Israel’s second full lockdown for curtailing the rapid surge of coronavirus infection starts on Friday, Sept 25 at 14.00 hours and lasts up until Oct. 11. That morning, 7,527 new cases were recorded, 669 hospitalized in serious condition and 1,378 deaths. The toughened restrictions order the closure of shops, schools and private workplaces, as well as synagogues, except for Yom Kippur – otherwise outdoor prayers are allowed in well-spaced groups of 20. All movement is limited to 1 km from home. This rule is also to be applied to participants in demonstrations, if the Law Committee can overcome the thousands of objections filed by the opposition to this amendment to the Coronavirus Emergency Law. In any case, the full lockdown goes ahead on time regardless.
Certain waivers were announced on Friday, listing the essential services that will continue to operate full or part-time during the lockdown. They include limited bus and rail services, high-tech industries, the Defense Ministry and defense industries, the Atomic Energy Commission, the National Security Commission, the IDF, the Shin Bet security service, police, prison services, the local fire brigades, local authority offices, the power grid, water, ports, building, the stock exchange, national insurance, social welfare, medical facilities for the disabled, private kindergartens for children of essential personnel, and youth-at-risk classes.
Restaurants will be closed except for home deliveries.
After 16 days, the covid-19 infection graph will be evaluated to determine if the lockdown is to be extended or lightened in careful stages.
The second lockdown took two days to gain majority approval in the Coronavirus Ministerial Committee before passing through the full cabinet and parliament. Most of the counterarguments related to the economic fallout. According to one estimate, tens of billions of shekels would go down the drain, another 300,000 people would lose their jobs and some sectors would sink for good. The elderly would also continue to suffer hardship having to spend another festival alone. Visits by children and grandchildren are proscribed and participation in all domestic events reduced to the “nuclear families.” The food stores were packed with shoppers ahead of the lockdown – although food stores and pharmacies will remain open – and more than 100,000 Israelis decided to fly overseas and stay abroad for the duration of the closure.
The government’s decision is based on universal application to all sectors excepting only for people employed in essential services. The extreme measure, advocated by PM Binyamin Netanyahu when the number of new cases a day climbed past 7,000 and serious cases to 657, was finally endorsed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz who acknowledged there was no option and appealed for unity in the national response.
The ministers of his Kahol Lavan party had stood out against the decision over the restrictions imposed on anti-government protests along with gatherings of all kinds. Finance Minister Yisrael Katz voted against the decision, which brings private business sector to a halt for more than two weeks, as a price too high to pay for the country’s economic wellbeing.
In the end, it was agreed that prayer services and demonstrations alike are be restricted alike to 20 participants outdoors. Both chief rabbis ordered the closure of synagogues even on Yom Kippur the holiest day of the Jewish year, as well as the subsequent Succoth festival, for the sake of saving lives. Anti-government protesters will be confined like the rest of the population to within 1km of their homes, thereby breaking up the unruly, mass outbreaks taking place weekly outside the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.