(June 9, 2020 / JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday that the government is “hitting the emergency brake” on the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.
Netanyahu made the statement in a video message following a meeting of a special coronavirus cabinet that convened to discuss a spike in new infections recorded since the country began a gradual return to operations in May. In the message, the premier said that the easing of closures scheduled for the coming days—including the resumption of inter-city train transportation and the reopening of theaters—will not take place.
One exception Netanyahu cited was banquet halls, which he said would be allowed to operate in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines.
The prime minister explained that the decision was based on the “very steep increase in morbidity” reported by experts who briefed the Cabinet at the outset of the meeting.
He said that Israel may have reached the point at which the rate of infection is doubling every 10 days.
“I very much hope not,” he said. “The main thing that all the experts and everyone in the know emphasized is that we must keep the three rules, [which] I call Pesach [a reference to the tradition of spring cleaning before Passover], matzah and maror [unleavened bread and bitter herbs]—wearing masks, practicing social distancing and hygiene, washing hands.”
Netanyahu ended his message with an appeal to the public.
“I am asking you—for our economy, for our health and for all our lives—please adhere to the rules.”
Israel’s Channel 12 reported on Monday evening that Netanyahu told close associates, “If this trend continues, we will weigh reversing course and shutting down everything that we’ve already opened, [but] if we are forced to do so, we will do it in the least harmful way possible to the economy.”
According to Health Ministry data released on Monday evening, there are currently 2,607 active cases of coronavirus in the country, with 23 patients on ventilators and a national death toll of 298, 13 in the past week.
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