Israel seeks to avoid national lockdown, wary of economic blowback

The government is looking to shut down all potential virus hotspots to prevent the need for a national closure.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israel is doing all it can to avoid a nationwide lockdown and all the economic ramifications that entails as Covid-19 once more raises its ugly head.

The government’s latest move is a Ministry of Finance proposal to ban private gatherings, including in homes, as a stopgap measure to prevent the spread of the disease. Israelis have taken their celebrations private as event halls are shut down.

As footage of these events emerge, it’s clear that health guidelines are not being followed. Sometimes big name entertainers appear at these parties. At one, the entertainer, singer Idan Raichal, refused to perform until the crowd followed the corona rules. But he was the exception that proved the rule.

Even as the government attempts to curb the virus, it’s under tremendous pressure to avoid further damage to the economy. A massive protest against the government’s failure to address the economic crisis on Saturday night in Tel Aviv turned violent as protesters clashed with police. That same night in Jerusalem, haredim, or ultra-Orthodox Jews, battled with police over a targeted closure on their neighborhood.

On Tuesday, 637 new cases have been reported. There are 151 classified as serious and 47 on ventilators. There are a total of 19,300 active cases in the country. That number just passed the number of recovered cases – 19,008.

Pubs, bars, event halls, gyms and pools have been closed. Restaurants remain open but with limits on the number of patrons.

An intergovernmental fight may be brewing over gyms and pools. The Knesset corona committee decided to reopen them on Tuesday against government instructions not to do so. The committee had reportedly requested statistics from the Ministry of Health as to why it demanded that exercise centers be shuttered. The committee was said to be unsatisfied with the statistics provided.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the head of the committee, Yifat Shasha-Biton, a Likud party member, that if she didn’t follow the government’s directives to close gyms and pools, she would be replaced.

Shasha-Biton told Kan public broadcasting, “I’m willing to pay the price to do the right thing. The decisions are made by virtue of data, the decisions are professional. We have a very heavy responsibility on our shoulders toward the public – both in the health aspect and the economic aspect.”

Likud Minister and coalition chairman Miki Zohar said to Shasha-Biton after the decision: “Have a nice life – your story in the Likud is at an end.”