Israel now has the highest daily increase of new coronavirus infections per capita in the world, according to figures aired by Israeli television on Thursday, September 3. The figures reported by Channels 11, 12 and 13 cited data from Johns Hopkins University, showing Israel averaged 199.3 new cases a day per 1 million residents during the week ending September 2. Rounding out the top five on the list were Brazil (188 new cases per day per million residents), Spain (178), the United States (129) and France (80).
Ministers on Thursday decided to impose lockdown measures in over 30 “red” cities that have high coronavirus infection rates, starting from Monday, September 7. “The full details, including a list of cities and the restrictions for them, will be formulated by Sunday,” a statement said.
The restrictions under discussion for the 30 municipalities included banning entry and exit, keeping residents within 500 meters of their homes, stopping public transportation, and closing non-essential businesses and all schools save for daycare facilities and special education programs. Many of the towns are predominantly ultra-Orthodox and Arab, two segments of the population that have been hit hard by the virus.
Though there is no official word yet on which cities will be locked down, among the 30 cities and towns currently designated as “red” are: Nazareth, Bnei Brak, Tiberias, Abu Snan, Umm al-Fahm, Beit Jann, Jaljulya, Jatt, Daliyat al-Karmel, Zemer, Taibe, Tira, Kasra-Samia, Ka’abiyye-Tabbash-Hajajre, Kafr Bara, Kafr Kanna, Kafr Qassem, Lakiya, Sheikh Danun, Maale Iron, Ein Mahil, Assafiya, Arara, Fureidis, Qalansawe, Rechasim, and Kfar Aza.
In response to the anticipated lockdown of cities, Joint List Chairman, Ayman Odeh (Hadash), said that the number of Arab patients is too high and that the community is doing “everything we can to reduce the number.” On Friday, September 4, Hadash activists in Arab localities all over Israel initiated an information campaign on the dangers of COVID-19, street by street and home by home.
“But that’s not why we’re racing towards a general lockdown,” Odeh said, blaming the far-right government for failing to control the crisis. “We’re entering the quarantine due to the irresponsibility of the ministers. We’ll get out of it thanks to the responsibility that everyone will show towards their families and the public.” According to Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), “We proposed a formal plan for curbing large gatherings in the Arab society – and nothing was done. There is no dialogue, no plan, and Netanyahu is looking for excuses.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son, Yair, claimed in a tweet that the Shin Bet security service and the Health Ministry are keeping data on coronavirus infections at massive anti-government protests a secret, even though there is no factual basis for this claim. Earlier on Thursday, coalition whip MK Miki Zohar (Likud) said the protests against Netanyahu were increasing the incidence of the coronavirus, providing no evidence to support this claim. Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List) responded to far-right claims, “We’re witnessing a new campaign by the defendant and his flunkies – that the demonstrations are to blame for the coronavirus. Israel leads the world in the number of [new daily] coronavirus infections [per capita], but instead of trying to solve the problem, the defendant is doing what he always does – blaming others for his failures.”