Israel’s cabinet is to think about whether to impose a nationwide lockdown because the country struggles to halt a steep rise in coronavirus infections.
The health ministry reported 3,904 new cases on Wednesday, the highest daily record that brought the count to 142,582. The tally of deaths also rose by 11 to 1,054. A week of overnight curfews and educational institutes closures began on Tuesday in 40 “red” areas with the highest infection rates whereas health officials recommending lockdown that span for at least one month.
Israeli media said the proposed lockdown could start on Thursday – a day before the Jewish New Year festival of Rosh Hashanah – and include the closures of educational institutes, restaurants, shopping malls, markets, and event venues.
There are various options under consideration and one of them is the closure of businesses for weeks but movement would be less curtailed. Israel was lauded during the spring for tackling the pandemic in an effective manner through timely action that encompasses containment of infection spread which reduces death rate compared to other countries.
Now the Israeli government is facing widespread criticism for losing control. The warning from a top scientist has been received on Thursday that a crisis is “within touching distance” at some hospitals. On Wednesday, 474 Covid-19 patients were seriously ill in hospital, while over 1,000 people have died with the virus since the outbreak started.
The Israeli government has imposed closure of Schools and imposed new night-time restrictions in the worst affected towns. Israeli Prime Minister has explained that his government is doing “everything to maintain the economy and safeguard health and lives”.
Israel has experienced a resurgence of Covid-19 cases since May when it eased the nationwide lockdown imposed at the initial outbreak of the pandemic. Last week, the country reported the highest rate of latest infections per capita in the world, as per data from Johns Hopkins University U.S. The Israeli cabinet has been expected on Sunday to approve the imposition of full lockdowns in 10 areas with the worst outbreaks, in line with a reported recommendation by the government’s coronavirus tsar, Prof Ronni Gamzu.
But religious parties of the governing coalition opposed such a move, which might have affected four predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. The mayors of these four areas warned Mr. Netanyahu that they would stop co-operation with authorities if the lockdowns were imposed, while Interior Minister Arye Dery told the prime minister to impose a nationwide lockdown instead.
The cabinet subsequently announced that overnight curfews would be imposed in 40 “red” cities and towns with high infection rates – a choice that Mr. Netanyahu said was “well-considered, responsible and committed to reality”.
But with Rosh Hashanah approaching and the daily toll of cases continuing to rise, Prof Gamzu is reportedly urging ministers to take further action.