Israel Continues To Weigh New Restrictions As Coronavirus Cases Rise

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Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz at the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

JERUSALEM (JNS) – A meeting of Israel’s coronavirus Cabinet on Sunday to discuss the possible implementation of new restrictions to stem the sharply rising number of new COVID-19 cases ended without any final decision having been made on the issue.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Cabinet to shorten to 48 hours the time required to trace and quarantine those who have been in contact with known carriers, and to reduce the time taken from the time a COVID-19 test is requested until the results are delivered to 12 hours, according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office.

At the meeting, ministers also discussed the possibility of 30 percent of public-sector work being shifted to employees’ homes. The discussion on upping restrictions on the public gatherings will continue tomorrow, according to the statement.

As of Sunday morning, the country’s COVID-19 death toll stood at 318, according to the Israeli Health Ministry, while more than 17,000 have recovered out of a total of 23,421 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. There are 212 coronavirus patients hospitalized across the country, with 45 in serious condition.

On Saturday, a 19-year-old girl suffering from several serious pre-existing medical conditions died of COVID-19, becoming the country’s youngest victim of the pandemic, Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center reported.

At the start of Sunday’s meeting, Netanyahu said Israel was not the only country having to consider re-imposing restrictions due to a resurgence of the disease.

“The pandemic is raising its head around the world. We have passed the threshold of ten million infected people and 500,000 dead,” worldwide, said Netanyahu.

“I do not know if this is the second wave; I do know that this is a rising wave. Many countries that lifted the restrictions, upon a lessening of the disease, are now being compelled to re-impose the restrictions in order to block the spread. We have seen in other places that this is not a health or economic issue because a severe blow to health is also a very severe blow to the economy,” he continued.

When Israel had begun to reopen its economy, said the prime minister, he had spoken of an “accordion policy.”

“You open [the economy] and if you see the disease returning and spreading—you tighten it. This is not a zigzag; it is the policy of any sane country and it is also how we will act,” he said.

The prime minister reiterated that the health and economic aspects of the pandemic were linked.

“If we succeed with health, we will succeed with the economy. It is my intention that we succeed with both. This requires determined action, which is not always simple, but is required at this time. We will take action regarding health and the economy and with God’s help we will be victorious.”

Some of the new restrictions being considered include a limit of up to 150 people at events, as well as compartmentalized camp groups. The Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee was set to meet on Sunday afternoon to discuss extending emergency regulations.

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