Israel's cabinet has approved a longer than expected lockdown today. On Thursday the coronavirus cabinet recommended a two-week lockdown but the cabinet has extended that to three weeks from the eve of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana) on Friday at 2pm until the end of the Simchat Torah holiday on October 10. Israel's will be the world's first country to impose a second national lockdown.
During that time people will be restricted to within 500 meters of their homes, except for work and essential activities such as buying food and pharmacy goods as well as attending synagogue.
Three ministers voted against the lockdown - Minister of Economy and Industry Amir Peretz, Minister of Tourism Asaf Zamir and Minister of Higher Education Zeev Elkin and two ministers abstained - Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Yitzhak Shmueli and Minister of Regional Development Ofir Akunis, while earlier today Minister of Construction and Housing Yaakov Litzman resigned in protest.
After protracted debate and fierce recriminations, the lockdown was softened somewhat, with businesses that do not rely on customers visiting the premises, allowed to continue fully operating. But all malls, stores (except food and pharmacies), hotels, restaurants, fitness clubs and swimming pools and more will be required to close. Schools will close from Friday, not Wednesday as previously announced.
Synagogues will be allowed 10 people in indoor congregations and 20 people outdoors. By the same token no gatherings of more than 10 people indoors or 20 people outdoors will be permitted.
Before flying off to Washington to sign a normalization agreement with the UAE and Bahrain, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a press conference. "We were one of the first countries to identify the danger of the coronavirus and close our skies and go into lockdown," he said. "Because of that far fewer people were infected and died per capita than most countries in the world. We were one of the first countries to come out of lockdown and because of that our economy is in better shape than most other countries."
"But I said when we came out of lockdown that this was a concertina. As infections fall we open and when they rise we close up again. I know people will be hurt economically and on Thursday we will announce assistance for those people. This is not the way we want to spend the holidays but we have no choice."
Netanyahusaid that the decisive factor was that the hospitals were "raising the red flag" over the number of seriously ill Covid-19 patients. Not because there were not enough ventilators or not enough beds but because staff were exhausted.
It remains unclear what will happen after October 10, with the situation to be reviewed and criteria set that will have to be met if the economy is to begin reopening.
en.globes.co.il - on September 13, 2020 © Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020