Government expected to mull imposing curfews to curb infections

Health officials reportedly skeptical plan to confine people to their homes at night will be successful, amid concerns about rising virus transmission rate

Illustrative: Israeli police seen at the entrance to the neighborhood of Ramot in Jerusalem, September 9, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli police seen at the entrance to the neighborhood of Ramot in Jerusalem, September 9, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold discussions on Wednesday on the possibility of imposing nighttime curfews to lower the country’s coronavirus infections, according to Hebrew media reports.

Ministers and representatives of the health, finance and public security ministries will attend. Under review will be the possibility of confining people to their homes after 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. until the early morning.

According to Channel 12, Health Ministry officials are currently skeptical that a curfew would be effective in lowering infection.

Also on the table is whether to continue lifting lockdown restrictions next week, including allowing more students to return to class.

Netanyahu and health officials have warned that if the numbers begin to climb there will be no further easing of restrictions.

There are 8,105 active patients, 304 of whom are in serious condition, with 126 on ventilators. There have been 320,849 cases in Israel since the start of the outbreak and 2,683 people have died.

Health Ministry figures released Wednesday showed that there were 663 virus cases diagnosed the day before, still above the target of 500 daily cases that health officials have identified as a condition for any further easing of the lockdown.

Children wearing face masks study in a classroom of the Kramim school in Jerusalem on their first day back to classes after a national lockdown, November 1, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Earlier Wednesday, the Education Ministry made public its plan for the return of more students to the classroom, which will see the majority learning in small groups but with no separation on transportation routes and with teachers circulating between classrooms. The implementation of the plan is subject to approval by ministers in the coronavirus cabinet.

The school system has been blamed for driving major spikes in infection when it reopened in May and again in September.

The number of daily cases has remained under 1,000 in recent weeks, following a weeks-long lockdown, but health officials are concerned about the basic reproduction number, which measures the virus transmission, which is nearing 1.

In early September, the government approved nightly curfews in some 40 coronavirus hotspots as the number of daily cases soared to over 3,000. The plan, however, was replaced with a nationwide lockdown some 10 days later, as the infection figures continued to rise dramatically, eventually surpassing 8,000 a day.

Magen David Adom workers wearing protective clothing evacuate a patient to the coronavirus unit at the Hadassah Ein Karem hospital in Jerusalem on October 19, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The lockdown brought the infections down considerably, but paralyzed much of public life and the economy and shuttered the entire education system.

The government began removing some restrictions a few weeks ago, opening preschools and kindergartens, then grades 1-4, as well permitting some street businesses to begin operations. The rest of the education system has continued with remote learning.

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