Cabinet to set COVID-19 restrictions on red zones, 9.4% test positive

The percentage of people who are testing positive for the novel coronavirus is spiking unprecedentedly. Over Shabbat, some 1,482 people were diagnosed with coronavirus – 9.4% of those screened. Until recent days, only around 8% of people tested positive.
The numbers, which were released by the Health Ministry ahead of today’s meeting to discuss which restrictions will be placed on which red zone, continued to reflect a high number of dead: 1,007 – though no new people died overnight.

Sunday morning, Israeli media reported on an outbreak in a Haifa geriatric center – 80 people are infected and two have already died.

The final list of cities to be locked down, out of the list of more than 30 red cities, is expected to be released Sunday. Over the weekend, coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu said that “total lockdowns” are only expected to be placed on eight to 10 of the country’s “reddest” communities, while night lockdowns and other severe restrictions may be more appropriate for others.

Gamzu explained last week that residents of the reddest cities would be restricted from traveling more than 500 meters from their homes. In addition, schools – except special education – would be closed, entry and exit would be limited to only essential workers, and nonessential businesses would be banned from operating.

Since announcing that the coronavirus cabinet agreed to lock down red cities last week, most of which are haredi (ultra-Orthodox) or Arab, there has been strong backlash from both sectors against the move.

MK Yitzhak Pindrus (United Torah Judaism) on Sunday told KAN news that, “I am a resident of the Jewish Quarter. There are 15 registered patients here – some of them don’t even live here and the neighborhood is considered red. Nobody understands why.”

At the same time, the chair of the Constitution and Law Committee, MK Yakov Asher, appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and presented an alternative to closure: restrictions and partial or flexible closures overseen by local authorities. He said this will be “much more effective than a full closure in a few individual cities.”

Gamzu is set to visit the largely haredi town of Beit Shemesh on Sunday, which is on the list of red zones. The city’s mayor, Aliza Bloch, is expected to voice opposition to a total closure. 

Housing and Construction Minister Ya’acov Litzman (UTJ) said last weekend that he would consider leaving the coalition if a lockdown was enforced over the High Holy Days, however those threats were seen to be largely just that – threats. Late Saturday, MK Mtanes Shehadeh, chairman of the Balad Party, which is part of the Joint List, criticized Gamzu for his handling of the pandemic.

“The Gamzu program is doomed to failure. It does not address the unique characteristics of Arab society: the critical lack of epidemiological tests and investigations, the lack of tools for enforcement in local authorities and the need for dedicated information in Arabic. There is also no adjustment to the density of construction and schools, and the outline of events is not applicable. Without dialogue and adjustments, it will not work,” he tweeted on Saturday.

“Instead of blaming Arab citizens for the rise in morbidity, Gamzu should take responsibility,” he said, adding more work should be done to increase responsibility before lockdown.

Read More: Cabinet to set COVID-19 restrictions on red zones, 9.4% test positive

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