Israel is tightening its current lockdown almost immediately in order to “save lives” and get a grip on spiraling COVID infection rates that have surged to more than 8,000 a day — more than 7% of those tested.
"We are in the midst of a global pandemic that is spreading at top speed with the British mutation. It has reached Israel and is claiming many lives,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
He called for a full lockdown immediately which would mean making the current third national lockdown even stricter.
The government passed the new rules which will shut down all schools, kindergartens and daycares, all nonessential businesses and international travel for two weeks.
“Every hour that we delay, the disease spreads even quicker and it is exacting a heavy price. Therefore, we need here not only the cooperation of the Cabinet ministers, and we have it, we need the cooperation of the citizens of Israel and I am certain that we have that also. We need the Knesset to pass this without delay, immediately. This is the saving of lives, nothing less.”
The new rules will go into effect at midnight on Thursday and last for at least two weeks upon which the cabinet will vote on whether to continue the lockdown or ease segments of it.
Some businesses have yet to reopen since the second lockdown which was imposed in September. And yet, school has been back in session for some grades since November. Restaurants, gyms and hotels have no reopened. Malls reopened for two weeks before the third lockdown was imposed two weeks ago. And now even street front stores will be closed again.
“We need to get to a total lockdown. No nonessential work, with the education system closed, with zero gatherings. Only in this kind of situation can we get through this new outbreak and get to a situation where a million Israelis have been vaccinated,” Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said.
As of Tuesday, 1.5 million Israels had been vaccinated.
Hospitals have warned they are nearing a state of emergency, prompting the calls for this type of lockdown.
“We are already at the peak of serious patients today and the hospital system will find it difficult to give treatment to both coronavirus patients and other patients at the same time,” said Dr. Zeev Feldman, chairman of the Organization of the State Employed Physicians of Israel and deputy president of the Israeli Medical Association. “My cry rises from the corridors of hospitals flooded with patients [and] medical teams stretched to their limits.”
Some 828 patients are in serious condition, including more than 200 who are intubated while nearly 3,500 people in Israel have died of COVID as of Tuesday.
But a group of 130 doctors said they “do not find any medical justification for continuing to take these measures without consent and warn that the basis for this is not medical.” They are calling on the government to change its “coercive,” “dangerous” and “destructive” approach to shutting down all of Israel.
“It is now possible to characterize populations that are at increased risk for significant morbidity from the virus, which requires a focus on protecting them, and eliminates measures that harm the lifestyles of the entire population,” they wrote urging the government to rethink their policies.
The doctors staged a protest on New Year's Even at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.
“On the other hand, there is ample evidence of the enormous damage of measures such as closure and shutdown of education systems on the health and lives of citizens, damage affecting all areas of existence: health in the broadest sense, economy, livelihood, education, culture, social life, leisure, mental well-being, to an increase in domestic violence and loneliness and its many harms.”
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS