No letup in sight as Israel struggles to rein in pandemic

It’s coronavirus redux as Israel imposes new restrictions and workers return home.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

It’s a mess. That sums up Israel’s corona situation as the country, which earned high marks in the first wave, finds itself stumbling backwards as it imposes restrictions across the board and considers targeted closures on virus hotspots.

Buses have been reduced to 50 percent capacity. Restaurants have been again ordered to limit the number of patrons. Employees who had just returned to work have been again sent home.

A ministerial committee, the “Committee of Ministers on Restricted Areas,” is debating on Thursday whether to impose closures on a number of cities or neighborhoods within cities where coronavirus has spiked.

They include Modiin Illit, Ramle, Beit Shemesh, Lod, Jerusalem, Kiryat Malachi, Bnei Brak, Ashdod and Raanana. Parts of these cities are already under lockdown.

The government ordered a closure on the city of Beitar Illit starting Wednesday. Hundreds reportedly fled the city to avoid getting caught up in the week-long lockdown.

The government’s target is to to reduce the number of new cases to 100 a day before again loosening restrictions. It’s far from that goal.

Israel’s Health Ministry reported a record 1,319 cases in the 24 hours from midnight Monday to midnight Tuesday. The number has dropped slightly from midnight Wednesday where so far 1,231 cases have been reported.

There are 347 corona deaths in Israel and 15,209 active cases. There are 118 serious cases, up from 45 two weeks ago.

The government is working on an economic package to help Israelis weather the storm. That plan has not yet been released.

Unlike the first wave, where Israelis followed health guidelines more or less willingly, this time around the government has received pushback. Beitar Illit has complained bitterly about being put under a closure.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon sent a letter to Health Ministry Deputy Director Prof. Itamar Grotto, expressing his opposition to closing certain neighborhoods.

“My unequivocal stance is against the closure. The proposed closure may make the relevant neighborhoods into coronavirus incubators,” he said.

“Their hermetic closure will lead to mass infection within the community and make matters worse,” he said.

A Channel 12 poll released on Monday found that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s favorability ratings had dropped dramatically over his handling of the health and economic crisis.