Holiday Closure:
'Will the lockdown actually end after three weeks? No one knows'

Lockdown will cost at least 10 billion shekels, says Likud minister, warning there is no guarantee lockdown will actually end after 3 weeks.

David Rosenberg ,

Lockdown imposed in Ramle
Lockdown imposed in Ramle
Yossi Aloni/Flash90

Higher Education and Water Resources Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) blasted Coronavirus Czar Ronni Gamzu and his staff over their conduct leading up to the government’s passage of the lockdown plan, warning that the plan was drawn up with no clear exit strategy, leaving the door open for endless extensions.

In an interview with Channel 12’s “Hadashot HaBoker” Monday morning, Elkin warned that as is, the three-week planned lockdown is estimated to cost 10 billion shekels ($2.89 billion).

“The Finance Ministry showed us the costs of five different scenarios. Under the first proposal [for a lockdown] brought before us, the cost of the economic damage would have been 30 billion shekels ($8.68). In the end, the plan we voted on had a cost of around 10 billion shekels, according to the Finance Ministry’s estimates. The Finance Minister worked tirelessly, and managed to soften the lockdown effects on the economy, cutting the damage down to about one third of what it was originally estimated to be.”

Elkin was one of three ministers who voted Sunday night against the lockdown, joining Economy Minister Amir Peretz (Labor) and Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir (Blue and White) voted against the lockdown plan. Ministers Itzik Shmuli (Labor) and Ofir Akunis (Likud) abstained.

In the interview Monday, Elkin explained his reason for opposing the lockdown plan, and criticized Coronavirus Czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu for failing to give clear goals for the lockdown.

“It was something really significant which bothered me, which caused me to vote against. I asked but did not get from Gamzu or his staff members clear answers regarding the exit strategy or the goals we need to reach to end the lockdown. The number of patients, the number of patients in serious condition, the number of people on respirators – where do they want us to get to? I expect Gamzu and his people to set clear goals and to take responsibility for them.”

Elkin warned that without a clear exit strategy or explicitly delineated goals, the three-week lockdown would not necessarily end on October 9th, as planned.

“When they don’t give you numbers, afterwards no one is responsible. I said in the deliberation that I’m willing to take even more restrictive measures, but I expect Gamzu and his people to give us clearer, more definite answers. I got numbers on the economy, but, unfortunately, I didn’t get any regarding the health situation.”

“The lockdown will of course last at least until the end of Simhat Torah, but no one can say whether after Simhat Torah we’ll end the lockdown or what the criteria are.”

Ekin’s comments come after Health Ministry Director-General Hezy Levy hinted that the lockdown could continue past the initial three-week period.

“I believe that if we see the situation falling below 1,000 [new] patients per day and the right kind of behavior and a trend of declining infections along with a stabilizing of the hospital system, that will be a positive sign for considering ending the lockdown. We will put together the criteria in the coming days.”

The lockdown is set to begin at 2:00 p.m. this Friday, and is officially set to last for three weeks, through October 9th.

During the three-week lockdown, Israelis will be required to remain within 500 meters of their homes, except when leaving for essential needs, including food and medicine purchases.

Schools, which were originally planned to close this Wednesday, will close on Friday, and remain closed for the duration of the lockdown.

Hotels will be required to close during the lockdown, and all indoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people. Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 20 people.

Prayer groups will be limited in size during the lockdown, based on a town’s infection rate. Public transportation will operate, but on a limited basis.