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Report: Ministers, legal adviser shot down proposed lockdown only for over-60s

Suggestion to order only those over 60 to stay home was floated at recent coronavirus cabinet meeting, but deputy attorney general warned legality was doubtful

A man offers elderly Israelis hand sanitizer to desinfect their hands for fear of coronavirus, in Jerusalem on March 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)
A man offers elderly Israelis hand sanitizer to desinfect their hands for fear of coronavirus, in Jerusalem on March 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)

Ministers in the coronavirus cabinet briefly discussed and then dismissed a proposal to institute a lockdown only for the over-60 population in Israel as a way to limit the spread of the pandemic, Channel 12 news reported on Thursday.

The idea was floated during a Wednesday night meeting by Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana, and backed by Science Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen and Minister in the Finance Ministry Hamad Amar, the report said.

Members of the coronavirus cabinet, a select forum tasked with forming virus policy, had met to approve new measures limiting gatherings. The government has been seeking ways to cut the spread of the virus without resorting to the drastic measure of a lockdown, in particular in September during the Jewish High Holiday period.

At the meeting, ministers heard that of more than 400 seriously ill COVID-19 patients, 85 percent are over the age of 60, the report said. This prompted the suggestion of a lockdown just for that age group.

But the network said most ministers voiced strong opposition to the move, and Deputy Attorney General Ran Nizri said it was doubtful that such a move would be legal. He said it was highly problematic to apply measures that allow some citizens to roam freely while keeping others at home.

Religious Affairs Matan Kahana speaks in the Knesset on June 28, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

None of the three ministers who supported the plan were available for comment, Channel 12 said.

Having appeared to put the coronavirus pandemic behind it just a few months ago after a cutting-edge vaccine drive, Israel is now reimposing restrictions in a bid to clamp down on rising infections amid the spread of the Delta variant.

Ministers eventually approved several new coronavirus restrictions Wednesday that will take effect next week, including further limits on gatherings, Green Pass requirements on most institutions and leisure activities, and renewed limitations on all stores limiting the number of customers inside.

Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen holds a press conference on encouraging tourism from abroad, in Tel Aviv, April 27, 2021. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The Green Pass system, which limits entry to venues to those who are vaccinated, recovered or with valid negative tests, will be applied from August 18 to many locations, including swimming pools, gyms, academic institutions, sporting and cultural events, conferences and exhibitions, museums, libraries, restaurants, and hotels.

The limitation will apply to all people over age three. Children under the age of 12, who are not currently eligible to vaccinate, will be able to take rapid tests for free. Anyone unvaccinated over the age of 12 will need to pay for their tests.

Meanwhile, starting August 16, so-called Purple Badge requirements will take effect, limiting stores to one customer per seven square meters. Participants at mass events will be capped at 1,000 people in closed spaces and 5,000 in open spaces. For private events Green Pass limitations are not required; only 50 people will be allowed inside and 100 people will be allowed outside.

With a view to protecting the elderly, at the end of last month Israel rolled out a third vaccine shot to citizens age 60 and up. Over 715,000 have been administered a third booster shot since.

It is now set to begin offering the booster to all people over 50.

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