Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned at a televised briefing from his official residence in Jerusalem on Thursday night that Israelis may find Friday’s coronavirus lockdown will be further tightened after Rosh Hashana this weekend.
Netanyahu said the government will meet to discuss the issue after the holiday. “I estimate that in light of the current state of the disease and according to experts’ recommendations, we may have no choice but to tighten restrictions,” he said.
“I’ll tell you this. I will not impose a lockdown on the citizens of Israel for nothing, and I will not hesitate to add more restrictions if necessary.”
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, who also spoke at the briefing from the Health Ministry, was far more blunt about the subject. Edelstein warned that “further steps” are going to be required due to the continuing rise in the number of severely ill, the extreme rise in the number of newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19, and the rising death toll.
“Tomorrow at 2 pm we begin to observe the lockdown guidelines a few hours before the start of the Rosh Hashana holiday. We endeavored to make a balance between the need to set restrictions so as to bring down the contagion rate of the coronavirus, and still to protect the nation’s economy,” Edelstein said.
“At this point it’s already clear: It’s simply not enough. We are at the moment at a morbidity level that requires us to take further steps.
“If we take a look at the numbers from the opening of the school year, the figures show that since the first of September, when children returned to the classroom, more than 700 kindergartens and more than 130 elementary schools have been shut down, and this does not include the “red cities” within which the education system was shut down as well.
“My heart aches for all of the small business owners who have lost their livelihoods due to having had to close their establishments in the face of this pandemic.
“My heart aches for all the Israeli citizens who have been hurt by this virus, for all of the parents who cannot send their children to school — yes, I too have children at home who cannot go to school — but it’s important to understand, if we do not, together, carry out the necessary steps, at this point, the pandemic will continue to run wild. The morbidity rate will continue to rise.
“There will be more Israelis in critical condition — today we reached nearly 600 patients hospitalized in very serious condition — this will continue to drag on and on.
“This is also the place to say a word about the medical staff on the front lines, to offer a word of praise, of thanks; they do holy work, but they also pay the price. Not only the price in exhaustion; not only the price in difficulties; at this moment, 3,500 medical personnel are in quarantine. Another 1,300 medical personnel are ill with the coronavirus.
“Imagine what kind of additional courage it must take for them to go to work each day.
“We now have two paths available. Either we can seek ways to escape the Health Ministry guidelines during the lockdown, or to stay healthy by sticking to the guidelines.
“Given the current situation we can only get past this pandemic if we stick together. Only as one are we going to be able to fight this; only by remembering that this is a national fight are we going to be able to win this battle.
“Only by observing the guidelines will we be able to preserve the health of our family and friends, preserve that of the nation, and our own health as well.”