Photo Credit: Yossi Aloni/Flash90
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Home Front Command base in Ramla, August 4, 2020.

Israel’s Coronavirus Cabinet on Wednesday night decided to lift the closure on weekends. In addition, it was decided not to impose a general closure, in accordance with the recommendation of Corona Czar Professor Ronni Gamzu.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed during the meeting for countrywide restrictions, such as a nightly curfew. His argument was that serious measures must be taken in order to meet the target of less than 400 new cases per day (currently the daily numbers are closer to 2,000).

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The cabinet did decide to impose significant restrictions on red cities with particularly high morbidity figures. In about two weeks, the option of more severe closures will be re-examined, while the red cities’ restrictions will be more strictly enforced and there may be restrictions on educational institutions.

After the cabinet decided not to accept the prime minister’s suggestion and go with the Czar’s plan, Netanyahu said that if there is no decrease in morbidity over the coming two weeks, he may have to consider a stricter closure. The Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, said the right approach is not to interfere to deeply in the affairs of orange and red cities.

Ronni Gamzu (C) visits the IDF Home Front Command, July 2020. / IDF Spokesperson

Coronavirus Czar Gamzu said that the morbidity situation was worrying and that the goal is to significantly lower morbidity by 1 September 2020.

“No country with as high a morbidity level as Israel has dealt with morbidity without a lockdown,” Prof. Gamzu told the cabinet, noting that “the Government of Israel is sensitive to the delicate socio-economic situation and the hardships of the public; therefore, it has placed its confidence in me for a path that does not include a full lockdown. It seems that this is the last opportunity for a moderate line. Should morbidity not decline within two weeks, we will be obliged to consider restrictions including the possibility of a local or nationwide lockdown.”

Prof. Gamzu presented the following recommendations which were unanimously adopted by the Coronavirus Cabinet with the recommendation of Prime Minister Netanyahu (who struggled with the idea until he understood that the cabinet was siding with his appointed crisis manager):

* The use of (nationwide or local) lockdowns is not off the agenda, but it was decided at this time to postpone their use in light of the recommendation of Prof. Gamzu and the experts, and with the support of Prime Minister Netanyahu. The need for lockdowns will be reevaluated in two weeks.

* Cancellation of the restriction on opening businesses over the weekend (The Cabinet will approve the decision tomorrow.)

* Cancellation of the restriction on being present in public playgrounds. (The Cabinet will approve the decision tomorrow.)

* The nationwide restrictions that have been valid up until now will continue. (They are due to expire on Monday but will be renewed in the coming days.)

* As of 1 September, the ‘traffic light plan’ for managing the pandemic on a local authorities model according to the outline of the morbidity situation in each city. (The full plan will be presented to the public ahead of the date of its implementation.)

* Approval of policy regarding “red and orange cities” until 12 August 2020 – “intensive intervention cities.”

The new policy for red and orange cities includes:

1. A massive and extensive support network and assistance for the population, while providing support under the aegis of the local council.

2. Improving cutting the chain of infection in these cities by means of operational tools, led by IDF Home Front Command.

3. Strict adherence to quarantine of the family unit in order to cut inter-family infection and providing assistance to families.

4. Enforcement and implementation of the current restrictions regarding gatherings.

5. Management of a flexible network of evacuations while giving local quotas above the actual criteria, under the aegis of IDF Home Front Command and the health maintenance organizations.

6. Restrictions on the education system – in coordination with the education system

7. Increasing assistance from the health maintenance organizations and management of the morbidity by the Health Ministry.

The Coronavirus Cabinet also authorized the Health Minister, Transportation Minister, Foreign Minister and the National Security Council, in consultation with the relevant ministries, to advance the outline for opening the skies on 16 August, which will be submitted for Corona Cabinet approval forthwith.

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