Netanyahu puts ‘emergency brake’ on eased corona restrictions as infections climb

At a meeting of the special ‘Corona Cabinet’ the prime minister says the government is hitting the emergency brake as more Israelis are infected by the virus.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis Monday the government is won’t continue easing restrictions because of the increase in confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Speaking at a press conference after a meeting of the special Corona Cabinet of top ministers, Netanyahu said health officials briefed the government on the recent “very steep increase in morbidity.”

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

Israel had reaped the benefit of some tough policies that not only shut down the education system and closed Israel to international travel, but used nationwide curfews on key holidays to force millions of Israelis to stay at home when they would have been getting together and could have spread the virus.

As the number of new daily infections neared zero and hospital wards emptied out, the government moved to reopen the economy, warning Israelis to adhere to the health guidelines by wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

That didn’t last as Israelis returned to schools, hit the beaches and shopping malls, and were shown on local media flouting the guidelines without masks or safety distances.  Over the past two weeks the number of infections started to rise again resulting in scores of schools being closed and thousands of Israelis forced into mandatory isolation.

Last week the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, was forced to close when an Arab member of Knesset tested positive for coronavirus.

After another weekend of crowded beaches and additional school closures from new infections, the government met Monday to assess the situation.

“What we decided to do, first of all, is to hit the emergency brake,” 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.”

“The main thing that all the experts emphasized is that we must keep the three rules: Wearing masks, keeping two meters’ distance and hygiene – washing hands,” Netanyahu said.

“I ask you, for our economy, for our health and for the lives of us all – please follow the rules.”