Israel’s efforts to combat the coronavirus are being further heighted, as the number of confirmed cases soared to 2,495; 39 of whom are diagnosed in critical condition. The Ministry of Health confirmed to TV7 that three patients, including a 91-year-old woman from the center of the country, have succumbed to the disease, raising the mortality rate to eight.
In light of the unrelenting spread of the contagion, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Jerusalem is undertaking “logistical and legal” preparations for a probable “complete lockdown” to be imposed in “a matter of a few days.”
“The steps that we have taken here in Israel are today being taken all over the world; however, they are not enough because the number of patients is doubling itself every three days. In two weeks, we are liable to find ourselves with thousands of patients many of whom will be in danger of death,” Netanyahu warned. He went on to add that “if we do not see an immediate improvement in the trend, there will be no alternative but to impose a complete lockdown except for essential needs such as food and medicines.”
Netanyahu further noted that emergency regulations for the upcoming days have been published, which entail further restrictions on going out into the public. “I say this as clearly as possible,” he stated, insisting, “You must stay home! Stay home – stay alive.”
It has been revealed that there are only 1,500 respirators in Israel, but that 2,864 more will be available in the near future. Rising global demand for ventilators and other lifesaving medical equipment has made it increasingly difficult to acquire. Describing worldwide competition as “fierce,” “wild and vicious,” Netanyah said that Israel is “investing very great efforts in procurement” of “protective clothing, swabs and ventilators,” and that “a national command center” has been established under the leadership of the head of the Mossad intelligence agency, together with the Defense and Health Ministries, “to advance medical procurement abroad and to promote the local production of the necessary equipment.”
Netanyahu said, “I see and hear the distress. I hear your distress over work, over earning a living, over running a business. My heart goes out to you.” He then vowed that the government “will help you. We will look out for you. We have a strong economy. We have resources, great resources even, and we will help you. We will help each other in order to overcome this crisis.”
Self-isolation orders have forced more than 830,000 citizens to file for unemployment so far, with numbers steadily rising.
Saying that “I cannot tell you, and nobody can tell you, when exactly the corona crisis will end,” the Israeli leader highlighted Jerusalem’s strategy for forward-planning. “We have established a team to plan for the ending of the crisis, consisting of best minds in Israel, in my opinion, among the best minds in the world. The moment we are past the event, we will quickly rebuild our economy, and with God’s help – we will return to normal life.”
Netanyahu stressed, however, that life as it was known has been altered drastically. “All of us together, citizens of Israel, are writing a new chapter in the history of Israel. Coming generations will look at us in order to learn how to act in times of crisis. This requires all of us to take personal responsibility. This requires all of us to take national responsibility.”
In reference to the political impasse that has also plagued the country, Netanyahu acknowledged that “there is considerable unrest in all parts of the people, in both parts of the people. I say as clearly as possible: We must put an end to this. We are one people. We are one state and the order of the day is unity. I reiterate my call to immediately establish a national emergency government to deal with the crisis.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu concluded his remarks by mentioning the upcoming Biblical festival Passover, which commemorates the mercy of God to his people the Israelites. “The [Hebrew] month of Nissan, which begins tonight, the month of spring and the exodus from Egypt, reminds us that our people have withstood fierce storms. This gives strength. This gives hope.”
“We survived Pharaoh – and although the battle will be hard and uncompromising – we will also survive corona, with God’s help and with yours, citizens of Israel,” he said.
Government measures against freedom of movement and business-closures are being enforced by the police. Superintendent Micky Rosenfeld, who is the Police Spokesperson, commented that most of the public is “mostly understanding” of the restrictions and aware of the severity of COVID-19. He added that it is “absolutely critical” to achieve a “minimum amount of movement.”
Israel is also engaged in a struggle to return all Israelis home who are stranded abroad. The Foreign Ministry chartered a plane of the national El Al carrier to retrieve citizens in Australia. One unnamed traveler explained that she had cancelled her itinerary to Asia, after deciding to “go home to Israel where it’s safe and sound, where I can be with parents and my family that can take care of me.” Another said it was important to be home with his family to celebrate the Passover holiday. Explaining that he had a hard time making his way home amid the flurry of cancelled international flights, he added, “now we’re on El Al and we’re happy, we want to be home. Thank you El Al!”
The Foreign Ministry’s Director for the Asia and Pacific Division, Gilad Cohen, noted that the critical situation and timing have brought about the first direct flight between Australia and the Jewish State. Cohen also stressed the urgency of bringing Israelis home before skies around the world are completely closed to air traffic.