Israel is weighing a controversial full lockdown of the country during the last two weeks of August in order to stop the spread of coronavirus infection.
The shutdown is being proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is at odds with his own newly appointed coronavirus czar, Ronni Gamzu. Gamzu had said he was planning to recommend easing economic challenges and lifting closures on stores and malls over the weekend.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein did cancel the partial weekend lockdowns, saying as far as he was concerned, “There is no such thing as a half closure, just as there is no such thing as being half pregnant.”
“There was an idea to go to a lockdown on the weekends, there was talk of restrictions on trade,” he said on Tuesday. “We will get rid of it. I think apart from disturbing the public it does nothing.”
Netanyahu noted that while the number of serious patients is not posing a challenge to the system, “the morbidity rate in Israel is among the highest in the world.”
“This is the bad news,” he said. “The good news is that for the past two weeks, the rate seems to have been plateauing.” The death toll stood at 554 as of Tuesday afternoon.
The country is still closed to foreigners, a huge economic blow to thousands across Israel who depend on tourism for their businesses’ survival. The borders will not be open before Sept. 1 but there has yet to be a discussion as to how or when Israel will begin allowing visitors back into the country.
Meanwhile, protests continue in mass against the impact of the shutdown on the economy and against the prime minister himself. More than 10,000 people came out on Saturday night to protest in front of the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu insists the demonstrations are being “funded and organized by left-wing organizations.” He and other right-wing politicians have gone to great lengths to paint the protestors as anarchists and dangerous, also accusing the media of unwarranted coverage.
“They are creating noise with insane, unprecedented backing from the media. In 2011 there were hundreds of thousands [of protesters], here there are barely enough to represent a quarter of a Knesset seat, and they’re getting round-the-clock coverage. The link to coronavirus is incidental. There are repeated calls for murder,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu’s son, Yair, was slapped with a restraining order for trolling protestors on social media. A judge ordered him to delete posts he made against the leaders of the “Crime Minister” protest movement.
Despite this, Yair called the demonstrators “aliens” and said he shows his father select pictures from the demonstrations.
“He sees what we all see — these aliens at the protests. It makes him laugh, like entertainment,” Yair said during a radio interview. In a recent poll amongst Messianic Jews, over 95% see the Prime Minister’s son as trouble for the Netanyahu.
He later clarified on Twitter: “When I spoke about ‘aliens,’ at the left-wing protests in Jerusalem, I meant those who are dressed up as aliens and UFOs, those who strip, those who dress up as genitals, those who brandish crude signs, those who put a spaghetti pot on their heads and those dressed up as Spider-Man. There are too many of these, and it’s funny. The rest is really not funny — the incitement and the explicit calls for murder that are intensifying each day and breaking records in terms of the ceaseless encouragement of the media.”