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ONE-YEAR LOCKDOWN? Israel's exit from current shutdown could take 12 months, says Netanyahu

Stacked chairs in a closed salad bar on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on September 30, 2020, during a nationwide lockdown. (Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel's current national lockdown put in place to control the spread of COVID-19 could last up to one year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at yesterday's coronavirus cabinet meeting.

“Exiting the lockdown will be slow and gradual this time, and could last even half a year to a year,” Netanyahu said according to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. "We will not repeat the rapid exit that we did in the first wave.”

This news came as Israel set a new daily record of coronavirus infection with the Ministry of Health reporting more than 9,000 in one day - and this nearly two full weeks into the present lockdown.

Netanyahu also said the country must be prepared to deal with 5,000 coronavirus patients in critical condition by November. The nation's death toll has already surpassed 1,500.

As it is, the cabinet members extended the current lockdown by three days until Oct. 14 — including a closure on Ben-Gurion Airport.

Exiting the lockdown is going to depend on data and not dates.

But some Knesset members were not prepared to tighten the already severe lockdown which led to clashes in the cabinet meeting. For instance, the cabinet wanted to restrict the current perimeter of 1 kilometer to just 100 or 200 meters.

“We’re driving the public crazy, let’s stay with a thousand meters and that’s it,” alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz was reported as saying.

“You will not tell us that we are driving the public crazy. We work according to data, not according to feelings,” Netanyahu shouted back.

None of this is good news for businesses owners who have already been subject to varying degrees of being shut down since March. The current education system along with many businesses, and will limit the right to protest — may last months or even up to a year.

The exit strategy will depend on data and not dates with an aim to get to 100 new cases a day and eventually only 1,000 a month, according to Yedioth.

The cabinet also recommended doubling fines for various violations from leaving one’s house without a mask to businesses opening against the regulations and people breaking quarantine.

Meanwhile, the ultra-Orthodox - who make up just 12 percent of Israel's population - comprise the bulk of new virus infections.

“Forty percent of the confirmed [cases] are ultra-Orthodox,” coronavirus czar Ronny Gamzu said.

“The 9,000 new cases didn’t surprise me, since it was taken after Yom Kippur. This is a total from Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. We can assume we’ll see these numbers continue today,” he continued.

After Yom Kippur, news footage showed several religious communities across the country in flagrant violation of restrictions which included limits not he number of people allowed in an indoors space to social distancing and mask wearing. In one video, hundreds of worshipper were dancing together and few were wearing masks.

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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