Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy on Monday wrote in a letter to hospital managers that Israel has entered a “time of emergency,” and that they should halt all non-essential surgeries and procedures in order to free up staff to handle an influx of coronavirus patients.
Israel is currently three days into a nationwide lockdown, but the virus infection and death rates continue to climb.
Less infections, more deaths
On the first day of the lockdown, Friday, Israel registered over 5,000 new coronavirus cases, keeping with the trend of the previous week. On Saturday, that number dropped to 1,226, but there were 30 coronavirus-related deaths in a single 24-hour span, a grim new record for the Jewish state.
By Sunday, daily new infections had jumped back up to 2,565. Health Ministry officials say that number needs to drop below 1,000 on a consistent basis for the government to consider lifting the lockdown, which is currently scheduled to end after Sukkot.
While the vast majority of the infected are not in serious condition, many aren’t showing symptoms at all, officials still fear that the healthcare system could quickly be overwhelmed.
For months, the Health Ministry has been talking about 800 COVID-19 patients in serious condition as the maximum Israelis hospitals could handle. Currently, there are 643 in serious condition, 170 of whom are on ventilators.
Israel’s “corona czar” Prof. Roni Gamzu worries we could reach that 800 mark by the end of this week, even with the lockdown.
“Our situation is very grave,” Gamzu said in an interview with Channel 12 News, warning Israelis that if they don’t comply with the lockdown regulations, Israel could start seeing 20 or more deaths every day.
Flaunting the rules
But many Israelis are by now too fed up with the flip-flopping coronavirus policies of the Netanyahu government to take seriously the warnings of Gamzu, or anyone else.
Despite the efforts of police and thousands of IDF soldiers enlisted to help enforce the lockdown regulations, Israelis across the country were still out and about over the weekend.
Police gave out hundreds of tickets to those not wearing masks, and checkpoints were set up to make sure motorists had a legitimate reason to leave their houses, which caused major traffic jams.
Oddly, while authorities were intent on making sure folks didn’t go shopping or to the synagogue or to the beach, they did allow left-wing Israelis to gather en masse for their weekly anti-Netanyahu protests. They worry that barring that particular activity just wouldn’t be politically correct, fear of infection be damned.
Given the government’s own seeming double standards regarding the lockdown regulations, even as it heralds a looming state of emergency, many Israelis see no reason why they should be bothered complying.