Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
The third lockdown at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, January 27, 2021. No one even pretends to obey the rules.

The experts advising Israel’s Corona Cabinet believe the country’s entire effort of emerging from the pandemic crisis is in jeopardy as long as the lockdown is not being enforced. According to the same experts, the lockdown has lost its effectiveness and a strategic and tactical change is needed urgently. They released a document early Friday morning summarizing their meeting and declaring that the “war of attrition” cannot continue.

They also declared that “lockdown for everyone is unfair, and in the long run not enforceable.”

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Meaning that millions of Israelis lose respect for the lockdown after watching whole segments of the population defy the lockdown in broad daylight, occasionally clashing with police over their right to disregard the law,

The proof is in the police data showing that road traffic volume this week was the highest since the first pandemic-related lockdown. No one is obeying the law: during peak hours this week, there was a mere 15% drop in traffic volume compared to the days before the pandemic.

So I was wrong: 15% of Israelis respect the law.

The process of losing all respect for the law moves fast: last week during peak hours there was still a 30% drop in traffic compared to routine times.

Due to political infighting, the lockdown will end on Sunday at midnight and so far it isn’t clear if the Knesset will pick up the slack and reinstate it in time. The Knesset Speaker’s office is examining the possibility of convening the plenum on Sunday to pass the increased fines law before the lockdown expires, in order to receive the support of Blue&White for an extension. Should Blue&White refuse to support an extension, the lockdown would expire early Monday morning.

A source in Blue&White told Kan 11 News that from now on, the government will not be able to convene “every time the Likud does something we don’t like.”

It’s good to be the king. Even knowing that come March, your party will be circling the drain of the threshold percentage.

Even after the fines law is approved, Blue&White does not guarantee that they would support an extended tight lockdown, and are likely to demand some relief from the strict regulations – which 15% of Israelis still obey, but by next week this figure should go down to 7.5%.

Blue&White Chairman Benny Gantz insisted that without equal enforcement, there will be no lockdown at all. Likud officials have attacked Gantz’s conduct, saying, “It’s madness, the morbidity is high and the lockdown will expire on Sunday at midnight.”

That’s the lockdown hardly anyone is obeying. This is some rabbit hole.

People in Gantz’s circle say it’s crazy that the fine increases have not yet been approved—because of the Haredi factions’ objection—and anyway, they are not against convening the Knesset plenum on Sunday. They’re just not sure they’ll vote with Netanyahu.

The experts believe the lockdown should be extended by a week, and if during the coming week there will be a downward trend in the number of patients whose condition is serious – we could start talking about easing the lockdown. That’s combining two concepts from football terminology: playing for time and a hail Mary.

As of Thursday night at midnight, the enforcement of lockdown restrictions was intensified throughout the country, with 24 checkpoints deployed on the main highways. This is in addition to about 200 mobile checkpoints within the cities. All of these are expected to increase the number of fines by more than 60%, seeing as the public is expected to stay within 1,000 meters of home and not on the major highways.

The police on Thursday issued a considerable number of fines: 3,680. A total of 2,423 fines were issued for leaving one’s place of residence for an unauthorized purpose, 948 for not wearing a mask, 56 for violating quarantine conditions, 63 for violating business guidelines, and 155 reports for being in a public place that was operating without authorization.

In the Haredi city of Beitar Illit, the police were called to a wedding with about 100 participants, in violation of the regulations, and issued a NIS 5,000 ($1,520) fine each to the parents of the happy couple, the DJ, and the photographer. The guests were dispersed.

Police also located a wedding ceremony located in a tent that was set up in an open area in Kfar Chabad, with dozens of guests, in violation of the regulations. When the police entered, the guests began to flee. An examination of those who couldn’t run fast enough revealed that one of them was a verified Corona patient. The police ordered him to quarantine and summoned him for questioning at the end of the solitary confinement period. Fines were issued to 30 guests who didn’t run fast enough.

According to the Health Ministry, 7,079 new Corona patients were verified on Thursday, based on 78,244 test results. As of Friday morning, there are 1,135 patients in severe condition, out of whom 321 are on respirators. A total of 4,671 people died since the outbreak of the epidemic. 2,932,454 have been vaccinated with the first course, 1,624,074 with the second.

The Corona Cabinet experts also stated that vaccinating the Palestinian Authority’s population is a clear necessity, and recommended that the PA be helped to get vaccinated. The Palestinian Authority for its part has made an official request to Israel to coordinate the entry of shipments of Corona vaccines, including the Sputnik V, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and the Chinese vaccine Sinovac (which is believed to be 50% effective).

The Palestinian Authority also asked Israel to coordinate the entry of ten thousand vaccine doses intended for 5,000 individuals – medical staff members, acquired from Russia. A date for the vaccinations has not yet been set. On Wednesday, the Interfax news agency reported that the Palestinian Authority plans to buy 100,000 doses of the Russian vaccine in February.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.