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Netanyahu concedes: No national night closure, restrictions upped


The coronavirus cabinet convened at 3 p.m. to debate the next steps in the country’s exit strategy – or even if the country can open up more at all. Top of the table was the idea of implementing a night curfew to bring down morbidity – a move that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been pushing for since last week. However, newly appointed coronavirus commissioner Nachman Ash expressed opposition. As such, Netanyahu acquiesced and said that rather other restrictions would be rolled out. “The minimum required of us is to tighten restrictions,” Netanyahu said. On the table for approval at around 6 p.m. Israel time:> Closing retail at 7 p.m.
> Locking down red cities
> Night curfews on orange cities
> Lowering the definition of red cities so that more cities with high infection rates will be considered redAsh had said that the expected impact of a night curfew on various cities could differ from minimally effective to not at all. He said that if a night curfew would be at all effective, it would need to begin by 7 p.m. He stressed that a night curfew could not be used to offset opening up more of the economy.He released a presentation ahead of the cabinet meeting reiterating that the rate of infection is tied to large gatherings and that the rate of people testing positive in the Arab sector is much higher than anywhere else – 6% vs. 2.3% in the general community.

In addition, the Israel Police weighed in, highlighting in their own presentation the challenges of moving forward with such a curfew. The police said that the investment in such a move would be very high while the effects would be low. The police said that they are not able to enforce a night curfew to its fullest extent because it would involve more authority than is currently in place, such as being able to enforce what goes on in people’s homes.

The police also showed that they would only be able to stop large, outdoor gatherings or people traveling by car between cities. 

The third phase of the exit strategy was supposed to include return of fifth-, sixth- and eleventh and twelfth-grade students to their classrooms, as well as the opening of malls, markets and gyms. However, a rise in the reproduction rate delayed the phase, which was supposed to start today, and might push it off even further. The Health Ministry released a report of morbidity levels on Sunday: Some 286 people were diagnosed with the virus on Shabbat – 2.3% of those screened, representing a slight increase from the 2.1% the day before and most of the week before. The reproduction rate stands at 1.04. The Health Ministry has said that nothing more should open until it hits 0.8 or lower.The reproduction rate (also known as the R) is the number of people a sick person infects. “We opened businesses, schools and bed and breakfasts,” said National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat. “We maintained some restrictions, improved the cutting off of infection chains, leveraged enforcement and fines and masks. All of this has not helped keep the R at 0.8 and morbidity is rising. The R is around one.”Ben-Shabbat is pushing to enact a night curfew, against health experts’ recommendations. He wants commerce to close at 7 p.m. and for communities to be under lockdown between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

The local authorities held an emergency meeting on Sunday, pressuring the cabinet to take action.”Enough toying with our children’s education,” said Local Authorities chairman Haim Bibas.He said that the numbers indicate there is not any real increase in morbidity since the launch of the second stage of the country’s exit strategy two weeks ago. “We need to open more classrooms,” he said, “not restrict anything else and certainly not allow for a night curfew… We are losing an entire generation because of the inability of the government to make decisions.”At the cabinet meeting, Education Minister Yoav Gallant spoke strongly, as well: “We are preparing for a third lockdown. The education system is quietly waiting on the sidelines and nothing is happening.”He added: “We pay for the illegitimate things that happen – parties, demonstrations, prayers and so on. In the end, those who suffer from it are those who stand quietly in line, for example, the education system.”The Health Ministry is strongly opposed to opening up the education system as a result of the reproduction rate. “The headlines celebrating the arrival of vaccines should not cause complacency,” Netanyahu said on Sunday. “It does not exempt us from continuing to strictly adhere to Health Ministry guidelines in order to save lives and preserve the economy – until the vaccines are introduced, and even after that. “At the same time, the Health Ministry confirmed for The Jerusalem Post that it is considering working with legislators to formulate a bill that would allow principals to refuse entry of teachers and staff who have not been screened for the novel coronavirus.According to a spokesperson for the ministry, the new legislation is in the preliminary stage, after the legal establishment said the ministry could not move forward with a bill that would require teachers to be tested. The idea of legislating an incentive for teacher screening came after the Health and Education ministries offered teachers free testing without a referral but only around 25% of teachers chose to be tested. Since the opening of grades one through four two weeks ago, there has been a slight increase in the number of people sick in those ages. The Health Ministry reported on Sunday that about 5% of all current coronavirus cases are children under the age of 10.Ministers have already agreed that they will likely open up strip malls on Tuesday. There is still debate, however, over whether malls can open too. They were originally part of stage three of the exit strategy, but remained closed like most everything else. The Malls Association submitted a letter to the cabinet in which it outlined a safe way to open malls. The association is protesting allowing strip malls to open while keeping them shut.

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