As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assesses tightening social distancing measures aimed at stemming the coronavirus outbreak, the government is reportedly considering imposing a full lockdown on elderly Israelis.
The measure would forbid all men aged 70 and up and women aged 65 and up from leaving their homes, Channel 12 reported Monday.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, has the most adverse effects on the elderly and those with underlying conditions, while younger people often experience only milder symptoms.
As of Monday afternoon, the virus had killed over 15,000 people and infected over 350,000 worldwide, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Other options being considered by the government include closing all shops except food stores and pharmacies or placing further limits on what kind of workers can go to their place of employment.
“There is no choice but to step up the measures. This is still not a curfew — but it is the closest there is to it,” a source with knowledge of the deliberations was quoted as saying.
The report came as Netanyahu huddled with officials to discuss the possibility of tightening the country’s lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of infected in Israel shot up to 1,238.
As of now, Israelis are being urged to remain home and follow strict social distancing guidelines, but enforcement is centered on shutting nonessential businesses and ensuring no groups congregate.
Health officials and others have urged the government to further restrict movement or even impose a fully enforced lockdown, but others fear the damage it may do to the already smarting economy.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Monday doubled down on his call for a full lockdown of the country and called for greater enforcement, saying he was seeking IDF battalions to help ensure people remain in their homes.
“My fear is of what will happen in a week or two,” Erdan, whose office oversees the police, told the Kan public broadcaster. “A week ago I expressed my opinion that we must have a full lockdown for two weeks, with much wider enforcement. The number of options for leaving home [under such a scenario] would be much more limited.”
The head of the coronavirus treatment team at the Health Ministry said Sunday that if people abide by the new directives and stay home, Israel will start to see results in approximately 10 days.
“Hopefully, the self-isolation will flatten the curve significantly,” Dr. Boaz Lev told the Kan public broadcaster, referring to efforts to try to prevent a surge in the number of people requiring hospitalization at the same time.