TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Wednesday if there was no improvement in the amount of confirmed coronavirus cases then he would have no choice but to begin a total lockdown.
His announcement came just hours after a new wave of restrictions came into effect, which included limiting walks to 100 meters from people’s homes. He said:
The steps that we have taken here in Israel are being taken all over the world; however, they are not enough because the number of patients is doubling itself every three days. In two weeks we are liable to find ourselves with thousands of patients many of whom will be in danger of death. Therefore, I am already telling you that if we do not see an immediate improvement in the trend, there will be no alternative but to impose a complete lockdown, except for essential needs such as food and medicines. This is a matter of a few days. We are making all of the requisite preparations – logistical and legal.
“So, I am already telling you now you,” he continued, “unless we see an immediate improvement in the trend, there will be no escape from implementing a complete lockdown, except for essential necessities such as food and medicine.
“Stay in your homes and stay alive. Because the danger lies with everyone. It does not differentiate.”
So far 2,369 have been confirmed to have contracted the virus. Five Israelis have died.
As of 5pm Wednesday, only essential businesses, including supermarkets and pharmacies, were permitted to remain open.
Netanyahu warned officials on Monday during a seven-hour emergency phone meeting that as many as a million Israelis could become infected with the virus.
“We could reach a million infected within a month,” Netanyahu told ministers according to a report on Israel’s Channel 12. “There could also be 10,000 dead Israelis.”
He also said he would increase restrictions in an effort to flatten the virus’ curve.
Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov warned during the meeting Israel could find itself in the same “nightmare scenario” Italy is in unless extreme measures are put in place.
Within a week, the number of patients diagnosed with the virus who would need ventilators are likely to reach in the hundreds and possibly thousands, he said.
He added all unessential services must be shut down immediately and military rations should be handed out to Israelis.
It “may sound extreme, I think we even need to close some of the grocery stores and maybe hand out prepared meals to some parts of the public,” he said in an interview with Ynet news site.
A total of 1,656 Israelis have been diagnosed with the virus, 30 are in critical condition.
Israel’s first coronavirus fatality was identified as Aryeh Even, an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor who died on Saturday at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.