Officials: 'No way to avoid necessity of mass enforced quarantine'

Health Ministry officials insist total shutdown of businesses, enforced home quarantine, is the only way to curb spread of virus

Shimon Cohen ,

Wearing protective gear (illustrative)
Wearing protective gear (illustrative)

On Monday, the debate continues regarding the most effective way to limit the spread of coronavirus while taking into account the consequences for the economy of any measures taken. Several senior members of the Health Ministry have now renewed their demands for a comprehensive shutdown across the country.

Until now, the guidelines for the public have been evolving in a gradual manner. In the last week alone, the number of people permitted to gather has been reduced from 5,000 to 2,000, and then from 100 to 10. Many business have been shuttered and others have been advised to maintain only a skeleton staff. Thus far, the Prime Minister and other senior government figures have resisted calls for more draconian measures, but the continued spread of the virus has spurred those calling for a total shutdown to renew their demands.

A report in Yediot Aharonot quoted a senior official at the Health Ministry as saying: “At the current stage of the epidemic, there is no way to avoid the necessity of a widespread shutdown, despite the great public opposition that is anticipated to such a move. Those who heard the Prime Minister's speech on Saturday night should have understood from his words that the advice to limit public gatherings and maintain a significant distance between people really means that we should be staying at home as much as possible.”

“The situation in Italy and Spain is catastrophic, and other countries, including the US, are on the way to finding themselves in a similar crisis. At this stage there is no more room for hesitation. Control of the situation must be urgently transferred to the Defense Ministry and people should be ordered to stay at home, in order to curb the spread of the virus.”

Other government ministries, however, consider a total shutdown to be an unnecessarily radical step that could have a devastating impact on the economy.

As of Monday morning, 250 people are known to have been infected with coronavirus in Israel. Four of them are in serious condition; 11 are in moderate condition; and the rest have mild cases. Four people have made a recovery. One of the patients who was in serious condition has already made a partial recovery and has been taken off a respirator and is no longer in an induced coma. He is now breathing on his own, and can speak with family members on the telephone.