This evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced emergency measures amounting to a general lockdown, or as it is put in the regulations document "reducing excursions into the public space."
"The pandemic continues to spread and to claim thousands of victims around the world," Netanyahu said. "In Israel, the number of patients is rising. Fortunately no-one has yet died, but a doubling of the number of patients is liable to lead to victims. Hard times necessitate tough decisions. There has been a response to my request that people should stay at home, but it isn't sufficient.
"Tonight, the government will approve new emergency regulations limiting movement. You are required to stay at home. This is now not a recommendation or request but a mandatory order that will be enforced by the enforcement authorities. I know it isn't easy, but I ask for cooperation."
The rules to be published allow people to leave home for the following purposes only: to go to work and return; to buy food, medicines and vital products and to receive vital services; to receive medical attention; to donate blood; to take part in a demonstration; for a legal proceeding; non-organized sport involving up to five people. Individuals may leave their homes together with members of their household for short periods near the home.
The regulations exempt workplaces providing vital goods and services. It will be permitted to leave home for religious ceremonies: weddings, funerals and prayer. It will also be permitted to go out to assist old people.
People will be ordered to maintain a distance of two meters between each other, and no more than two people will be allowed to travel together in one vehicle, and then only if they are people who live together. Food deliveries are exempted from the rules, but deliveries must be left on the doorstep. The regulations do not specify penalties for their breach.
Netanyahu said that, by Sunday, 3,000 people a day would be tested for the coronavirus in Israel, and that the number would rise to 5,000 a day the following week. He called on the Blue & White party to enter an emergency government.
Ministry of Health director general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov said that the aim of the measures was threefold: to postpone a mass outbreak as much as possible; to reduce the number of patients; to flatten the curve, to spread it over time. "Time is on our side," he said. "Every day that we stave off the outbreak, we gain time, equip ourselves, buy drugs and ventilators, and take on more hospital staff. We are taking on student nurses and doctors in the hospitals. We are managing to learn more about the disease than we knew before. Success in this battle depends on all of us. There is no battlefield and home front.
"We say honestly that this is only the beginning, and it's going to be a long haul. I want to promise you that only one thing guides us, and that is the public's welfare. These are tough decisions, and we are consulting the best brains in the country and in the world. People are volunteering to help us, and they have advised us to go ahead in order to gain more time."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 19, 2020
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