With coronavirus surging past 4,000 a day, the ministers opt for full Festival closure

The covid ministerial panel agreed on Sept. 9 that a form of lockdown was unavoidable in the coming festival season, which starts in eight days’ time, to restrain the galloping infection. The ministers approved the full lockdown format proposed by PM Binyamin Netanyahu in preference to the more nuanced “tight restraints” put forward by the Coronavirus director Prof. Yossi Gamzu, although some of its elements were integrated in the final version.

The PM urged going all the way to comprehensive closure in stages as the fastest way to bring the surging coronavirus infection under control.

In the first stage, schools and retail trade will be closed, except for suppliers of essentials, such as food and medicines. Synagogues will hold prayers according to the Gamzu plan’s prescriptions indoors and outdoors. Restaurants, cafes and bars will be closed except for home deliveries as will restaurants and bars, and movement restricted to a 500m radius outside people’s homes.

In the second 14-day stage, starting around Oct. 1, schools will remain closed except for remote lessons, movement will continue to be restricted and gatherings banned in accordance with the grades set out by the Gamzu traffic light plan.

Some of the ministers preferred the Gamzu plan. Minister of Finance Yisrael Katz estimated that full lockdown would cost the economy another NIS12-13 billion (about $3.5bn) and force it revisit the one-million jobless figure. And those businesses who got back on their feet from the shock of the first lockdown in April, might not make it a second time round. The most vulnerable now would be the hospitality and leisure industries which rely heavily on the holiday season.

A breakdown of the new covid-19 figures revealed a changing anatomy of infection. Whereas the elderly dominated the earlier outbreak, the latest figures show a prevalence of young people – the 15-18 age group (including mainly yeshiva students in the ultra-Orthodox communities) and the 18-21 age group (members of the armed forces).
The coronavirus ministers left it to the full cabinet to approve this plan on Sunday and determine when the closures go into effect – next Tuesday or next Friday, Rosh Hashana (New Year) Eve. The coalition members will be taxed with overcoming their deep differences and reaching a consensus on the most effective means for dealing with the emergency of a deadly pandemic. Ways must then be found to enforce Implementation of the lockdown in the face of rising public disobedience.  Defense Minister Benny Gantz has already ordered the IDF Home Command to start enlisting troops to assist the police in maintaining order and helping out with food and other supplies for the needy.

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