Netanyahu: Lockdown to be exited gradually, but reimposed if cases rise

Written by on October 21, 2020

The run-up to the coronavirus cabinet meeting was marked a lack of clarity between the Health Ministry and Education Ministry over the opening of schools.

Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu

(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The easing of coronavirus restrictions will be less than nine stages, but will proceed at a gradual pace, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of the coronavirus cabinet meeting, adding that restrictions could be reimposed should the situation begin to worsen.”When we approach the [coronavirus cabinet], we must first know the facts,” Netanyahu explained, comparing Israel’s handling of the pandemic to Europe’s. “Israel was ranked first in morbidity per capita in Europe. We imposed a lockdown and we came down quickly. The other countries of Europe that did not impose lockdowns and did not impose tough restrictions went up quickly. “Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands – all these countries now have higher morbidity than ours, other than Germany, which is also going up.”In light of this, restrictions will gradually be eased. Netanyahu added, however, that “If we see that there is an increase again, which is now happening in European countries, we’ll be compelled to reimpose some of the restrictions.”On Wednesday, as the coronavirus cabinet prepared to meet, the final neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo in Jerusalem was removed from the list of red cities and neighborhoods that were put under strict lockdown regulations because of high rates of infection. 

Lockdowns on all Israeli cities and all other Jerusalem neighborhoods 

were removed Tuesday by a declaration from the ministerial committee and a joint message from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry as the infection rate dropped.

The run-up to the coronavirus cabinet meeting on Wednesday afternoon was marked by disputes and a lack of clarity between the Health Ministry and the 

Education Ministry over the opening of schools. 

Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu will present the finding that there has been a 400% rise in morbidity in children since the opening of schools in September. He is set to propose a recommendation to the committee that first-graders on up would have to be in capsules and that all pupils would be required to wear masks. They would also have to continue the capsule separation in transportation and after-school programs. 

Education Minister Yoav Gallant said that capsules can only be possible if there is a large-scale staff increase in schools. Extra transportation would also have to be ordered, and this plan would take five weeks to implement and cost over NIS 7 billion. 

Haim Bibas, the mayor of Modi’in and chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel, said in a letter to the prime minister on Wednesday: “It is expected that health experts will present clear data that explains the sharp change in [the Health Ministry’s] position – and won’t turn this school year into a lost year and victimize children and parents.”

On Tuesday, 1,165 people tested positive for the virus out of 41,193 tests done – a rate of 2.8%. As of Wednesday morning, there were 591 coronavirus sufferers in serious condition with 229 on ventilators. The death toll from the virus stood at 2,278. 

No changes in policy are currently being made to allow special cases of family reunification during the coronavirus era of parents with children and spouses and partners from abroad, Deputy Interior Minister Yoav Bentzur said Wednesday in response to a parliamentary query from MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh.

Cotler-Wunsh (Blue and White) cited a petition signed by hundreds of people pleading to be able to be reunited with their loved ones. Bentzur (Shas) said exceptions were currently only being made for weddings, births, bar mitzvahs, lone soldiers and those doing national service.

“Let’s hope and pray it changes soon,” he said.

The police gave out 1,721 tickets for coronavirus restriction violations between Tuesday and Wednesday, according to a police spokesperson. Some 1,559 tickets were given to those who were not wearing a mask and 44 were given to those who were supposed to be in quarantine and were not.

Gil Hoffman and Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman contributed to this report.

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