Netanyahu Warns of Total Lockdown as Coronavirus Infects 2,369 Israelis

Israel - Total Lockdown - Israeli Police
(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

If Israel does not see an immediate improvement in the trend of the number of people infected with coronavirus, then the country will have no choice but to implement a full closure even within the next few days, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Wednesday, minutes after the number of sick Israelis climbed to 2,369, according to the Health Ministry.

“The steps that we have taken here in Israel are being taken all over the world; however, they are not enough because the number of patients is doubling every three days,” the prime minister said. “In two weeks we are liable to find ourselves with thousands of patients many of whom will be in danger of death.

“Therefore, I am already telling you,” he continued, “that if we do not see an immediate improvement in the trend, there will be no alternative but to impose a complete lockdown, except for essential needs such as food and medicines. This is a matter of a few days. We are making all of the requisite preparations – logistical and legal.”

The prime minister’s speech came only four hours after a new round of stricter regulations to contain the coronavirus outbreak came into effect at 5 p.m., and on the backdrop of the news that two more Israelis died overnight.

Netanyahu added that the Defense Ministry and the Mossad are working together to procure necessary medical equipment from abroad, as well as considering ways to have such equipment manufactured in Israel. He added that a plan to ease the economic strain on the Israeli public and businesses would be rolled out in the coming days.

The government-approved state-of-emergency restrictions drastically reduce freedom of movement. For the next seven days at least, people will only be allowed to go on short walks within 100 meters of their homes.

Additional restrictions: Public transport will be drastically reduced; attending weddings or other religious ceremonies is allowed, if 10-participant and two-meter rules are followed; going to the mikvah is allowed, as long as arrangements have been made in advance; only two people may travel in a car at one time and they may only be traveling to or from an approved place of work or to the grocery store, pharmacy or a medical appointment; private taxis will be available, but only one passenger and the driver can be in the car at a time.

No deliveries can be made except for approved items including newspapers, and essential products and appliances, such as for medical needs.

All businesses must be closed, including from within one’s residence, except for various food stores and pharmacies, and those selling optical, hygiene or telecommunications products, electrical appliances or medical accessories. Online sale with shipping is allowed for all types of products: when delivered to private homes, the shipment will be placed outside the residence.

Essential services will remain open, including supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and banks, which will operate as normal. However, stores must mark a two 2-meter distance between people at checkout lines and ensure that no more than four people are waiting to check out at a time.

People can go to work as long as the guidelines are followed, but employers must check the temperature of all those arriving and anyone with a temperature of more than 38 degrees Celsius or above must be refused.

In addition, the government has approved Israeli’s right to protest, so long as they do it in accordance with the Health Ministry’s rules: no more than 10 people and a space of two meters between people. In addition, children of divorced parents can continue to travel between the two houses.

Breaking the regulations constitutes a criminal offense and those who transgress them will face fines between NIS 500 and NIS 5,000 or a suspended jail sentence.

Police reported on Wednesday that it had so far opened 135 investigations against individuals who broke quarantine and 163 cases against those who held illegal gatherings.

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