image Photo: Flash90

COVID-19: Israeli government orders partial shutdown

While nationally aspired unity for Jerusalem continues to swirl within a dead-end maze; Israel’s interim government under the guidance of incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, continues to apply additional drastic measures – as part of efforts to try and slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.

The Israeli leader started his televised address by announcing the implementation of the previously stated measure, of employing counter-terrorism tracking technology against civilians who do not adhere to the obligatory directives of self-quarantine. According to Netanyahu, “The Attorney General acceded to our request, and this evening we will approve the use of digital tools for a limited period of 30 days. Israel is a democracy. We must preserve the balance between individual rights and general needs, and we are doing so.”

Netanyahu also sought to alleviate public concerns regarding the prospects of a nation-wide curfew; which would force the entire nation into self-isolation, by assuring the public “we are not locking people in their homes, i.e. I am not declaring a general closure; I very much hope that we will not come to that. We will operate a localized closure in places where there has been an outbreak of the disease in order to maintain public health.”

The Israeli Premier went on to list three procedures that will be implemented throughout the Jewish State, effective immediately, according to which “1. The public sector will transition to an emergency footing. 2. The private sector will transition to a reduced footing. 3. Essential services will remain on a full footing.”

In practical terms, the measures include: an immediate reduction of public sector employees, up to 80 percent. Those government employees will be forced into a long-vacation, at the expense of their annual vacation days, until after the Passover Holiday – which ends on April the 16th.

The second measure includes an immediate reduction of the private sector, which is also forced to reduce the number of employees by 70 percent. Some adjustments will be permitted, on a case by case basis, so long as it complies with measures undertaken by the Israeli Health Ministry. It is important to note, however, that the 70 percent reduction does not impact companies that consist of less than 10 people, as long as the employees can maintain a two-meter distance from one another.

The third measure, in contrast to the previous two limitations, assures that essential services will maintain their operations in full capacity. The Israeli leader explained “We are leaving essential services on a full footing. These services include supermarkets and grocery stores. I am deliberately saying this because there is no food shortage, [including] for the holiday of Passover as well. There is no reason to run to the supermarkets and empty the shelves. There is no reason. There is enough food in Israel and there will continue to be.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu concluded his statement by highlighting the commendable public accountability of Israel’s citizens, saying “These days I can tell you, citizens of Israel, we cannot hug nor can we shake hands, but we love each other, and we care for each other. I know our people and I know the immense powers that are hidden within us. I was very excited, deep in my heart, to hear of the volunteers bringing food baskets and groceries to peoples’ doors, to see reduced weddings with people singing beautifully from balconies to accompany the bride and groom, and I was excited to see teenage boys and girls volunteering to be babysitters for children whom they don’t necessarily know. This is mutual accountability at its best. The powerful partnership between government and citizens and our profound brotherhood are a great source of strength and spirit in the fight against the Corona epidemic. Together we will stand, and together with God’s help, we will win this fight, even if it takes time.”

Meanwhile, to assure that all of Jerusalem’s obligatory measures of quarantine are adhered to Israeli Police officers alongside Health Ministry agents are making every effort to verify the public’s compliance. According to Israeli Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld “The Israeli police special petrol units together with the Ministry of Health inspectors, we are going around address apartment and apartment to try and find individuals who are meant to be in isolated areas, and are not in isolated areas. This is been part of ongoing operations that is taking place every day all of these measures that are being implemented are in order to make sure that the public are safe and neighborhoods are safe. And we don’t have someone with the coronavirus walking around endangering the public.”

Rosenfeld further noted that unfortunately, not all Israelis are acting responsibly, which demands immediate action to assure public health and security. Such misbehavior has resulted in a “number of arrests in Tel Aviv area within the last 48 hours.” These include the apprehension of a woman who  “tried to evade our police officers [who] of course [were] fully equipped with all the necessary equipment in order to make sure that we stay safe… in order to protect the public at this stage of epidemic in Israel.”