Corona head Gamzu warns of ten times more coronavirus cases than being reported

What’s happened: The downward trend in the coronavirus morbidity rate in Israel appears to have plateaued. According to Health Ministry data, there were 831 new coronavirus cases confirmed on Tuesday after 40,832 tests conducted. There are currently 365 seriously ill patients being treated in hospitals with 162 patients on ventilators.

  • Coronavirus Commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu has warned that the number of cases in Israel is much higher than reported. During a visit to the Home Front Command’s Headquarters yesterday Gamzu said, “We spoke about 600 confirmed cases this morning. I estimate there are ten times that number. There are thousands of cases and when they fail to get examined, they are not only putting themselves and their families at risk. They also threaten the entire operation’s ability to lower the coefficient of infection. They prevent us from reducing the infection sample and from allowing businesses and fifth-to-twelfth grades from reopening.”
  • The Ministerial Committee for Legislation, headed by Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn (Blue and White) has discussed raising fines for disobeying coronavirus regulations. They agreed that holding events, opening education institutions and operating businesses in violation of the rules would lead to a fine of NIS 10,000 (£2,257). The ministers voted in favour, with only two ministers against.
  • Later during the Knesset debate, Deputy Transportation Minister Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) said, “I’m sorry to say that the government is speaking to the people via fines, not by explaining things. Shop owners and businesspeople are presenting ideas but the government isn’t listening to them. Schools are presenting ideas but the government isn’t listening to them. People are particularly sick of it because many of the fines have been inside the ‘grey area’ of the law.”
  • In parallel, the State Audit Committee, which is chaired by MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) discussed the desperate situation of many small business-owners and independent contractors. Roee Cohen, the president of the Israel Federation of Small Business Organisations, told the committee: “Tens of thousands of self-employed are roaming about the streets like zombies and they don’t have anything to eat. Their source of sustenance has been hurt.”

Context: In total, 316,411 people had been infected with coronavirus since the pandemic began, and there are currently 9,890 active cases. Overall, 2,592 people have died from the virus, including eight yesterday.

  • The IDF coronavirus task force has warned that the recent rise in new infections could indicate that the downward trend of the virus has come to a halt. The positivity rate has increased to 3.1 per cent, compared to 2.9 per cent of tests returned on Saturday, 2.1 per cent of tests from Friday, and 1.8 per cent of tests from Thursday.
  • The newly inaugurated IDF Coronavirus Command Centre will improve Israel’s ability to break the chain of infection. It has the ability to question 4,000 people and perform 100,000 tests per day.  It is now considered one of the most advanced in the world.
  • According to Yediot Ahronot, as a result of the two lockdowns an estimated 65,000 businesses and shops have gone under this year, and that the number is expected to reach 80,000 and possibly even higher by the end of the year. In comparison, in each one of the past ten years between 37,000 and 45,000 businesses have shut down.
  • The Central Bureau of Statistics has revealed more than 1,000,000 Israelis were out of work in the first half of October. Some had lost their jobs permanently, whereas others were on temporary unpaid leave. According to the data, 205,200 people were registered as being jobless in October (5.1 per cent of the workforce). In addition to them, 832,600 people who have jobs (20.7 per cent of the workforce) were temporary absent from work during October for a variety of coronavirus-related reasons. In the second half of September, when the second lockdown begun, the percentage of people temporarily out of work was lower and stood at 17.1 per cent.

Looking forward: According to the plan to gradually reopen following the lockdown, shops will reopen next week and shopping malls the week after that.

  • The coronavirus cabinet will reconvene today and continue to debate whether to allow high street shops to reopen for business on Sunday. The professional Health Ministry’s representatives are expected to oppose their reopening.
  • However, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz has again demanded that the shops be allowed to open as planned. “If we’ve set six stages for opening, the Health Ministry must honour that.” Ministers Amir Peretz and Itzik Shmuli (Labour) also support allowing shops and open-air markets to open immediately.
  • The coronavirus cabinet is also expected to discuss a motion to impose restrictions on eight red communities: Kafr Manda, Aram Sheikh, Hatzor Haglilit, Bukata, Mughar, Kafr Kana, Majdal Shams and Masade. Defence Minister Benny Gantz is expected to demand that those communities be placed under a full lockdown.
  • They will also discuss ways to encourage the public to get tested, following a decrease in tests being taken. One proposal being examined is to give a financial incentive to local authorities that increase testing in their jurisdictions.

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