JERUSALEM, Israel - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel will not release further coronavirus restrictions until the number of new cases decreases.
“There is no doubt that we need to stop the disease. The disease is coming back and we have, at least for now, finished opening up the economy,” Netanyahu said while speaking at a ceremony honoring the retirement of outgoing-Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov.
Netanyahu’s announcement comes amid an increase in coronavirus cases since releasing lockdown restrictions.
More than 20,000 people have been infected with the disease in Israel and about 15,500 people have already recovered. So far, there have been 303 deaths and 28 people are currently on ventilators.
Israeli leaders began the process of opening the economy after weeks of a strict lockdown that shattered the economy and triggered the nation’s biggest unemployment crisis in its history.
Despite easing coronavirus restrictions, Israelis are struggling to get back to work. Israel’s Employment Service reported on Tuesday that approximately 960,000 Israelis are looking for work, which amounts to an unemployment rate of 23.5%
Before the pandemic, Israel’s unemployment rate stood at 3.9%. Unemployment shot up to 27.5% at the height of the crisis.
While Israel continues to battle the coronavirus, Finance Minister Israel Katz told Israeli media “there is no room for a general closure.”
“By the end of the year, we will reach an even bigger deficit,” Katz said. “We won’t close anything across the board. We can deal with it in a pinpoint manner with enforcement and quarantine… Even if we experience what happened here at the beginning, there is no room for a general closure.”