On Thursday, senior health officials called to curb public gatherings for driving down the coronavirus infection rates, which have seen the number of seriously ill patients remain stubbornly high despite Israel’s ongoing vaccination campaign. Salman Zarka, the national coronavirus czar and Nachman Ash, the Health Ministry Director-General, both called for additional restrictions, as they warned that the seriously ill, unvaccinated patients are overburdening the medical care system in the country. These remarks came as almost 6,000 cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed the day before. Moreover, the country is also preparing for the return of millions of children to school next week after the Sukkot holiday.
Zarka said that the situation of gatherings needs to be reconsidered and there have to be priorities. Opening schools and sending children to studies is right, but taking into account the morbidity in the hospitals, full soccer pitches and other events don’t make sense. He added that the health system was under a great deal of strain because hospitals have to deal with regular patients, as well as those who are suffering from COVID-19. He disclosed that most of the seriously ill patients were those who hadn’t received the three vaccine shots.
The czar said that the story of the outbreak is about those who chose not to get vaccinated. Similar views were shared by the Health Ministry chief Nachman Ash. He called for the cabinet to convene in order to discuss this situation. There hasn’t been a meeting of the so-called coronavirus cabinet for several days now, which was especially established for forming virus policy. He urged a cabinet meeting for discussing a reduction in the size of public gatherings. He said that there shouldn’t be more than 400 people in an enclosed area and more than 500 in an open area.
Under the current orders, private gatherings can have 100 people outdoors and 50 people indoors, whereas event venues are allowing 500 people outdoors and 400 indoors. Furthermore, no event is permitted to have more than 75% of the full capacity of a venue. Mass events that don’t have marked seats are permitted to have 1,000 people indoors and 5,000 people outdoors. Ash disclosed that the ministry was in daily contact with the Prime Minister and if matters required cabinet attention, they convene a meeting. He said that a couple of things had come up, but there hadn’t been a gathering so far.
Ash went on to say that a meeting was needed due to the approaching return of school children and the ongoing holiday period. However, he didn’t criticize the government about this matter. He said that he didn’t think the government was ignoring the situation, as a number of steps are being taken. The government appears to have made a clear statement that they want the economy to reopen and students go back to school. Ash also highlighted that there wasn’t a drop in the number of patients who are seriously ill and most who are severely ill are those who haven’t gotten vaccinated.