Health Minister Yuli Edelstein on Sunday said Israel is at the beginning of its second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
The minister, in a briefing held in the Health Ministry on Thursday evening, said he had previously agreed to the lifting of restrictive measures including resuming public transportation services and allowing large gatherings but had always conditioned the moves on the rate of infection of COVID-19 and the adherence of the public to health guidelines and directives.
"I am sorry to say that people have not been attentive enough and I have had to present to the government with a plan to fight the rise in infections by once again imposing limitations on the public."
"After careful consideration and at the advice of professionals we at the Ministry of Health have agreed that we must limit congregation at weddings, in synagogues and celebrations," Edelstein said adding that he understands the economic cost to some businesses but expects the government to make the necessary restitution.
"Universities will have to hold their end of term exams remotely to protect the health of students and their families," he said.
According to the minister, government agencies and the public sector will be required to keep 70% of its workforce working remotely, "I encourage the private sector to do the same," he said.
Edelstein slammed those who questioned the severity of the pandemic in the public discourse and accused him and officials in the ministry of scaremongering.
"You tell me I am creating panic and that it would not be such a disaster if some of the old people died – well how would you like your parents or grandparents to be among the dead?" he asked.
He also slammed the media for irresponsible reporting of daily numbers of confirmed cases telling journalists to rely on the Health Ministry data only.
The minister said he will insist that his proposed plan be accepted by the coronavirus cabinet in it meeting on Monday.
Earlier Israeli ministers participating in the coronavirus cabinet said to have mulled restricting social gatherings to 19 people in light of the COVID-19 resurgence in the country, officials said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the special cabinet meeting after the number of new daily diagnoses has exceeded the 600 confirmed cases ark for several days in a row.
Although no final decision was made, another meeting on the issue was to take place on Monday.
The Health Ministry's officials also demanded to limit all public gatherings to less than 50 people, a request which many government ministers strongly opposed. The government gave a go-ahead to hold cultural events of up to 250 people less than two weeks ago.
Sources said the ministry also demanded students at summer schools study in set groups. With each class divided into two groups and each group allowed to spend a week at school and a week at home.
Finance Minister Israel Katz said the decision would leave many parents at home looking after their children, unable to go to work. Katz urged the government to open all summer schools as planned on July 1.
The finance minister also called to increase enforcement of health orders and said he is working to formulate a bill that would give local municipalities authority to shut down businesses that don't adhere to virus rules. He said the move would prevent wide-ranging sanctions from being imposed, which could hurt businesses that don't violate the orders.
In addition, Netanyahu instructed that the epidemiologic investigation process be reduced to no more than 48 hours limit the waiting time for those wishing to get tested for COVID-19.
He also said the staffing at offices in the public sector could be downsized by 30%, with staff members going back to working from home.