Photo Credit: Basel Awidat/Flash90
Police at a temporary checkpoint in the northern Arab town of Deir al-Asad, April 18, 2020.

Israel’s Corona Czar Professor Ronni Gamzu predicted on Saturday that dozens of deaths from the virus will occur in the Arab sector within three weeks.

In a meeting with senior members of the Arab sector in the Druze city of Daliyat al-Karmel, Gamzu added that the government will sit down this week to decide to increase the fines handed to event halls and parks, including closing them down.

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He also said that the management of the pandemic should not be based on political but professional considerations. Over the past week, the Czar has been doing battle with the Haredi government ministers and MKs over the need to shut down Haredi red cities.

Prof. Gamzu’s plan to manage the pandemic is based on dividing the country into green, yellow, orange and red municipalities, with the harshest restrictions to be imposed in the red localities.

On Friday, a mass wedding took place in the majority-Arab, red neighborhood of Silwan in eastern Jerusalem. According to reports, the wedding took place without face masks and without observing the rules of social distancing.

The council head of Deir al-Asad, an Arab town in Galilee, criticized the Health Ministry in an interview with Kan 11 News, saying, “Alongside the responsibility incumbent on the Arab public, ministry officials must also bear responsibility,” and pointing out that “it was the decision to shut down the ballrooms which led to mass weddings in courtyards.”

Haim Bibas, chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel, said on Saturday that Israel is experiencing a state of emergency in the Arab and Druze sectors. “An increase of hundreds of patients a day would lead to an unreasonable burden on hospitals and a widespread expansion of the pandemic throughout the north,” he said, suggesting that “in such a situation, the state must be available to the residents and local authorities: open additional drive-through testing facilities, offer significant enforcement of closures, and readiness to take in new patients and remove them from their homes to isolation.”

“Just imposing a closure in red cities will not help in this situation,” Bibas argued. “Extensive operations must be carried out and all the necessary resources must be made available to the cities.”

In the coming days, Gamzu will formulate a list of the most severly infected red cities on which severe restrictions should be imposed, constituting a curfew. The cities of Netivot, Ashdod, Beit Shemesh and Rahat will most likely be added to the list. Restrictions will apply to all 30 red cities, but a curfew will be imposed on only eight to ten red cities.

Meanwhile, about 130,000 students living in red cities will not continue their school year in school facilities.

The cities with the highest morbidity data are: Tira, Kfar Qasim, Laqiya, Ma’ale Iron, Daliyat al-Karmel, Sakhnin, Netivot, Umm al-Fahm, Elad and Bnei Brak.

One government minister reportedly protested at the Corona Cabinet that the Arab localities are being strong-armed by the Health Ministry unchallenged because Arab society has no voice in the current coalition government.

Professor Gamzu and his staff are concerned about non-compliance with the guidelines, and point out that many Israelis deny the danger of the virus and violate all guidelines for wearing face masks and restricting social gatherings. According to Gamzu, this phenomenon is seen not only in the red cities, but all over the country.

Data from the Health Ministry indicate that most of the new patients discovered in recent days do not come from red cities.

28 corona patients have died in the past two days, bringing the death toll in Israel today to 1007.

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