Photo Credit: David Cohen/FLASH90
Coronavirus Czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu visits the coronavirus unit at Ziv Hospital, Northern Israel, September 27, 2020.

Israel’s Corona Czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu on Thursday morning told Army Radio that the current morbidity figures, about 2,000 infected per day, allow for relief from the lockdown.

“My position is that it’s certainly possible to take the first step towards relief at the beginning of next week,” he said.

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Gamzu also responded to the violent confrontation with police that took place Wednesday night at a wedding in Givat Zeev and clarified that he continues to back up the police.

“The best thing is that such an event will not take place,” he said.

Regarding the morbidity from the pandemic, Gamzu noted that “currently there are 2,000 verified patients per day, the rate of positive tests stands at about 8% and the coefficient of infection has dropped to 0.8. We will recommend going to the first relief step at the beginning of the coming week – opening up private sector businesses that don’t deal directly with the public, as well as early childhood education ages 0-6.”

The Corona Cabinet will convene at 1 PM Thursday to discuss the exit strategy and decide when to begin implementing the first phase of relief, following a significant drop in the number of patients and the rate of positive testing in recent days. The latest data from the Health Ministry will largely determine the outcome of the meeting.

Blue&White demands that if the rate of decline continues, relief must take effect early next week.

To date, 1,994 new patients have been registered in Israel, based on 39,602 test results received on Wednesday. At present, there are 734 critical patients of whom 253 are on respirators. To date, 2,099 Israelis have died from the pandemic.

Israeli Police arrest a Haredi man during a raid on a synagogue in Geula, Jerusalem, October 14, 2020. / Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

On Wednesday, Gamzu entered into an open confrontation with the Haredi community in Israel when he allegedly said in response to aggressive police activity at a wedding held in the yard of a private home in Givat Zeev that “the action of the police today is a message to anyone who with impudence and insensitivity does not implement the guidelines. This type of enforcement will continue. We have no tolerance for mass gatherings and weddings and we cannot allow such phenomena that distressed us in July-August to recur. I support the cops, knowing their work is complex and difficult. I am not sorry about the family’s complaints. Anyone who initiates a wedding at this time should take into account that he is life-threatening in every possible aspect – both in the Corona contagion as well as in our need to dismantle the wedding no matter what.”

Needless to say, this didn’t go over well in some red cities, and the Corona Czar eventually apologized. Senior Haredi politicians were furious at Prof. Gamzu’s rebuke, and people in MK Ya’akov Litzman circle stated on his behalf that “Corona Czar Gamzu justifies a barbaric rampage by a squad of armed and violent policemen who destroy a wedding and injure family members – this proves he lost it tonight.”

Litzman himself made a dramatic statement against Gamzu Wednesday night, saying that “as far as we are concerned, we do not commit to his positions and recommendations. We hope that he has not yet sent a letter to the head of the Givat Zeev council against the brides and grooms who endanger his community… We will abide by the law’s guidelines despite Gamzu and not because of him.”

After Gamzu apologized for his harsh statement, he was attacked by the chairman of the Shas Knesset faction, MK Michael Malkieli, who said “I was very surprised that Gamzu apologized. This man’s streak of failures is worse than terrible. What was this miserable response? Has he lost his mind? He contributed to the public’s lack of trust.”

It should be noted that Gamzu, with or without an apology, reflected the common response to the state of Haredi noncompliance with the rules among secular Israelis. It should also be noted that while leftist Israelis have made an effort to curtail their demonstrations against Prime Minister Netanyahu in keeping with the Health Ministry’s guidelines, events such as the crowded Haredi wedding that was crashed by the police Wednesday night contribute to the secular public’s deep mistrust of the Haredi community.

By the way, those crowded demonstrations are probably about to come back in full swing following a High Court of Justice injunction against the government, compelling it to explain why it shouldn’t remove the restrictions on public protests. The government is going to have to provide documentation of infections that were caused during those rallies – which is easier said than done.

Last Tuesday, the Corona Cabinet extended the lockdown until next Monday, but Blue&White believes that if the morbidity figures continue to drop as they have been doing it should be possible to open parts of the economy as well as the kindergartens as early as next Sunday.

According to the Health Ministry’s outline, the first round of relief will include businesses that don’t admit customers, kindergartens, direct takeouts from restaurants, the beaches and national parks, and the 1,000-meter limit.

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