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Israel Announces New Closures as Country Nears Second COVID Lockdown

Photo Credit: AP
Photo Credit: AP

As Israel braces for a possible second, total lockdown, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted that Israel may have re-opened its economy too soon.

“Looking back, as part of trial and error, it can be said that this last step was premature,” Netanyahu said.

The prime minister said it was out of concern for the people that they had reopened the economy, “because we listened to your hardships and wanted to put as many of you back into the workforce as possible.”

Now, he said those who had urged the opening are asking, “Why did you open this way?”

Israel announced a new list of communities that would be closed to outsiders across the country beginning Friday afternoon. 

The neighborhoods are primarily ultra-Orthodox religious communities where the population has large families living in small apartments.  Those restricted communities are in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Lod, Ramle and Kiryat Malachi, with lesser restrictions going into effect in other places.

Netanyahu urged the public to wear masks. “Studies show that when two people wear masks and stay two meters apart, the chance of getting infected is nil,” he said.

More than 8,500 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus so far in the first 10 days of July compared to 8,395 in all of June – with more than 1,600 in just 24 hours.  By midday Friday, Israel had had 35,533 coronavirus cases; 18,532 had recovered; 124 cases are considered serious and there have been 350 deaths.

Israel’s Health Minister Yuli Edelstein warned of a second lockdown.

“If we reach 2,000 patients a day, this will be a flashing red light,” Edelstein was quoted as saying by the Ynet news site. “We’re trying not to get there, but this will likely lead us to a general lockdown.”

The Israel Defense Forces has also seen an upsurge in cases. There are more than twice the number of sick soldiers now than at the height of the virus outbreak, the head of the IDF Medical Corps was quoted as telling the Jerusalem Post.

There are 370 soldiers sick right now out of a total of 650, all in light condition.  And another 10,000 are in quarantine including the IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi.   Defense Minister Benny Gantz is also in quarantine.  Both leaders are healthy and  are not displaying symptoms.

Many Israelis are wondering what went wrong.  Israel was among the first to get a handle on the COVID-19, locking down its economy, forbidding family gatherings on the holidays and visits to grandparents as well as closing down world-renowned holy sites.

They managed to quash the curve and begin to re-open the economy and the country in May.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu and finance minister Israel Katz announced the nation will spend 80 billion shekels (more than $23 billion) to help the middle and lower classes cope with the financial hardships caused by the coronavirus closures.

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