Israel’s health authorities appear to be dissatisfied with the measures taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to combat coronavirus and are pushing for an Italy-style lockdown, government sources said Monday.
On Saturday evening, Netanyahu announced Israel will shut all shopping centers, restaurants, cafes and entertainment facilities for at least five weeks as part of a series of new strict measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. The new directive also limits all public gatherings to only 10 people.
Sources said the Health Ministry officials have approached the government three times since the new steps had been announced, demanding for a state of emergency in the business sector to be declared and for all economic activity to be halted.
The finance and economy ministries are said to be strongly opposed to the idea, saying that balance in the business sector should be maintained and such an extreme move could prove to be fatal for the country’s fiscal reality.
"There is no justification [for full shutdown],” said the source. “The full shutdown will not be enforceable. Would there be inspectors on every corner of the street to reprimand people? What are we in Italy?” he added.
“The economic cost [of measures taken so far] is tens of thousands of people unemployed. Do you want to get to hundreds of thousands unemployed?”
The source added that Israelis so far have been helpful in complying with the directives and “taking responsibility."
Nevertheless, may small business, cafes and kiosks remain open attracting crowds of people who do not appear to maintain the demanded distance of two meters (6.5 feet) from each other.
There were lines in front of small cafes offering take away food as well as local parks, which were filled with people required to stay home.