Amid surge in cases, Knesset extends emergency coronavirus regulations

Amid surge in cases, Knesset extends emergency coronavirus regulations

Law allowing government to impose restrictions to control spread of virus extended by 45 days ahead of cabinet meeting to discuss resurgence in cases

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to a Likud party meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament in Jerusalem on May 25, 2020. (Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to a Likud party meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament in Jerusalem on May 25, 2020. (Flash90)

The Knesset voted late Tuesday to extend emergency regulations that allow the government to impose coronavirus restrictions on the public as Israel struggles with a resurgence in cases.

The previous regulation expired at midnight Monday and the lawmakers voted Tuesday to renew them for an additional 45 days with the high-level coronavirus cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, set to convene  Wednesday afternoon to discuss the rise in cases and whether to reimpose certain restrictions.

The Health Ministry on Tuesday night recorded 258 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, marking the highest surge in daily infections since late April.

Overall, there were 3,744 active virus cases as of Tuesday — an increase of over 1,700 new cases since June 1, ministry data indicated. Tel Aviv, seen as a center of the newest outbreak, has passed the 1,000 case mark, according to ministry figures, up from 611 at the start of the month.

No new deaths were reported on Tuesday, keeping the toll at 302 since the start of the outbreak in March. There are 39 people in serious condition, including 29 on ventilators. Another 41 people are in moderate condition and the rest are displaying mild symptoms. The ministry data also said 14,371 virus tests were conducted on Monday.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein in the city of Bnei Brak on June 16, 2020. (Flash90)

According to Channel 12 news, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein was pushing for the reopening of the economy to be halted. However, he is expected to run into serious conflict with other ministers, who want to see the country reopened.

Health Ministry officials were also pushing back against calls by Finance Minister Israel Katz to resume train operations and arts and culture events, according to the television report.


Israelis, some wearing protective face masks and some not, at a cafe in Tel Aviv on June 16, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israel has lifted most restrictions on gatherings in the country, reopening schools, cafes, hotels, and restaurants in recent weeks. Earlier this week, it allowed weddings and other celebrations to be held with up to 250 guests.

Finance Minister Katz said Tuesday he would lobby for the resumption of trains and arts and culture during Wednesday’s coronavirus cabinet meeting, two of the last holdout restrictions.

Since lockdown restrictions were eased, virus cases have steadily climbed. After a sustained drop in new cases, the number of daily infections began to rise and topped 200 in one day late last week, before dipping slightly over the weekend.

Much of the resurgence of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has been blamed on the education system, which has seen hundreds of new cases confirmed in schools and kindergartens. The entire education system was shuttered for two months during the lockdown that began in mid-March.

Inspectors talk to a man not wearing a face mask in the northern city of Safed on June 15, 2020. (David Cohen/ Flash90)

On Tuesday, the Education Ministry said 627 students and educational staff have been infected by the coronavirus in the latest outbreak. It said 168 schools have been closed as a precaution and 20,000 people are in quarantine.

11 medical staff members at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital have contracted the virus, according to a report earlier on Tuesday.

Netanyahu has warned that emergency regulations could be reintroduced if social distancing and hygiene measures are not adequately observed by the public.

Over the weekend, guards at the Prime Minister’s Residence and a worker at the President’s Residence fell ill with COVID-19, but neither Netanyahu nor President Reuven Rivlin were required to self-isolate under Health Ministry rules.

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