Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein held a press briefing this evening on the coronavirus infection situation, after a meeting of the coronavirus cabinet this afternoon that developed into a spat between Netanyahu and Minister of defense Benny Gantz, who demanded that powers to deal with the crisis should be given to the IDF Home Command.
"The virus is still here," Netanyahu opened by saying. "In the past few weeks," he continued, "steps have been taken to reopen the economy. I attribute to this the utmost importance. At the same time, I stressed time and again that opening up the economy was conditional on people observing the rules.
"In the past few days, in order to ensure people's livelihoods, we extended the period of entitlement to unemployment benefit. Besides welfare payments, lons and grants, I intend to propose an economic aid program for the next six months. I call at a 'coronavirus economic kit'. It will provide greater certainty and employment."
On the health situation, Netanyahu said, "At the beginning of the week we had 450 infections a day, and now we're on nearly 1,000. In the previous wave we reached 700 a day at the peak. The number of severe cases is also rising. We must return to the restrictions in order to flatten the curve. We are endeavoring not to introduce a lockdown. The easiest thing is to leave things as they are. If we behave that way, we will rapidly get out of control.
"The greatest potential for infection comes from gatherings in closed spaces, and we have therefore decided on restrictions on bars and clubs - no more than 50 people. That includes houses."
Netanyahu hinted at developments in a vaccine against the virus. "I don’t want to say anything, because it's early, but there is interesting technological development. But the coronavirus is a tough battle that will take more time." Netanyahu also said he would introduce legislation to overcome legal and bureaucratic obstacles to emergency measures.
"There's a worrying rise in new patients," Edelstein said. In the whole of June, we had 103 severe cases. In the past day and a half we have had ten severe cases. The virus is spreading and unfortunately we're seeing the aged population and people with background conditions becoming infected and sick."
Edelstein said that events venues had become sources of infection. "We have whole cities where the source of infection is one celebration. I say it with a heavy heart, but we have no choice but to reduce social gatherings.
"Everyone finds it hard to go around with a mask on their face I also find it hard. It's like that for all of us. But there's no choice."
Earlier today, Gantz ordered a call-up of army reserves. Later, in order to give force to decisions of the coronavirus cabinet, the government convened, and during the meeting Gantz posted on his Twitter account that the IDF Home Command should be in charge of operations in connection with the coronavirus pandemic. His predecessor as defense minister, Naftali Bennett, made a similar demand. When he heard that Gantz had posted a tweet during the session about giving the IDF powers to deal with the situation, Netanyahu said, "If things continue like this, it will lead to just one place," hinting at an election.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 2, 2020
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