Israel crosses 2,000 corona death mark

The number of deaths is a painful reminder that Israel has fared poorly in the second wave of the pandemic.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israel has passed the 2,000 death mark. On Monday night it reported five more fatalities bringing the total to 2,021.

The country has entered its fourth week of a nationwide lockdown. The government imposed the closure on Sept. 18, the eve of the Jewish New Year, even outdistancing the U.S. in the number of new coronavirus infections per capita.

Although the infection rate is decreasing due to the closure (Tuesday recorded 3,097 new cases), the number of deaths is a painful reminder that Israel has fared poorly in the second wave of the pandemic after performing so well and garnering praise for beating back the virus in the first wave.

The high infection rates that followed, reaching a high of 9,000 cases a day at the start of October, was blamed by the government on the fact that the economy was opened too early. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite agreeing to the opening, blamed the decision on “populism” in his speech at the start of the Knesset’s winter session on Monday.

“I say honestly, populism won and the citizens of Israel lost. We learned the lessons from the exit from the first closure, and I hope that others in this house also learned them,” he said.

The government, not wishing to repeat its earlier mistake, has proposed a nine-stage exit strategy in which the economy will be opened up slowly in two-week increments. The final stage will not be completed until late January 2021.

The Knesset’s Corona Committee is meeting on Tuesday to discuss the exit strategy.

However, the pressures that led to the early opening the first time are still there. Israeli small businesses have sent a message that ‘ready or not, here we come’ and are planning to open on October 18 regardless of whether or not the government decides to allow it.

On Monday, business and education leaders labeled the staged opening a “catastrophe” that would bankrupt thousands of small businesses and adversely affect Israeli education.

On Sunday, hundreds of businesses opened across the country in protest of the restrictions, risking fines of thousands of shekels.

AP contributed to this report.