Photo Credit: Amit Shabi / POOL
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on July 5, 2020.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that Israel cannot yet breathe free and believe the country has won free of the second wave of COVID-19. In fact, the prime minister warned that if the coronavirus infection rate continues to rise, the current easing of lockdown restrictions will be halted, and those in force will be pulled back and re-tightened.

According to Israel’s Health Ministry, the contagion rate has spiked to 3.3 percent — the highest it has been in weeks — and last week, for the first time in months, there were more than 1,000 new cases of the coronavirus diagnosed every day, for three days in a row.

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“It must be understood that we are fighting a very difficult pandemic that has now claimed from us around 2,800 lives, every one of whom was a whole world, and we grieve for each and every one of them,” Netanyahu said at the start of this week’s government cabinet meeting. “We know the suffering of the families. We must do everything in order to prevent the situation from worsening, which could bring us to even harsher places, even harsher than we have known up until now.

I would like to give you data on five European countries that are our [population] size, among the most advanced countries in the world. They have paid much higher prices, even more than us. Belgium has 16,000 dead. The Czech Republic has 7,300. Switzerland has 4,500. The Netherlands has 9,200. Sweden has 6,000. We must do everything so that we do not add a tragic price to the price we have already paid during the pandemic.

“Our morbidity situation, relative to [other] OECD member states, countries that we are always compared to and which we compare ourselves to, is good,” Netanyahu pointed out.

“We have 9,500 active cases, which is much less per capita than almost all of these countries. However, we must maintain this. I tell you plainly that we are in danger of not maintaining this if we do not act immediately because in recent days we have seen a clear increase in morbidity.

“We are constantly evaluating the data and measures to ease restrictions that we have enacted.

[But] “If necessary, we will halt the continued easing of restrictions and even tighten those we have already given. I ask citizens to continuing following the rules and adhering to the Health Ministry instructions,” the prime minister said.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.