The Coronavirus Cabinet decided just before midnight Wednesday night that Israel will begin its third lockdown on Sunday at 5 pm.
The ministers voted to support a proposal by the Health Ministry to lockdown the nation for at least two weeks, or until the morbidity drops to a maximum of 1,000 new cases per day.
“Everyone understands that this lockdown must be entered quickly,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “There is an argument about a day or two.”
At present, Israeli health officials are diagnosing nearly 4,000 new cases of COVID-19 each day. On Tuesday, there were 3,762 new cases of the virus diagnosed in the Jewish State, according to the Health Ministry. There were 502 patients listed in very serious condition, including 107 in critical condition, relying on respirators for life support. Since the start of the pandemic, 3,141 Israelis have lost their lives to the coronavirus.
“A third wave of the pandemic is striking the entire world with unprecedented strength,” Netanyahu said. “Many thousands in Europe and the US are dying on a daily basis. It could be that some of this is connected to the new mutation, or the onset of winter, or both, but this is a fact about which there is no debate.
“With us as well there is a very sharp increase in morbidity, even though our mortality and severe morbidity are on a much lower level than in most of these countries,” the prime minister said.
“If we do not take immediate action, it will not stay this way and there will be a very sharp increase in both severe cases and in deaths. If we delay in taking steps against morbidity and the severe outbreak that we are seeing, we will pay a very heavy price in health, in lives and vis-à-vis the economy.”
This lockdown will be different: unlike the previous closures, children in preschools, grades 1-4, for a maximum of five hours a day. Grades 11-12 will also continue to go to school, as will those in special education.
Businesses that are not customer-facing are to reduce their operations by 50 percent.
In addition, the government will issue a ban on staying at the home of anyone who is not from one’s nuclear family and will reimpose a ban on venturing more than 1,000 meters from one’s residence.
Stores are to be closed, but deliveries from food stores and restaurants will be permitted. Gatherings are to be restricted to no more than 20 people outdoors, and 10 people indoors.
Cabinet ministers continued to meet late into the night to carry out a final vote on the proposal.