Israel to enter full lockdown ahead of High Holidays: controversy ensues

September 13, 2020 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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Israel will enter a full country-wide lockdown on Friday ahead of the High holidays and the Jewish New Year as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection rate in the country remained very high and as ministers are opposing various aspects of the closure.

IDF Home Front Command’s soldiers at the logistic centre in the city of Bnei Brak, built by the IDF Paratroopers’ headquarters and Home Front Command and will be used as a distribution centre to needy families, who cannot leave their home for shopping during the Coronavirus lockdown and ahead of the Passover holiday. Bnei Brak, Apr 5, 2020. Photo by Kobi Richter/TPS

The Corona Cabinet approved on Thursday the recommendation of the Health Ministry and Corona Project Manager Prof. Ronni Gamzu for a three-stage, long-term plan for stemming the spread of the virus in Israel.

The Cabinet is slated to hammer out and wage battle around the details on Sunday. The Cabinet will determine the dates for the enactment of the stages while several ministers have declared they will oppose various aspects of a full lockdown in tandem with the interests they represent.

The first stage includes a full lockdown with a restriction on movement of 500 meters from one’s place of residence for two weeks.

Prayers during the High Holidays in public spaces will be severely limited.

The second stage, titled “tightened restraint,” calls for the restriction on movement between cities and the restriction on gatherings throughout a period of two weeks.

The school system will remain closed for about a month.

The third stage calls for the enactment of the Traffic Light plan in which limitations are placed on localities in accordance with the level of morbidity in the area.

The Finance Ministry published an estimate that a full closure would cost the economy NIS 20 Billion.

Minister of Education Yoav Galant said that the education system and the “students of Israel are our future and our advantage, they are not a cause of illness. The problems are elsewhere, and the time has come to address them.”

He declared he would fight a complete shutdown of the school system.

Minister of Housing Yaacov Litzman, an Ultra-Orthodox Jew, has threatened to quit the government if the restrictions on prayer in synagogues are approved.

Minister of Tourism Assaf Zamir said he would oppose a full shutdown of the tourism industry which is still recovering from the first closure earlier this year.

Minister of Welfare Itzik Shmuli, whose ministry runs the daycare centres, said that “for less than half a per cent infection in the system, there is no reason to punish young parents and close the preschools.”

Michi Wasertill, Chairman and Founder of Yad Tamar, which provides a community aid package to thousands of cancer patients and the elderly population during the Corona, emphasizes that “we are witnessing a worsening in the condition of thousands of cancer patients and the elderly population.”

“The situation has declined and they’re suffering from significant deterioration in their health, along with regression in their mental state including an increase of stress, depression and existential anxieties,” he warned.

“Another lockdown during the holidays is like a death blow for hundreds of thousands of people in Israel,” Wasertill  said, calling on the government to “construct a clear national plan to deal with high-risk groups following the Corona crisis, instead of pulling populist and superficial solutions up its sleeve and collectively punishing an entire country.”

The Ministry of Health updated Sunday morning that it recorded 2,651 new cases in the past 24 hours.

490 hospitalized COVID-19 patients are in serious condition, of whom 130 are on life support.

1,103 Israelis have died of the virus since the outbreak.

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