Coronavirus cabinet to convene Monday, police issue 3,000 tickets

Written by on September 20, 2020

Nearly 700 patients in serious condition * 40 people died over the holiday

Israeli Police at a temporary

Israeli Police at a temporary “checkpoint” on road 1 in Jerusalem, on September 20, 2020. Israel has seen a spike of new COVID-19 cases bringing the authorities to reimpose a nationwide lockdown that begin on Friday and last at least three weeks.

(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

The country is likely going to head toward a period of even tighter restrictions, as the coronavirus cabinet is expected to meet on Monday to begin discussions about what steps are needed to stop the ever-growing rate of coronavirus infection.

However, it is likely that any new restrictions will only go into effect after Yom Kippur, given the political challenges of passing them.

On the table: Closing synagogues, restricting demonstrations and shutting down the private sector, except for essential workers.

The education system will remain closed for at least the next three weeks, coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu told the N12 news site on Sunday night.

Over Rosh Hashanah, with the country under lockdown, the streets were nearly empty – reminiscent of scenes from the first lockdown. Only a few dozen worshipers arrived at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem to pray Saturday and Sunday mornings. Photos disseminated across social media and by the press showed quiet neighborhoods.

Police said they gave out nearly 3,000 tickets over the holiday. Some 629 were to people not wearing masks in public spaces, and another 2,044 were to people who broke the rule on traveling no more than a kilometer from home for a non-approved reason. Smaller numbers were given for other offenses, totaling 2,800 tickets on Saturday alone.

Over the weekend, police officers fined a restaurant in Jaffa NIS 5,000 for opening in violation of the Health Ministry guidelines. The owner had written on his Facebook page that he would open as usual, and compared his establishment to a synagogue.

Police said 10 people were seated inside and 40 outside, in “blatant violation of the guidelines… The owner was given a ticket and required to close the business and stop receiving customers.”

Several others were fined, too, and a handful of restaurant owners have already made clear that they would open Monday in defiance of the restrictions. Some said they will allow takeaway, while others threatened to allow customers to come in and sit down.

But the numbers make an argument for keeping the country under closure: There were 5,299 new diagnoses on Friday, another 3,790 on Saturday and some 1,571 between midnight and press time on Sunday, the Health Ministry reported.

Israel now ranks No. 16 in the world for cases per a million people (604), the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center, which is overseen by the IDF, showed over the weekend.

The US ranked No. 1 at 14,084 cases per a million, India second (8,944) and Brazil third (8,318).

Over the holiday, Israel also hit another peak: 643 people in serious condition, including 170 who were intubated on Sunday night. The death toll at press time stood at 1,236. The last Health Ministry report on September 18 showed 1,196 dead – a difference of 40 people.

More than 900 of the people who died from coronavirus have died since July 1, the IDF report indicated. In July, an average of six people died per day. In September, that number jumped to 14.

A report released Sunday night by researchers at Hebrew University predicted that another 1,000 to 2,000 Israelis would die of coronavirus by November 1.

Gamzu told Channel 12 he expected there to be 800 patients in serious condition within the next week, a number that threatens to break the health system.

Gamzu said that hospitals should cease to offer elective surgeries and other treatments like during the first wave, and instead invest their resources in opening and supporting new coronavirus wards.

“We are in an emergency situation,” he stressed.

Some 1,295 people are being treated in the hospital, the Health Ministry showed Sunday evening. Six of the country’s biggest hospitals reported that their coronavirus wards were full or over capacity: Hadassah Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem (130%), Shaare Zedek Medical Center (123%), Laniado Medical Center in Netanya (120%), Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer (110%), Hadassah-University Medical Center on Mount Scopus (100%) and Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot (100%).

Some 3,157 medical personnel were in isolation, the Health Ministry showed.

Gamzu admitted that the zigzagging of the government and the populism that prevented making sound decisions meant that the politicians did not stand up to their contract with the public. At the same time, he said that the public did not keep its side of the bargain either.

He pointed to the Friday night dinner protest that took place on Balfour Street, of which pictures were shown of people eating side-by-side without masks on the first night of the holiday.

Now is not the time,” Gamzu stressed. “They will have all year to protest.”

At the Tel Aviv beachfront, hundreds of people turned out to protest against the closure on Friday.

Protesting is legal according to the rules of the lockdown. However, just before the start of the holiday, the Health Ministry and the government released an outline for protests, which include people wearing masks and rioting in capsules of 20. The new rules were not being kept and police eventually broke it up.

“This is a demonstration against quarantine and against corruption,” one Tel Aviv protester, Oron, told N12. “The right to demonstrate has always existed.”

In a separate interview, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health, addressed the protesters:

“I must say that as a Zionist Israeli, I find it really hard to see these protests with Israeli flags, and the people’s lack of understanding,” she told N12. “On the one hand, those people are waving Israeli flags. On the other hand, they’re doing exactly what is harmful to the country right now.”

She added that it is “hard telling children in schools to stay apart, not to eat together. But I can tell that to adults. So, I tell people: Go to your jobs but avoid unnecessary gathering. Don’t eat in public cafeterias because it will eventually impact all of us.”

Chief-Superintendent Gilad Bahat, head of the Police Investigations Unit, spoke to KAN. He said that the idea is not to limit the number of people who protest, but rather to spread them out over a larger area.

He added that, “if people insist on not listening, the result will be an increase in infection and eventually the tightening of restrictions.”

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