FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
JERUSALEM – Almost 5,000 cases in a single day. Israel remains the country with the highest number of infected people in the world per million inhabitants. It is also one of those that carries out the most tests: 4973 new positives were found in 24 hours with the maximum of tests since the beginning of the epidemic. Experts worry about the still very high percentage of those affected by Covid-19: almost 11 percent of the total checks.
Gives Friday afternoon the country enters its second lockdown, the first nation in the world to have to impose another full quarantine. The block will last three weeks and coincide with the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar: it starts from the evening of Rosh Hashana (the New Year) to Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Schools, services and public transport, all commercial activities (excluding supermarkets and pharmacies) will stop, restaurants can only prepare dishes for home deliveries, movements are limited to 500 meters from the house. After this phase, three more are planned with varying degrees of limitations. Epidemiologists from the health ministry promise that if new cases drop below a thousand a day, the closure could be reduced. But they warn: “The Israelis must respect the rules, otherwise there will be deaths on the streets.”
It all starts with isolation. Yet in May it seemed that the crisis was under control, that the start-up nation had also won this war. Instead, the virus has shattered the myth of the nation of technology and creativity: the dead are more than a thousand, more than half from August onwards. The opposition accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of mishandling the crisis, that he had his head in the bribery trial. The decision to postpone the blockade until Friday has also been criticized: it allows the prime minister and head of the right to be in Washington tonight to participate at the signing ceremony of the agreement with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Netanyahu wanted to avoid being abroad while the rest of the Israelis remain stranded on the ground and in apartments.
The community most affected remains that of the ultra-Orthodox (16 percent test positive), followed by Israeli Arabs (11 percent), with the rest at 6. These numbers should have legitimized the plan prepared by Ronni Gamzu, whom the newspapers call the Coronavirus Tsar: for weeks he proposed to apply the traffic light system and to close only about forty red cities (the others identified as yellow and green) where mostly haredim (the God-fearing) and Arabs live.
It has become a political issue: the ultra-Orthodox parties are part of the ruling coalition and have threatened Netanyahu to overthrow his government, if it had imposed a targeted quarantine on the community. Because since the beginning of the epidemic, the rabbis have rebelled against any rule that limited the study in religious schools or the gatherings of the faithful. Now they proclaim that they do not want to reduce the number of participants – even 10,000 – in prayers on the evening of Rosh Hashana. Yaakov Litzman, ultra-Orthodox minister and leader, has decided to step down and a photo shows him signing his resignation from the government with the mask lowered over his chin.
The owners of the restaurants have instead announced a protest for 7 pm, Israeli time, simultaneously with the ceremony at the White House: they will smash the dishes on the ground, because – they say – this second lockdown it shatters their hopes of recovery. And it could have been avoided.
September 15, 2020 (change September 15, 2020 | 14:52)
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