Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a dire warning on Monday night that if Israel does not fully adhere to a new set of guidelines, then one month from now one million Israelis could be infected with the coronavirus, and the death toll could reach over 10,000 in the Jewish state.
Channel 12 News cited Netanyahu as expressing that gloomy forecast during a heated debate with government officials tasked with steering Israel through the coronavirus crisis. Experts said he wasn’t far off the mark, and might have even been too conservative.
Israel’s Ministry of Finance continues to oppose the government’s strict guidelines limiting movement within the Jewish state, stressing that such measures are going to ultimately destroy the economy. Over the past two weeks along, some 600,000 Israelis have filed for unemployment, the local rate of which now tops 18 percent.
The Ministry of Health, backed by Netanyahu, argues that it won’t matter if the economy remains strong if everyone is sick or dead.
The new guidelines expected to go into effect on Tuesday night, and which are enforceable by police, include a near total cessation of public transportation and a restriction on venturing further than 100 meters (roughly 300 feet) from one’s house.
The evening television news broadcasts featured video of police officers patrolling Israeli cities for anyone roaming the streets, parks or seaside promenades. Those caught outside were ordered to return home immediately. Anyone who was supposed to be in self-quarantine and had left their house was punished with a steep fine.
Health Ministry officials suggested that this near-total lockdown would only need to be in place for a couple of weeks if everyone cooperates.
There is growing fear that the tragic situation in Italy could happen in Israel if the spread of the coronavirus is not curbed, or at least significantly slowed so that the health care system can adequately deal with those already infected.