Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, March 4, 2020.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas), who rarely criticizes the Netanyahu government, went on the attack Thursday night at the limited ministerial meeting on the coronavirus crisis. Deri assailed the government’s healthcare policy in treating the pandemic which has soared over the past week.

As of Friday morning there have been 1,563 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with five deaths – bringing the overall number of Covid-19 related deaths in Israel to 384. There are 25,305 active cases, with 202 in serious condition.

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During the meeting, the ministers received harsh predictions from the Health Ministry, according to which if the current rate of infection is not stopped, the coming month will see 20 deaths per day.

Minister Deri said that “even when there were 100 patients per day, we should have been ready with tests, isolation and cuttting the chains of infection,” and warned about the collapse of the country’s hospitals in the winter.

“We have to get ready for winter right now,” he said. “Tens of thousands of people will get the flu and anyone who gets the flu will think he has the corona and run to the hospital. Hospitals could collapse. We passed the first wave with great success – but we squandered all this achievement at the beginning of the second wave.”

There was a surprising consensus between PM Netanyahu and Alternate PM and DM Ganz, but most of the ministers supported Deri’s position.

The alarming figure of 20 deaths a day is based on current morbidity data, which was leaked to the media almost as soon as the ministers had heard it. The figure is based on there being more than 2,000 patients a day, every day, later on this month, which will simply overwhelm the health system.

The implication is, according to the Health Ministry, that if significant restrictions are applied now, next week the country would have to endure even more significant restrictions.

“Do not be confused,” said one of the ministers, according to 12 News, “The decisions that are reached today mean closure under a different name.”

In practice, the closure this weekend will be very similar to the overall closure in March-April; with businesses, education system, restaurants and other industries on lockdown.

As of Friday at 5 PM, gyms will be closed; restaurants will switch to deliveries and pickups only; in hotel restaurants capacity will be limited to 35%; gatherings of more than 10 individuals in a closed space is prohibited – 20 in an open space; and non-essential businesses will be closed from Friday at 5 PM to Sunday at 5 AM.

And staring July 24: no beaches. So if you adhere to the tradition of avoiding fun stuff during the first nine days of Av – this year, the whole country is unhappy with you.

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