Photo Credit: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads Corona Cabinet meeting June 8 2020

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened Wednesday’s meeting of the Coronavirus Cabinet, held at the offices of the Foreign Ministry, with a blunt description of the challenge the government faces.

“We have an increase in morbidity – we need to lower it and we have to continue opening the economy.

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“We will talk today about a responsible way to do that, in the case of transportation too, but we must address the general increase, and in specific centers of morbidity.”

Rebooting Trains, Cultural Events
The cabinet decided to allow Israel Railways to return the trains to their scheduled runs, but will limit the number of riders to 500 at a time. Travelers must reserve their places online 48 hours in advance of their trip. All passengers must wear masks. Temperatures will be checked upon entry to each station.

The schedules will be somewhat limited at this point: there will be no night trains, and the Tel Aviv Ha’Hagana / Jerusalem trains won’t stop at Ben Gurion International Airport.

The cabinet also decided to permit cultural events as well, albeit with crowds limited to a capacity of 250 ticket holders.

Dealing with Morbidity
On a grim note, the ministers designated three “red zones” – all of them with Arab populations – due to their high numbers of those infected with the virus.

In those red zones – Rahat, Ar’ara b’Negev and the Ajami neighborhood of Yafo (Jaffa) – schools are closed and gatherings limited to a maximum of 10 people.

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry reported its largest number of new cases of the novel coronavirus – SARS-CoV-2 – in a single day over the past two months.

Data That Raised Red Flags
There were 288 new cases of the virus diagnosed over the past 24 hours as of Wednesday evening, bringing the total number of active cases of COVID-19 to 3,993. This figure includes 36 patients in serious condition, of whom 29 require ventilator support.

The virus has killed a total of 303 Israelis to date, and since the start of the pandemic there have been 19,783 cases of the virus confirmed in the country. Of those, 15,459 have recovered.

The Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center – part of the IDF Security and Intelligence Division – reported medical personnel conducted 11,971 COVID-19 tests on Tuesday. The contagion rate in Israel is now estimated at two percent.

In the education sector on Wednesday, 177 schools were closed, 635 students and teachers were infected with the virus and 22,738 students, staff and faculty members were reported to be in isolation.

The top five cities with the highest populations of COVID-19-positive Israelis, from highest to lowest numbers, are: Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Beit Shemesh and El’ad.

In the IDF, Gaza Division Commander Brig-Gen Eliezer Toledano and 80th Division Commander Brig-Gen Gur Schriebmann, along with Commander of the IDF Southern Command, Maj-Gen Hertzi HaLevi all entered quarantine on Wednesday. All were present at an operational meeting last week in which a representative of the defense establishment participated, and was later diagnosed with COVID-19.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.