightly lower than their proportion of the population, some 27%, the report notes.


Updated Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 5:37 pm .