Heated Debate over Second Wave of COVID-19

On Monday, Israel’s Health Ministry reported hundreds more cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed during the previous 24 hours. Consequently, the Health Minister has urged reducing the number of people allowed to attend a variety of gatherings such as weddings, bar mitzvahs and synagogue services.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein making a presentationHealth Minister Yuli Edelstein making a presentation (photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Health Ministry Director-General, Chezy Levy, told a government meeting:

“If the current trend continues without drastic measures, we will lose control
of the pandemic and there will be hundreds of dead.”

But Interior Minister, Aryeh Deri, is reported to have responded that the Health Ministry’s demands were excessive and that:

“No further steps are needed. You have to learn to live with the coronavirus.”

The Health Ministry’s concerns stem from a warning by the Israel Society for Infectious Diseases that Israel will soon be unable to contain the coronavirus without immediate decisive action.

In a letter to Chezy Levy, it said that the dramatic increase in the number of daily coronavirus infections means:

“The window for effective action is closing and if we do not begin at the start of this week,
we will miss the boat and may even lose control.”

10,138 coronavirus tests were conducted on Sunday, with 374 positive results, representing a 4% infection rate. In recent days Jerusalem has recorded the biggest rise with 100 new virus cases, followed by Ashdod with 74 and Bnei Brak with 60.

The Bedouin town of Ar`arat an-Naqab in the Negev is reported to have suffered the highest rate of spread of the virus in the country.

Recent weeks have seen 1,008 infections amongst students and staff, resulting in the closure of 256 schools.

Israel’s government is hoping to obtain a clearer picture of the spread of the virus when long-awaited serological tests begin after several weeks of delays. The survey will cover 75,000 blood samples collected in 191 towns around the country.

Around 4pm today, Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office confirmed a list of new restrictions to curb this latest rise in COVID-19 infections. They include:

  • Limiting capacity at event halls and cultural events to 250 people
  • Limiting participation in circumcisions to 50 people
  • Limiting weddings to 100 people at indoor venues and to 250 outside beginning 9th July
  • Limiting other gatherings and capacity at houses of worship to 50 people
  • Allowing university and college exams to be taken remotely
  • Having 30 percent of public sector workers work from home