Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said on Tuesday that if the Israeli populace does not abide by the sweeping lockdown regulations due to come into effect on Friday, infection rates will be so high that there will be dead in the streets, “like in New York and Italy.”
Kisch said there were many people, particularly the young, who appeared not to be concerned about the coronavirus and may be considering ignoring the regulations.
“If those people who say [the virus] isn’t all it’s cracked up to be until they see dead in the streets like, God forbid, in New York and Italy — if they want to infect us all by going out and acting like that, then that’s what will happen. We’re trying to stop it,” Kisch told Channel 12 news.
New York and Italy were seemingly caught unawares by the spread of the virus during the first wave of the pandemic earlier this year, leading to the use of makeshift morgues and refrigerated trucks to store bodies as the death tolls spiraled in those places.
Kisch admitted that the lockdown was a sign that the government had failed, but tried to shift blame to the public and other lawmakers.
“I say honestly and painfully, we tried to apply differential measures and they failed. Every sector stood up and fought,” said Kisch. “In the end, the Knesset prevented us from acting by sector. There was political pressure on the public. The political ultra-Orthodox community did not apply pressure? They did. Everyone was fighting so they would not be the only ones shut down. I wish we could have cared for the State of Israel differentially, but we failed,” he said.
Kisch also said that some hospitals were already beginning to struggle to accept new patients.
“We are in a difficult health situation — no one can hide behind the numbers and tell me everything is fine. Hospital administrators say they aren’t accepting more coronavirus patients and some patients are raising a [red] flag,” he said.
The director general of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, located in one of the country’s virus hotspots and the hospital with the highest number of critical COVID-19 patients, told the Kan public broadcaster on Monday evening that the facility was currently unable to accept new coronavirus admissions.
“I closed the hospital to new coronavirus patients. With a heavy heart, I informed Magen David Adom [emergency services] not to transfer patients to me and informed MDA not to transfer patients to us,” Ofer Marin said.
The warnings came ahead of the nationwide lockdown set to begin on Friday in a bid to stem the burgeoning spread of the coronavirus in Israel.
The lockdown approved by the cabinet on Sunday night — to begin Friday and last at least three weeks — comes as the country has seen infection rates spiral in the past few weeks, topping 4,000 new daily cases in recent days. Evening curfews had already been ordered in dozens of cities and areas last week.
The new rules will keep Israelis within 500 meters of their homes, except for basic needs like food and medicine or for traveling to permitted jobs. They will also shutter schools, malls and hotels; limit gatherings; and ban in-person dining at restaurants. Restaurants will be allowed to do deliveries, but not to serve takeaway food, in a further decision announced Monday night. Israel’s soccer and basketball leagues will continue.
The Israel Police will deploy thousands of officers to hundreds of checkpoints across the country ahead of the Rosh Hashanah festival over the weekend, Channel 12 reported Monday evening.
People caught beyond 500 meters from their home without a legitimate reason will receive an automatic NIS 500 ($145) fine and will then be escorted in the direction of their homes, the report said. If caught again, they will receive a number of different higher fines.
The lockdown, bitterly opposed by many sectors of the workforce, and castigated by the opposition as proof of government failure, will take effect at 2 p.m. on Friday, hours before the start of Rosh Hashanah.
It is scheduled to end with the Simchat Torah holiday, on October 9.
According to Health Ministry figures published Monday evening, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases had risen to 159,290, nearly 3,700 more cases than Sunday night.
The ministry said nearly 3,000 of the cases came between midnight and 7:30 p.m.
The ministry also announced that the death toll from the virus had risen to 1,136, recording 10 more victims since Monday morning and approximately 17 since an update late Sunday.
Five hundred and twenty-four patients were in serious condition, including 142 people on ventilators.