Photo Credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein visits the Orot Etzion school in Efrat, September 1, 2020.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told a closed Monday night meeting in the Knesset with Likud ministers and MKs regarding the severity of the spread of the coronavirus in Israel that since the start of the pandemic last March the country had never been as close to losing control as it is now.

The Health Minister added that if a sharp move for total lockdown is not carried out, meaning no one walking in the streets, control over the disease would soon be lost and the status quo would not be restored. He stressed that the new strain of Covid-19 is spreading at a significant rate, far beyond the officially discovered cases, which explains, he believes, the recent sudden jump in the spread of the disease.

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According to the Health Ministry, as of Tuesday morning, there are in Israel 8,308 new verified cases, based on 110,813 test results obtained on Monday. There are currently 764 critical patients in Israeli hospitals, 183 of whom are on respirators. To date, 3,445 have died since the outbreak.

Likud officials estimate they will succeed in passing through the cabinet a decision to impose a full lockdown, but they view the Knesset as a significant obstacle, especially the Education Committee. This is why the Likud is asking prominent public figures not affiliated with the ruling party, such as heads of local municipalities, teachers’ unions, and parents’ associations, to exert pressure on Knesset members in the relevant committees to endorse a full lockdown once the government approves it.

The government will convene on Tuesday to discuss the unprecedented rise in morbidity and closing down the education system. The disagreements within the government over imposing additional restrictions revolve around several key points: 1. the question of what parts of the education system should be closed. The Health Ministry wants the entire system to be shut down. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tends to support this position but prefers to keep the kindergartens open and possibly the lower classes as well. Blue&White wants a partial closure, in a model similar to the original closure, with grades 1-4 and 11-12 kept open; 2. the question of when the restrictions will begin. The Health Ministry wants the lockdown immediately, Defense Minister Benny Gantz says not before Sunday; 3. the question of how long the restrictions will last. The Health Ministry wants two weeks, Netanyahu is talking about a week to ten days; and 4. the question of which parts of the economy will be closed. There are disagreements are between the Finance and Health ministries over the businesses that should be closed compared to those that will remain open.

Kan 11 News reported Monday night that the new restrictions are expected to take effect only next week. It was also reported that a compromise is imminent regarding the closure of educational institutions, following a rapprochement between the Likud and Blue&White.

Netanyahu initially favored the position of Health Minister Edelstein who wants to close down the entire education system completely, but in recent days has supported a partial closure involving only the fifth to tenth grades. Gantz tends to agree to a partial closure of the schools, among other things because a significant number of municipalities have already taken this step independently. But Gantz demands a commitment to the vaccinations of the teaching staff—who have threatened a walkout unless they are vaccinated, and a second commitment, to compensate students for the missed school days by making them go to school during the Passover break and the summer vacation.

Should make him very popular among schoolchildren, tomorrow’s voters.

The American pharmaceutical company Modern announced on Monday night that the Israeli Health Ministry had approved the use of its Covid-19 vaccines and that delivery of first courses of the vaccine is expected to arrive in Israel by the end of January. According to the announcement, Israel is the third country to approve the use of the Moderna vaccine, following the United States and Canada.

PM Netanyahu has already announced that Israel has signed an agreement with Moderna to supply six million vaccines to Israel.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.