“Very important decisions will be made at the Coronavirus Cabinet on Wednesday, or on Thursday at the very latest,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after no conclusion was reached Tuesday night.
Under consideration are additional restrictions, to begin immediately, such as include further limiting attendance at workplaces; closing synagogues and placing new limitations on public prayers; and shutting all markets, including those selling “four species” plants for the Sukkot holiday.
Speaking Tuesday evening at a meeting of the Coronavirus Cabinet, Netanyahu also addressed the issue of the ongoing demonstrations, and the seeming double standard that appears to be applied to the hundreds, and sometimes thousands of protesters that gather in complete defiance of the Health Ministry COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
“For a long time I refrained from commenting on the matter,” Netanyahu said, “but after hearing the experts claiming that gatherings are a huge danger to public health it is my duty to address it,” he said at the meeting, according to a report broadcast by Channel 12 News.
“The entire public is required to comply with restrictions and only a group of protesters is excluded from the rule.
“You are allowed to go to the Western Wall only if you live within 1,000 meters, but Balfour Street can be reached from all over the country.
“At the Western Wall only capsules of 20 people are allowed, but at demonstrations anything goes. This farce must stop. Everyone understands this, even on the left. We are in an emergency.
“There must be one law for both prayers and demonstrations and all gatherings wherever they are. Otherwise, the public will not listen to the instructions and we will see the morbidity increase to terrible proportions,” he said.
Netanyahu also instructed that doctors from the private health system be recruited to join the fight against the coronavirus, willing or not.
Time to Ban Indoor Prayer Services?
During the meeting, Coronavirus Commissioner Professor Roni Gamzu raised the issue of indoor prayer services, saying perhaps the time had come to once again temporarily close the doors to the synagogues.
In response, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri warned the strictly Orthodox community is “ready to revolt” over the perceived double standard on the restrictions being applied, vis a vis their population and that of secular demonstrators.
“Why is there no talk of the demonstrations and the beaches?” he asked. “You are talking only about mikvahs (ritual pools), synagogues and the Four Species. I cannot understand why prayers are a “no” but demonstrations are a “yes” … It is not an equal decree. A government that decides demonstrations can be held but prayers not is acting as a non-Jewish government.”
Hospitals Approaching 800-Patient Threshold
Hebrew University Professor Yinon Ashkenazy warned the government earlier in the day on Tuesday that by the end of this week, Israeli hospitals will pass the 800-patient threshold for being able to adequately treat seriously ill patients.
Ashkenazy said most of the cases of COVID-19 contagion is taking place indoors, where he said wearing masks was most important, albeit not foolproof. The professor said there is minimal risk of contracting the virus outdoors, if social distancing protocols are maintained, Ynet reported.
Nevertheless, Ashkenazy said, it remains essential to limit the number of people gathering in one place, be it indoors or outside.
As of Tuesday, there were 51,338 active cases of the coronavirus in Israel. Of those, 668 patients were listed in very serious condition, including 159 patient who required respirators to survive. The death toll had reached 1,285.
Some 789 soldiers and civilian employees of the IDF have been diagnosed with the virus, according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. In addition, 12,278 soldiers are currently in quarantine.
Nearly 200,000 Americans have died of the virus in the United States (199,462) according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Globally, nearly a million people have lost their lives to COVID-19 since the start of this pandemic (964,365), according to Reuters. More than 31.32 million people have been infected by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in more than 210 countries and territories since December 2019.