As Corona infections soar, Netanyahu admits Israel opened up ‘too early’

Prime minister says Israel made same mistake as other countries, as infections now hit record highs and neighborhoods are locked down.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel’s coronavirus infections continued to rocket upward Friday with 1,650 recorded in 24 hours, the highest number confirmed in a single day since the pandemic began.

To try and stop the spread, the Health Ministry declared highly infected neighborhoods in several cities as “restricted zones”’ for the next week. Starting at 1 p.m. on Friday, movement in and out of areas of Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Lod, Ramle and Kiryat Malachi will be restricted by police roadblocks, allowing essential travel only.

In a televised press conference Thursday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted that Israel had moved to quickly to reopen the economy after the first wave of the virus.

“In retrospect, as part of the trial-and-error, it is possible to say that this last stage was too soon,” Netanyahu said. “True, many people pushed us to do so, to open up the economy with abandon. By the way, this did not prevent those same people from telling us today, ‘Why did you open up?'”

The surge in infections has almost doubled over the past week. There are 16,651 currently confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus, the Health Ministry said, with the number of people needing hospitalization rising rapidly. As of Friday morning 438 people were hospitalized with coronavirus, including 124 patients listed in serious condition and 39 connected to ventilators.

Netanyahu warned Israelis that failure to comply with health regulations could mean a return to a national lockdown – a drastic step that helped end the first infection wave but drove Israel into an unprecedented economic crisis with rocketing unemployment.

“I again request your cooperation, citizens of Israel: Wear masks and maintain distance. If we carefully adhere to the health directives, we will flatten the morbidity curve,” Netanyahu said. “But I want you to know that even if we do this, the curve will still rise due to infections that have already occurred. Only after additional time, several weeks, will it go back down.”

“We are doing everything to avoid a full shutdown,” Netanyahu warned at the Thursday evening press conference.

With the infection rate hitting record highs Friday morning, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that if Israel reaches a level of 2,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period, the government may have to impose a general lockdown.

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At the current rate, that could occur as early as the beginning of next week.