Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Israelis on Thursday night in an update from his office in Jerusalem that unless they get serious about respecting the Health Ministry’s coronavirus guidelines, the government would have no choice but to reinstate closures on communities once more.
In the past 24 hours, there were more than 214 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in the country, with 3,019 active cases in Israel. Of those, 34 patients are in very serious condition, including 24 who require ventilator support. The death toll now stands at 300.
The Health Ministry reported that 17,212 tests were carried out Wednesday as well.
“We have to stop this growth quickly,” the prime minister said, adding that the rising morbidity rate was caused by Israelis’ failure to adhere to the Health Ministry protocols requiring people to wear face masks, maintain two meters’ distance from each other and to wash their hands and use alcohol gel.
“We cannot allow a situation of a return to exponential growth…[the virus] doesn’t care about our desires, about our wishes, about our economy,” Netanyahu said.
“The virus doesn’t give up,” Netanyahu said. “It only respects those who respect the rules. If you keep the rules they will keep us. If we work together, we will overcome this pandemic.”
Health and Finance Ministers: Stick and Carrot
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein was also present at the briefing, and likewise warned the restrictions could indeed be reinstated, including lockdowns.
“Each and every individual must comply with three simple rules,” he said. “Wearing a mask, maintaining a distance of two meters, and observing hygiene.
“There has been a loosening of this issue, and without the discipline of the public we will not be able to continue with reopening the economy.”
Israel Police said Thursday 965 fines were imposed for violations of the Health Ministry restrictions — a continuation of the enforcement measures requested by Netanyahu and the coronavirus cabinet a few days earlier.
Finance Minister Israel Katz also spoke at the briefing; he said unemployed workers age 67 and over who have not yet returned to work will receive an additional grant of NIS 4,000.
In addition, those Israelis who are eligible for negative income tax will immediately receive the financial aid that was supposed to be paid over the next year.
Coronavirus Cabinet Names Red Zones
The coronavirus cabinet designated areas of southern Tel Aviv – an area populated by many foreign workers – and a number of Bedouin towns in southern Israel, as “red zones” on Thursday.
The residents in these areas are facing an immediate lockdown in response to the continuing spike in coronavirus infections.
The cabinet is to meet again next week to consider whether to impose further restrictions, such as closures or lockdowns, or returning students to distance learning.
Cases Still Rising in Schools
The Education Ministry said Thursday evening that at least 165 schools are now closed and 460 students and teachers have tested positive for COVID-19.
At present, 25,517 students and faculty are in isolation.
Among the schools that closed is the Ben Gurion private school in Be’er Sheva, which is to close from Friday onwards. One of the students was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.
All of the students and teachers in the school have been mandated into quarantine.