More population groups will be confined to their homes in the expanded lockdown announced by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday night, March 16 after the number of coronavirus victims rose to 277. Health Ministry director Moshe Bar Simantov warned that the rate of infections was gaining momentum and doubling itself at high speed. If Israel fails to declare a total lockdown on the country, he warned that the number of covid-19 cases forecast will reach 10,000 in 10 days to two weeks.
The IDF has been enlisted for the first time to help deal with the emergency. The Homeland Defense Command has taken over hotels in the main cities – idle for lack of tourists – for use as centers for the treatment of quarantined coronavirus patients to ease the burden on the hospitals.
While abstaining from a comprehensive national lockdown at this time, the prime minister nonetheless announced more steps in addition to the stringent restrictions already in place.
Economic activity already reduced will be shrunk further by placing the public sector on emergency footing. Most of the work force in government ministries is to be put on unpaid leave until after the Passover holiday. Public institutions including banks will cut down on staff at their desks and public transport scaled down. This latest package is in effect a compromise between the demands of the health authorities and the determination by the ministry of finance that the economy cannot withstand a complete lockdown. Furthermore, digital surveillance of confirmed cases will be in force for 30 days.
The crisis took another sharp turn on Monday with a flood of complaints from hospitals and medical institutions of a severe shortage of equipment for coping with the disease, and lack of protective gear for medical staff.