Prof. Ronni Gamzu
Prof. Ronni Gamzu צילום: אוליבר פיטוסי

This morning, the government’s coronavirus czar, Professor Ronni Gamzu, announced that 6,782 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the last day, a record daily high since the outbreak of the epidemic. Although the record-high number of tests conducted partially accounts for this – 59,169 in total – the positive rate rose to 11.4%, above what it has been in recent weeks.

Speaking on Radio Jerusalem this morning, Gamzu explained that the present situation demands that the lockdown be intensified. “I want to stress that we have not been seeing full compliance from the general public,” he said. “I refer to all sectors – secular and haredi alike. We have documented instances of violations and this requires us to take harsher steps.”

Prof. Gamzu added that, “Initially, we asked for a lockdown that would take the economy into account, and then we asked for it to be tightened – and from a purely medical standpoint, the current lockdown is a tight one. During the first stage, we wanted to balance the economic needs of the country – the moment there was a request to tighten the lockdown, we had to rely on the system to enforce it. We are now seeing a record high of around 6,700 new cases today, although of course this is not related to the lockdown period, but rather to the period immediately preceding it.”

Prof. Gamzu stressed that the lockdown period should be utilized to bring the rate of contagion down, even to a minimal degree, if that is all that can be achieved.

Meanwhile, in an interview granted to Channel 12, the deputy Health Minister, Yoav Kish, expanded on the government’s intentions regarding tightening the current lockdown.

“It means that the entire education system will remain closed; only essential businesses are allowed to operate; synagogues must conduct their prayers outdoors only, in a restricted format; demonstrations may only take place outdoors with protesters not permitted to arrive from other cities in order to participate. This is what is required of us right now.”

Following an hours-long session yesterday afternoon and evening, the government’s coronavirus cabinet is due to convene again today to reach final decisions on expanding the reach of the lockdown for the coming weeks. The key disputes yesterday revolved around the issues of prayers on Yom Kippur and public demonstrations outside the Prime Minister’s Jerusalem residence, and at the meeting’s conclusion, it was decided to set up a special task force consisting of experts from the Ministries of Health, Justice, and Internal Security. Members of this task force were told to analyze the rates of infection in synagogues and at demonstrations, and also to assess the ability of the police to enforce any regulations the government might choose to impose.

Their recommendations are due to be presented to the ministers of the respective ministries – Yuli Edelstein, Avi Nissenkorn, and Amir Ohana – following which the three ministers will reach their own conclusions and present the findings to today’s meeting of the coronavirus cabinet.

Parallel to this, it is expected that the Knesset’s Education Committee will present its own demand for the reopening of preschools and kindergartens, thus enabling parents of young children to return to work. They are likely to argue that the rates of infection in this young age group are low, and therefore not significant to the entire picture. Nonetheless, estimations are that their request will be denied and that the entire education system will remain closed for the duration of the lockdown.