Israel is heading into a second’ forced nation-wide shutdown, as part of what Jerusalem officials insist, is the only way to diminish the uncontrollable spread of the corona-contagion. According to the Israeli Health Ministry’s latest accumulated data, 6,808 Israelis were diagnosed as carriers of the disease out of 54,364 tested-individuals in the past 24 hours alone. In spite of an already enforced closure (even though a limited one) Israel’s Health System is evidently increasingly challenged by the pandemic, struggling to deal with the rapid increase of new coronavirus patients in recent days– which includes a staggering rise of 17,717 patients out of 56,901 active cases in total over the course of merely three-days – of whom 667 are diagnosed either in critical or severe condition. “Right now we are facing an increase in the numbers of patients admitted to the hospital, some of them are in a critical condition, some of them in a severe condition and yes we are looking forward for the next few days to a week, concerned regarding the increasing numbers, we might be facing totally different numbers and totally different atmosphere in the hospital and we are preparing ourselves for this situation,” Dr. Guy Choshen, Israeli Ichilov Hospital – COVID ward Medical Director.
Another alarming factor pertains to the mortality rate that is gradually on the rise, with a total of 1,335 Israelis who succumbed to the disease. In light of these numbers, and the growing strain on the Israeli health system; Jerusalem’s corona-cabinet held a length-meeting that lasted into the night, during which it decided to approve a near-complete shutdown of the country. “We reached a moment of truth. The second wave of the coronavirus hits the entire world, it also hits us. The morbidity rate in Israel is rising, the number of critical patients is rising, unfortunately so is the number of deaths. In the past two days, we heard from the experts that if we don’t take immediate and difficult steps, we will reach the edge of the abyss.” / “In order to save the lives of Israeli citizens, we are required to impose of full lockdown for two weeks. From this Friday, until the end of Simhat Torah (holiday – October 10th). Thereafter, we will continue for another two weeks of closure, I hope with less restrictions, but I say beforehand, pending the morbidity rates data,” Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister said.
Netanyahu also responded to growing criticism from the general Israeli public, which decries the decision to implement a nation-wide shut-down, out of seeming frustration in all that pertains to their personal security and livelihoods – with unemployment rates currently standing at around 24 percent. “The goal is to lower the morbidity rate, and the goal is explicitly ‘saving lives in Israel.’ This is also demanded for the sake of the economy. Whoever thinks that we can continue to work with a plague breaking out, with morbidity and mortality rates rising, and that this would not impact the economy, is wrong. And if we need to act and implement difficult measures, it is preferred to do it during the holiday season, now, when the (Israeli) economy is in low gear,” Netanyahu said.
Despite the government’s rationale for a nation-wide shut-down, Israelis are seemingly unconvinced that the Jerusalem leadership is tentative to their rapidly growing hardships. “I think the government is using and deploying actions that there’s no medical agreement that are necessary to combat the new infections which is in a way kind of upsetting because I’m happy to cooperate with any measures that have a rational behind it and I’m not convinced that this specifically does,” Nathaniel Lavi, Israeli Resident of Tel Aviv.
“I think the government’s decision is not helping us at all, it’s for them to be able to sit in their chairs and not to really.. to solve the problem and it goes like this for a long time and people are not… we don’t feel that anybody really cares about us,” Talma Botavia, Israeli Resident of Tel Aviv.
“I think that the government is completely dysfunctional. I mean, nothing, nothing that is related to the country, to the citizens is in its priority. Nobody is thinking about us, I really feel it right now, I mean, that we are not a factor in anything, right now,” Osnat Livnat, Israeli Resident of Tel Aviv.
While the nation-wide shutdown will be enforced from two O’clock tomorrow afternoon; Israeli Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told TV7 that an exception will be made on Monday of next week, when Israelis will be permitted to gather in Synagogues for prayers on Yom Kippur, which is Hebrew for the Day of Atonement. “The Israeli national police will be implementing a full lockdown across the country, from the north to the south, after a cabinet decision was made. The lockdown will begin at two o’clock in the afternoon tomorrow, on Friday, and will continue for at least two weeks.” / “This includes shops, businesses and synagogues being shut down across the country. Synagogues will only be opened for Yom Kippur. And we are hoping and making sure that people will keep social distancing, individuals will wear masks at all times in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, after we’ve seen a massive increase over the last 24 hours, with more than 7,000 cases confirmed,” Micky Rosenfeld, Israeli Police Spokesman.
Per the cabinet’s decision, the private and public sectors’ activity will be drastically curtailed. Only workplaces defined as essential will be allowed to open. The activity of 30% of the private sector will be prohibited, as was the case in the previous lockdown in March. The sectors that will be considered essential are the financial sector, the energy sector, food and drink, welfare services, agriculture, toiletries and cleaning, ports and transportation, the media, health services, construction and infrastructure and the supply chains of all these sectors. As for the public sector, common criteria will be set for its activity, which will be limited to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Finance Ministry and the National Security Council, among others. It is interesting to mention that neither Israeli Finance Minister Yisrael Katz, nor Bank of Israel Governor professor Amir Yaron, supported the government’s decision to enforce a nation-wide shutdown. Separately, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, commonly referred to by its acronym OECD, called on Israel’s leadership to immediately adopt a series of economic measures that would diminish the financial ramification of the corona-related shutdown. Currently, according to the OECD’s public statement, forecasts indicate a gradual recovery for Israel’s Gross Domestic Product to 2.9 percent in 2021, after a drop of six percent in 2020.