The restrictions on economic activity, followed by the general lockdown that was imposed ahead of Rosh Hashanah, are beginning to flatten the curve. Aside from the number of fatalities and of seriously ill patients, which have been rising lately – figures that reflect the infection rates from days and weeks ago – a positive trend may be seen in the rest of the coronavirus data. The percentage of Israelis getting positive test results has declined to 10 percent, and the number of new cases detected per day, which in September crossed the 11,000 threshold, now stands at 4,000-5,000.
So far, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is refusing to move toward lifting the restrictions. The government extended the ban on protests, and Netanyahu’s office also came out against Finance Minister Yisrael Katz’s move to get the economy rolling again: “The lockdown is necessary. The prime minister will not surrender to pressure from inside or outside the government.” Netanyahu wants to bring the numbers down further before starting to loosen restrictions on the economy. But his calculations in this regard cannot be divorced from his legal predicament and his attempts to halt the protests against him outside his official residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem.
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Next week the plan for exiting the lockdown will be brought before the government and the coronavirus cabinet. For the first time, the health and finance Ministries, the National Security Council, coronavirus chief Ronni Gamzu and experts from Hebrew University and the Weizmann Institute have agreed on a clear strategy to get the economy and normal life partially back on track while the country continues to combat the virus. By looking at the R-value (the Reproduction number indicating the rate of infection) and the N-value (the number of new cases detected), it will be possible to assess whether Israel is moving in the right direction and whether restrictions can be lifted (Meirav Arlosoroff, Haaretz, October 7).
Israel must learn from the previous lockdown and not reopen the entire economy all at once. The reopening must be gradual and based on scientific criteria, not on gut feelings or political considerations. The public cannot endure severe restrictions for weeks on end while elected officials continually try to outdo one another in setting the worst personal example and flouting the law in the most flagrant manner. The exit plan should be adopted next week and implemented gradually and responsibly.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.