The number of fatalities from Covid-19 in Israel has reached 440, six more than last night. The number of Covid-19 patients whose condition is defined as severe has risen to 302 since midnight yesterday, the highest number since the pandemic reached Israel. 83 of them are on ventilators. Against the background of these numbers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein gave a press conference this evening.
Netanyahu opened by saying, "In our battle with the coronavirus pandemic, I have decided together with Yuli Edlestein to appoint Ronni Gamzu as coronavirus czar. Gamzu has rich experience, as director general of the Ministry of Health, as leader of the Protector of Fathers and Mothers project to protect senior citizens in old age homes.
"Ronni, in recent years you contended with cancer. You beat the cancer, and you will help us beat the coronavirus. I want to thank Gabi Barbash for his insights that have helped us deal with the coronavirus, and we shall continue to be aided by him and his experience.
"Ronni Gamzu has one mission - to break the chain of infection. He will be given all the powers concerning tests, epidemiological investigations, and quarantines. The IDF will have an important task in this joint effort, particularly in investigations and quarantines. In accordance with the policy that Prof. Gamzu formulates, we shall decide on regulations and restrictions.
"Many countries that opened up public spaces have gone back to lockdown measures. This is what has happened in Australia and in several states in the US. We are trying as much as possible to avoid a general lockdown, but if necessary we will do that, because the most important thing is to save life. We will do this on the basis of health and economic considerations, but not populistic ones.
"In the first wave we were able to act quickly because we had state of emergency regulations. Benny Gantz and I have agreed to reduce the coronavirus cabinet by half. That way, it will be possible to make swift decisions and more consistent decisions, because the Knesset won’t change them. We have added 2,000 nursing jobs. We have raised the salaries of the social workers. I want to thank the minister of finance and the workers' organizations for reaching agreement.
"We shall bring the program of grants for every citizen before the government, and then it will undergo swift legislation in the Knesset, so that the money will reach people quickly via the National Insurance Institute. These programs are in addition to existing programs for the self-employed, for businesses, and for the unemployed, and there will be further programs."
Edelstein spoke after Netanyahu. "Today, we are taking a further step in our battle with the coronavirus," he said. "I am happy to announce that today, we signed an agreement with another US company that is making progress in the search for a vaccine, and is snow starting the first phase of human trials.
"I would call the second step 'the secret lies in the people.' It started with Hezi Levy taking up the post of director general of the Ministry of Health, and I am happy that it continues, and that one of Israel's senior physicians, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, is joining us. Ogether they will make a winning team. True, it has been a long process, even too long, but admit that the appointment of Prof. Gamzu was very quick," Edelstein said with a smile.
Prof. Gamzu spoke next. "I agreed to the request of the Ministry of Health," he said. "This is a moment in which professional people respond and take up leadership and don’t ask questions. The truth is that everyone has to do that: the government, politicians without getting into wars, all the institutions of the state, the Knesset, the local authorities. It's the task of all of us, of every citizen as well. We can all succeed together. This is a huge task. We have widespread sickness with infection in the community that cerates difficulty for society and the economy, and the aim is to deal with this without harming society and the economy. Lockdowns are easy - are slight rise in infections, and you shut down straightaway. The government of Israel is trying to do it without lockdown even though most countries have imposed one. We are perhaps the first country in the world without a lockdown. It's complicated, and thanks are due to all concerned.
"We have to do the tests and the investigations in the right way. I ask you to be strict about quarantine, to be strict in guarding against infection. Breaking the chain of infection is my task, but it's also your task. My goal is to get down to an infection coefficient of less than 1. At present it's between 1.2 and 1.5. This is not just my task. It's the task of the whole country and of all the enforcement agencies."
Netanyahu was asked whether he wished to embark on a fourth election. "I'm not aiming at an election," he responded. "We are at the height of a crisis. SA budget can be passed in a moment. It's ready. It's possible to pass a budget now. The only reason for us to go to elections is if we don't pass a budget by August 24. The reason that we have not passed a budget is that Blue and White is not prepared to pass a budget. Now is not a time for an election. We have to pass the budget in the next few days. This is one of the things that will help in the crisis, and I remain committed to the arrangement of rotation of the premiership when the time comes."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 23, 2020
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