Israeli government to debate making lockdown even stricter

If the public doesn’t obey the necessary guidelines, the Health Ministry says a greater clampdown will be necessary; the Finance Ministry fears for the economy.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

With the number of Covid-19 cases still in the thousands each day, the corona cabinet is to meet Tuesday to debate about further restricting people’s lives beyond the current three-week partial closure that began this past weekend.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and corona czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu warn of a medical system that is almost at the breaking point. Six of the biggest hospitals are at, or over, capacity in their corona wards, with fully half of the 1,300 patients in serious condition, including 170 on ventilators.

Hebrew University researchers released a report Sunday night that said that the death toll, which is currently 1,256, could reach 3,000 by the end of November if the closure is not drastically tightened.

“We are in an emergency situation,” Gamzu told Channel 12, begging the public yet again to be responsible, wear masks, and stop gathering in large numbers. Pointing specifically to Sunday night’s anti-government demonstration in Jerusalem, in which many people did not keep to the mandated separated groups of 20 or wear masks, he said, “Now is not the time. They will have all year to protest.”

The Finance Ministry is against a greater closure of businesses, fearful of the additional blow to the country’s already floundering economy.

“Private companies that do not serve the public must stay open, as decided by the government, to enable the functioning of the economy,” said Finance Minister Yisrael Katz.

The effectiveness of the closure in cutting the number of cases is dependent on the police making sure the law is obeyed, he continued.

“Enforcement of restrictions in all the other areas must be done without compromise and with full force. Anyone who maliciously and in violation of the guidelines holds an event that risks infection, such as a wedding or a party, must be arrested on charges of threatening the lives of others and be prosecuted. After 10 arrests, these events will stop,” Katz said.

He also cautioned that those commercial enterprises that are currently allowed to stay open, such as restaurants for take-out only, must strictly conform to the limitations set by the government.

“A place of business that will not be careful [to follow the guidelines] will be closed and won’t get any help from the state,” he threatened.

In a piece of good news, the IDF announced that it has developed a user-friendly computer program that can vastly improve the time it takes to trace infections by enabling hundreds of investigators to do the epidemiological work simultaneously. Called “Cornerstone,” it is a play on the Hebrew word for stone, even, in honor of the first Israeli to die of Covid-19, Aryeh Even.