Cabinet to weigh reimposing restrictions amid rise in coronavirus infections

Limits could include capping gatherings at 20-30 people, events up to 150 people, encouraging employers to return to work-from-home formats

People wearing face masks walk in Jerusalem on June 24, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
People wearing face masks walk in Jerusalem on June 24, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel’s “coronavirus cabinet,” tasked with leading the government’s response to the virus outbreak, is set to convene on Sunday to weigh reimposing some restrictions, as the infection rate in Israel continues to climb.

In an interview with Channel 12 news on Saturday, Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said possible measures proposed by the Health Ministry would include limiting youth programs over the summer break, limiting the size of gatherings, and requiring “capsules” at educational institutions and at workplaces, with set groups of employees working the same shifts.

“The steps we take now, today, will prevent a lockdown tomorrow. We have to act today to stop the rise in infections. The numbers now are 400-500 infections a day and we know that in the next two weeks, these numbers will rise,” Kisch told Channel 12.

The network said that among the measures being considered are limiting gatherings to 20-30 people; capping events such as weddings at 150 people instead of 250; restoring “capsules” at summer schools; limiting the number of people in beaches; barring summer camps; and encouraging workplaces to have employees work from home.

Kisch stressed that a final decision on new restrictions would be up to the government.

Likud MK Yoav Kisch chairs a Knesset Interior Affairs Committee meeting on July 12, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to Channel 12 news, officials from the Health Ministry and National Security Council will meet this evening to discuss what restrictions the coronavirus cabinet should approve when it meets on Sunday.

Finance Minister Israel Katz said he will support the Health Ministry’s restrictions proposal “if they are logical from a health perspective” but indicated that he will “do everything to prevent decisions that call for mass closures of businesses” and that roll back economic activity.

Israel began imposing restrictions in March to combat the outbreak, shuttering schools, universities, malls, restaurants, and other public places, and limiting the number of people allowed at workplaces. The government started rolling these restrictions back in May, but the country has seen an increase in coronavirus infections in recent weeks. On Friday evening, the Health Ministry reported 400 new infections over the previous 24 hours, taking the national tally to 22,800. The number of active cases stood at 5,614.

There were 46 people in serious condition, 28 of whom were on ventilators. Another 48 people were in moderate condition, with the rest experiencing only mild symptoms or none at all.

Israel’s coronavirus death toll rose to 315 on Saturday after a 19-year-old succumbed to the disease.

In a bid to stop the increase, the Knesset on Wednesday night advanced a bill to reinstate the Shin Bet surveillance program aimed at tracking virus carriers and those exposed to them — despite opposition from the agency itself to the move.

In addition, Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the IDF’s Home Front Command to open additional hotels for coronavirus patients and for quarantine purposes. The army is currently running six facilities for those infected and those who cannot adequately self-isolate at home.

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