Lockdown Phaseout Not Likely to Start Before Monday

YERUSHALAYIM -
The Mahane Yehuda market in Yerushalayim during lockdown, Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ said on Tuesday evening that a phased lifting of the lockdown “will begin next week,” though without specifying which day.

However, he seemed to be saying that easements could begin on Monday:

“We will start the gradual opening already next week but we will exit cautiously. I will submit this national goal to the Cabinet and we will submit it together with our exit plan.”

The Cabinet is scheduled to convene on Wednesday to decide whether to extend the current lockdown, scheduled to expire on Friday morning at 7, and if so, for how many days and to what extent.

The Health Ministry reportedly agrees that the current closures should continue at least until Monday.

“If we open the lockdown before the end of the week… the day will be referred to as ‘Black Friday,’” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein warned.

Netanyahu stressed the benefits of the lockdown, justifying the hardships:

“I would like to tell you, every day is decisive. The significance of another three days of lockdown is another approximately 200,000 protected people. That is to say, people who received the second vaccine plus one week. Among these are 120,000 people over 50. This is simply the saving of lives.”

He continued with a pep talk on the vaccine: “Vaccinating the 50+ age group will enable us to gradually exit from the lockdown, to save many lives and open the economy.

This is what is challenging our health system. 97% of those who have died are in the 50-and-over age group. Almost 100% of the deceased are there.

Regarding serious cases, 93% of serious cases are in the 50-and-over age group. This is striking us and doing so very clearly. If we take control of the disease in these ages, if we succeed in vaccinating and protecting the people in this group, to a large extent we will be on the way to victory over the coronavirus, of course, if there are no surprises such as new mutations that we are not familiar with and which could enter Israel. This is why we closed the borders as you know.

“Today, I am proposing a national goal as the basis for our exit from the coronavirus: To vaccinate at least 90% of the 50+ age group within two weeks. This is an achievable goal because 77% of them are already vaccinated.

“We hope to complete this within the next two weeks. I call on whoever is watching us this evening, if you have not yet been vaccinated, go and be vaccinated. It is important not only for you, it is important for all of us because it is what will enable us to gradually open the economy and it is what will enable us, mainly, to save lives.”

Blue and White issued a statement Tuesday evening that its ministers will push for the resumption of one-on-one treatments and services as early as Friday, as well as removing the 1,000-yard limit on non-essential travel. They will ask to allow takeaway from restaurants and for some bed and breakfasts to be open for business.

While the Health Ministry is said to accept the opening only of preschools on Sunday, Blue and White wants a broader return to school.