TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said Israel was applying the “emergency brakes” on easing coronavirus restrictions, amid an upward trend of cases in the country.
Experts “showed us that there has been a very steep increase in morbidity. It could be that we are already seeing the doubling of the rate of infection within ten days. I very much hope not,” Netanyahu said in a meeting about the pandemic.
“What we decided to do, first of all, is to hit the ’emergency brake.’ We stopped all moves to ease restrictions that we were going to apply in the coming days. We will check this again next week.”
“The main thing that all the experts emphasized is that we must keep the three rules: Wearing masks, keeping two meters’ distance and hygiene – washing hands. I ask you, for our economy, for our health and for the lives of us all – please follow the rules,” he said.
The planned resumption of Israel’s railway on Sunday was postponed and cultural activities, including theaters and concerts, have been delayed by another week.
Around 800 people were confirmed to be carriers of the virus over the past week, compared with 300 cases in the two weeks preceding, bringing the country’s total number to 18,032.
“We can’t stay complacent in the face of this number,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told the coronavirus cabinet.
“Police must resume strict enforcement [of social distancing rules] in shopping malls, buses, trains, restaurants, event halls and everywhere, in order to return discipline to the public and enable us to keep opening up the economy,” Edelstein said.
The Health Ministry warned of an imminent second wave that will be far worse than the first with as many as be 5,000 people on ventilators, the Israeli N12 TV network reported.
Meanwhile, the Shin Bet security agency will suspend tracking the movements of coronavirus patients after its mandate expires on Wednesday in the wake of a government decision to freeze the use of emergency powers.