Netanyahu says Israel in ‘state of emergency’ as nation struggles to control virus

Israel’s government is taking the renewed corona threat seriously.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is in a “state of emergency” at a cabinet meeting on Sunday as Covid-19 gains the upperhand despite the country’s efforts.

“We are in a state of emergency, we cannot delay the legislation [on adopting virus measures], we must move forward with it to stop the spread,” he said.

“We will have to state steps beyond what was agreed upon during the coronavirus cabinet [meeting] last week.”

Israel is ordering 30,000 people into quarantine, according to Haaretz. It has restarted a contentious phone surveillance program to track patients as cases have surged.

The country has passed 11,000 patients. Although the number of serious cases has been relatively low compared to the first wave, that is changing, officials say. The number of serious cases stands at 86.

“We are seeing – as I have warned before – the outbreak is accompanied by an increase in the number of serious cases, which will challenge the Health Ministry,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.

On Sunday, the number of daily newly confirmed sick was 116.

The government has been gradually reimposing restrictions. On Friday, it tightened guidelines on gatherings, reducing the number of people who could attend event halls, bars, clubs and prayer centers to 50. All other indoor gatherings were reduced to 20.

The total number of Israeli cases since the pandemic began is 29,366 of which 17,847 have recovered. There have been 330 deaths.

Israel had done a relatively good job of containing the pandemic in the first round. However, since reopening the economy and reducing restrictions, the virus has made a resurgence, putting Israel behind some countries in its recovery that had fared worse.

The government is hoping to avoid a complete lockdown and is using targeted curfews on corona “hotspots” instead to avoid delivering another blow to an already tottering economy.

Unnamed senior government ministers complained to Israel Hayom on Sunday that the size of the unity government is getting in the way of an effective corona response.

“You sit 10 hours in debate and much of the time is wasted,” one said. “Every minister wants to talk, every one wants to make a noise and to be heard, wants to be seen, wants to tell afterwards how he pushed and did and initiated. Each one has something to say and it’s exhausting.”

“When you have so many people and everyone pushes his agenda, it doesn’t advance matters, it just jams them up. Add to this the tension between the two parties and a situation is created where it’s not possible to work,” the minister said.

AP contributed to this report.