Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postponed a meeting of the Coronavirus Cabinet on Sunday in a last-minute effort to avoid a head-on collision between heads of the strictly Orthodox parties and Coronavirus Czar Professor Roni Gamzu over a decision on how to deal with rising COVID-19 morbidity in “red” cities around Israel.
Mayors of the hareidi (strictly Orthodox) cities on the “red list” had already told Gamzu and the prime minister that they will not be able to stop their residents from defying a full-fledged lockdown; they warned that local authorities will stop cooperating with the government on the coronavirus crisis and appealed to Netanyahu not to impose a lockdown targeting hareidi cities.
The prime minister delayed the meeting, set for 4:30 pm, after meeting with (Shas) Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and (UTJ) Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman to discuss the issue – including the fact that Israel marked its 1,000th death from COVID-19 and reached an infection rate of more than 10 percent this weekend. UTJ (United Torah Judaism) Knesset Member Moshe Gafni, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and Science & Technology Minister Yitzhar Shai also attended the meeting, according to Ynet.
Last week, the Coronavirus Cabinet approved a lockdown of 30 “red” communities with high infection rates but delayed final naming of the affected communities until Sunday or Monday. The lockdown was to take effect on Monday. Most of those on the list were predominantly Arab or strictly Orthodox communities.
Netanyahu is reportedly set to suggest nightly curfews for those cities with the highest infection rates – a list of approximately 40 at this point – instead of the full lockdowns previously under consideration. The night curfews would begin at 7 pm and end at 5 am each day, with non-essential businesses closing at 7 pm and remaining closed throughout the curfew hours. Schools will be closed for the entire duration of the time the cities remain on the “red list.”
As for the High Holy Days? The jury’s still out.