Jerusalem is seemingly making every effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise steadily. As of this morning, the Health Ministry registered 126 infected individuals, marking a staggering increase over the 25 identified since Sunday.
Speaking at what has become a near-daily press briefing in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underscored the need to bolster both global and domestic cooperation to combat the potentially-deadly contagion. “The virus does not take into account the borders of states, it does not distinguish between Jews and non-Jews, religious and non-religious, between right-wing people to left-wing people,” he said, adding, “We are all in the same boat. In fact, all humanity is in the same boat.”
Many are drawing comparison between COVID-19 and the devastating 1918 Spanish influenza, which is estimated to have ultimately claimed the lives of between 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million.
Seeking to stress the gravity of the disease, Netanyahu explained that mortality rate of deaths of the common flu is about 1 out of every 1,000 patients; as opposed to the 2%-4% ratio of those stricken with the coronavirus, meaning that 2-4 people will die out of every 100 cases. Pointing to estimates from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom he referred to as his “friend” and a “chemist by profession, a very reasonable and analytical woman,” Netanyahu cited that it can be expected that 60-70% of the German population will contract the virus, or some 50 million people. “Now, as the mortality rate is between 2-4%, you can do the math alone regarding the possible number of people who will die,” said the Israeli leader, emphasizing that “We are talking about a large number of people, very large number. And with us [in Israel], it may also reach large numbers. So, we are obliged to do everything, everything so that it does not happen. ”
“Our top goal is to slow down the infection rate as much as possible,” said Netanyahu, “That way we can earn precious time. First, to reduce the number of patients, treat patients who have fallen ill in such a way that the health care system will not collapse and will be able to treat them, and earn valuable time to try to find a vaccine for the virus with the best minds in Israel and abroad.”
After reminding his listeners that Israel was the first country “to oblige anyone who came from anywhere in the world to two-week isolation” and has now “prevented gatherings of more than 100 people,” Netanyahu urged the public to avoid any gatherings whatsoever. He also revealed that the government has authorized allocation of₪ 10 billion NIS to help virus-impacted businesses and to “strengthen” the health care and other critical systems. We are investing tremendous resources to increase our testing rate,” he said, adding that even though the country already maintains a relatively high standard, “We want to improve ourselves even further. ”
In addition to already-implemented restrictions, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that “as part of the keeping-distance measure we are taking another vital step – we are closing schools and universities,” effectively immediately. For the time being, the injunction will not be imposed on daycare centers, kindergartens, boarding schools, special education facilities or programs for at-risk youth.
And while the transition government in Jerusalem acting under the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu has drawn on both sides of the political aisle over efforts to limit the spread of the virus, the country’s persisting political deadlock has blocked the cabinet’s legal capacity to undertake wider comprehensive actions. To overcome this obstacle, Netanyahu asserted the need to establish an emergency national unity government. After recounting that the formation of such a government on the eve of the Six Day War prompted the country to ‘rally as one man’ and facilitated ultimate victory, he said that is why he is now calling for another emergency national unity government “now, tonight.” Even though he went on to say this needed to be done ‘without hesitation or delay,’ he did qualify that it should function for “a limited period of time” and “We must put politics aside, in the future there will be time to return to the exact point we are at now.”
“Together we will fight to save the lives of tens of thousands of civilians,” he appealed, saying that “this responsibility, national and personal, outweighs all other considerations. We will deal with this crisis together, with shares trust and belief, with only one thing on our minds – the good of the State of Israel, the health and lives of Israeli citizens.”
Blue and White Chairperson Benny Gantz responded to the call of his primary political rival with an announcement of his readiness to immediately advance the formation of an emergency unity government. Gantz wrote on his Twitter account that he “spoke a short while ago with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during which (he) offered him to immediate hold a meeting between their respective negotiating teams” in order to examine the possibility of establishing a broad national emergency government , in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.” The former IDF Chief further underscored that ‘regardless of the outcome, he will support the current transition government in any activities that relate to the Israeli public’s interests.’
Despite of the severe strain the recent measures are causing to parents of schoolchildren, the Israeli public has largely accepted the closure of most of the nation’s educational institutions. The mother of one pupil, Aurope Preszow, told Reuters that she understood and supports the government’s decisions, and that “it’s the least we can do” because “we need to be all together and think together, act together, in order to save lives.” Father Yuval Dafna said he has collected his son’s books from school after being informed that it will be closed at least until the end of the Passover holiday on 15 April, so that he will be able to study from home until that time.
For more information on the latest Israeli measures, we encourage you to visit our website at www.tv7israelnews.com where we have established a direct link to the Israeli Ministry of Health guidelines in English.