The coronavirus cabinet, convening on Thursday, Sept. 3 under the shadow of a record 3,074 infection spike, consigned 30 towns and regions to lockdown as of next Monday in an attempt to limit the pandemic’s spread. The coronavirus director Prof. Ronni Gamzu said that failing a turnaround in infection figures by Sept. 10, the rest of the country will also face broad restraints that could extend to the festival season in the second half of the month. The director will use this week to assess the impact of the reopening of schools on Sept. 1 on the soaring infection graph.
The 30 hotbed towns are to shut down schools, public institutions and retail stores, barring food and pharmaceuticals. Residents may move no more than half a kilometer from their homes. Ingress and exit from these towns will be prohibited except for essential services. Public transport will be suspended. Police backed by soldiers are to enforce these restrictions. On the Gamzu “red” list are Bnei Brak, Tira, Bet Shemesh, Kafr Qassem, Umm al-Fahm, Elad, Betar Illit, Laqiye, Dalyat al-Carmel, Maale Iron and Taybeh. About one million people are affected. While Jerusalem the city is not listed, some of its neighborhoods are..
Most of the “red” towns have either predominantly ultra-Orthodox or Arab populations, partly due to cramped, crowded living conditions and partly because they tend to flout the rules by staging large weddings and other events.
The ultra-Orthodox cabinet ministers accuse the authorities – and especially Prof. Gamzu – of discrimination and report that their communities have no confidence in government policies. They and also Arab leaders ask why the weekly mass demonstrations against the prime minister are allowed, when their celebrations are barred. These anomalies present the coalition government led by PM Binyamin Netanyahu with political dilemmas.
This lack of trust has permeated wider circles as well, amid charges that politics are tainting decision-making that should focus solely on public health concerns. It is manifested in social gatherings without the mandatory distancing and frequent disregard of masks.
Some health experts insist that unless these fundamental rules are painstakingly enforced by the authorities down to grass-root levels, lockdowns will not succeed in curbing the covid-19 contagion. Although the number of serious cases has stayed relatively steady at 400 plus per day, hospital directors are warning that unless the general infection figures are brought down quickly, they will soon inflate their seriously ill caseload.
The updated infection figure for Thursday was boosted by a record 3,074 in 24 hours to 122,539 with 23, 698 active cases and 418 in serious condition. The death toll rose to 969.