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Corona Cabinet expected to gradually lift restrictions

What happened:  There are initial signs that after three weeks of closure the Israeli government is gradually reducing the morbidity rate among the general population.

  • Over the past 24 hours the Health Ministry reported 1,609 new cases, representing an infection rate of 7.7 per cent out of the 22,777 tests conducted. There are currently 823 patients in serious condition, of whom 224 are on ventilators.
  • Yesterday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a ministerial meeting: “There are preliminary signs of success. However, we need another few days to evaluate this. The exit will also be gradual, responsible and cautious.”
  • The Health Ministry recommends a gradual easing of the lockdown on condition that there are no more than 2,000 new cases a day.  The measures for the first stage include:
    • Cancelling the restriction of remaining one kilometre from home (allowing protests in Jerusalem to resume),
    • Allowing people to meet with others beyond their immediate family,
    • Opening kindergartens for children aged 0-6,
    • Opening private businesses that don’t serve the public,
    • Opening the beaches,
    • Opening the airport.
  • Science and Technology Minister Izhar Shai, from Blue and White, warned: “It appears that the restrictions will only be eased next Sunday. This is very unfortunate because it means billions of shekels in losses to the economy.”
  • Yesterday Finance Minister Israel Katz promised the 2021 state budget would be ready to be introduced to the Cabinet in December. Katz said, “The budget will address the need to deal with the continuing coronavirus pandemic as well as the need to lead the economy back to full employment and activity and growth.”
  • Shortly before Katz announced progress on the budget, the ministry’s director-general, Keren Turner-Eyal, announced her resignation. According to Yediot Ahronot she told close associates in the last few days: “Everything is shooting from the hip. There are no professional consultations. I can’t continue in this situation.”
  • Yesterday, two senior rabbis agreed to keep their elementary schools closed until negotiations with local authorities are completed, but other ultra-Orthodox schools reopened this morning. Other prominent rabbis have continued to tell their followers to ignore restrictions and go about their normal lives.

Context:  Moving to the next stage of easing will be postponed if the morbidity rate exceeds the set limit. The Health Ministry has proposed a gradual exit as one of the lessons learned from the quick exit following the first lockdown.

  • Yesterday the National Security Council published data showing the positivity rate in the ultra-Orthodox communities has fallen from 26.7 per cent rate to 20.9 per cent. In the Arab sector, the rate of infection has dropped from 12.5 per cent to 7.4 per cent and in the general public the drop recorded was from 11 per cent to 7.1 per cent.
  • There has been positive news across Israeli-Arab communities, following a large public information campaign. There have been no more mass weddings and other gathering since the lockdown was imposed, which has led to substantial improvements in the rate of infection.
  • There is ongoing concern over the disproportional spread of the coronavirus among the ultra-Orthodox community, as well as their non-compliance with the lockdown restrictions.
  • When restrictions are eased, the lockdown will continue in at least ten (ultra-Orthodox) localities that suffer from high morbidity.
  • Israel’s economy has been hit hard and is expected to contract in 2020 for the first time in nearly two decades. Due to political disagreements within the coalition, it is still using a pro-rata version of the 2019 budget, although an additional NIS 100 billion has been committed to help businesses and households hurt by the coronavirus.
  • Terner-Eyal’s resignation is another significant blow to Finance Minister Katz. She has worked for him for the last four years, mostly as director general at the Transport Ministry. This is the fifth senior official in the Finance Ministry to leave since late July.
  • On Friday, Alternate Prime Minister Defence Minister Benny Gantz warned, “The budget belongs to Israel’s citizens, not to Netanyahu. If he hurts Israel’s citizens, I will stop him. We will stop him.”

Looking ahead: Tomorrow the Corona Cabinet will meet and decide regarding the precise measures.

  • According to the emerging plan, there will be at least two weeks between each stage and the next. At the second stage, when there are less than 1000 new cases a day:
    • Opening schools for years 1-4,
    • Opening Synagogues,
  • At the third stage, when there are no more that 500 new cases:
    • Opening work with the public,
    • Opening of shopping malls,
    • Opening gyms
  • At the fourth stage (250 new cases a day) estimated at the end of November
    • Opening restaurants and cafes
    • Opening attractions
  • At the fifth stage, middle of December, opening hotels and swimming pools.
  • In parallel the Biological Research Institute is developing a vaccine that could be tested on humans in the next couple of weeks.

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