Confirmed Israeli coronavirus cases surges to 1,238

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting on Monday with various ministers over the possibility of tightening existing restrictions.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

The number of Israeli cases of the coronavirus passed the 1,200 mark, the Ministry of Health announced on Monday. It was a jump of 12 percent from the previous day.

Most of those infected, 1,238, have only a light case of the disease, which has frightened governments around the world into taking extreme precautions to prevent its spread. Israel has been one of the countries that has acted most swiftly to curb the disease.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting on Monday with various ministers over the possibility of tightening existing restrictions even more.

Currently, gatherings are restricted to 10 people, who must maintain a distance of two meters (6 feet) from one another. Partly in order to set a good example, images of top defense and political officials have been disseminated, showing them keeping their distance at meetings in deference to the new guidelines.

However, the government is concerned that citizens are not taking the new rules seriously enough.

On Saturday evening, following a weekend which saw Israelis take to the beaches and streets, Moshe Bar Siman Tov, director general of the Health Ministry, who has become the government’s most effective spokesman during the corona crisis, took to the airwaves to warn that tougher guidelines would be required if Israelis continued to refuse to heed the ministry’s health directives.

Although most Israelis appear to be taking the warnings to heart, there are enough who have not, which concerns the government.

On Thursday, March 19, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a publicly televised address, “The day before yesterday, I asked you to adhere to the directives of the Health Ministry and stay home. This has met with a response but it is simply not enough.”

He said that the emergency regulations were “no longer a recommendation. It is a binding directive that will be enforced by the enforcement authorities. I know that this is not easy. I know that it is hard. But I am asking for your cooperation with these regulations. Their goal is to ensure that as few people as possible are infected and that as few people as possible infect.”

Until now, the Health Ministry has been in charge of the crisis. However, the Defense Ministry has been lobbying to take control. On Sunday, it said it was “ready and willing to do so immediately.” noting any delay could cost lives.

If the Defense Ministry does take control, Israel may be witness to the uncomfortable sight of the Israeli Army carrying out enforcement against its citizenry.

Israel Hayom reports on Monday that “the IDF hopes that the Israel Police will be responsible for enforcing the mandatory lockdown and other instructions to the public, but if the situation continues to worsen, the nation will be divided into sections, each of which will be placed under the command of a division.

“Individual cities and towns will be assigned to brigades, with battalions responsible for neighborhoods.”

Official numbers of coronavirus in Israel:

Date   # of infected
3/11 – 76
3/12 – 100
3/13 – 126
3/14 – 153
3/15 – 200
3/16 – 250
3/17 – 304
3/18 – 427
3/19 – 529
3/20 – 705
3/21 – 883
3/22 – 945
3/23 – 1238