Netanyahu imposes new coronavirus regulations as numbers spike

Israeli police, criticized for laxity in enforcing guidelines, were called upon to ensure citizens comply with the regulations. 

By Aaron Sull, World Israel News

Israelis have taken the easing of corona restrictions a little too far. That’s the conclusion of Israel’s government after a new spike in coronavirus cases.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered mandatory mask-wearing and prohibited gatherings of over 50 people, calling on the police to enforce health regulations. The police have come under criticism recently for failing to ensure that citizens adhere to the guidelines.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein warned Israelis on Tuesday that in order to avoid another nationwide lockdown they need to stop treating coronavirus regulations as “recommendations.”

“We are heading rapidly toward more than 200 patients a day,” Edelstein said during a visit to Soroka hospital in Beer Sheba.

“We were at a lull. The disregard for regulations caused this spike. There is no magic involved: If you treat the instructions as recommendations, the coronavirus won’t leave us. It’s that simple,” he said.

The government doesn’t want to reimpose a lockdown, but it has set three conditions in which it will do so. First, if 250 people are in serious condition. Second, if there are more than 100 cases a day outside of virus hot spots. Third, if the rate of new infections starts to double in under 10 days.

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On Monday, Netanyahu froze plans to ease further coronavirus restrictions based on the Health Ministry’s warning that cases will continue to rise if unchecked.

“What we decided to do, first of all, is to hit the emergency brake,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “We stopped all of the measures to ease restrictions that we were going to apply in the coming days. We will check this again next week.”

“It could be that we are already seeing the doubling of the rate of infection within 10 days,” he said. “I very much hope not.”

On Monday, the plan to reopen movie theaters and cultural centers was put on hold. That move would have meant nearly all coronavirus restrictions would have been lifted.

On Tuesday, 148 more people were diagnosed with coronavirus, raising the number of active cases to 2,722. An additional death raised the total death toll in Israel to 299, according to the Health Ministry.

A new hot spot has been Tel Aviv where 129 patients, primarily aged between 20-49, contracted the virus during the past week.