Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan predicted Wednesday that the country was headed for a "full shutdown" as it struggles to contain the growing coronavirus epidemic.
Erdan held a conference call Tuesday night with the chief of police and heads of other security agencies, following the latest update to guidelines issued by the Health Ministry to stem of the growing number of Israelis infected with the new coronavirus.
“I am convinced that in view of the situation that has arisen, this is an inevitable decision that will save many lives,” Erdan said.
The public security minister has requested that police and security chiefs urgently prepare and present to him a detailed plan for implementing a countrywide lockdown, in which only essential workers will be allowed to leave their homes, while other citizens will only be allowed out in order to buy supplies and for medical treatment.
If a lockdown is ordered, police will be placed in charge of enforcement, while the IDF Home Front Command will be in charge of the supply of essential items.
Erdan told participants in the conference call that while a decision to impose a complete lockdown would be a very difficult one, in the current situation it is preferable to take tough measures for a short time in order to defeat the coronavirus quickly and prevent deaths.
A complete shutdown of the country would mark a dramatic escalation in how the government manages the health crisis stemming from the fast-spreading virus.
It would also add to a growing list of far-reaching policies that Jerusalem has adopted over the last week, including a controversial mass surveillance program designed to track the movements of infected citizens. Security services deny it will be used to enforce quarantines.
The Health Ministry instituted a partial lockdown of the country Tuesday, in new measures designed to stop the spread of the COVID-19.
The ministry urged the public to limit their outside exposure, requesting in a statement that citizens should avoid parks, playgrounds, beaches, pools, libraries, museums, and other public spaces.
Visits to markets, pharmacies, and health care institutions will be permitted, but the government asked citizens to limit such visits as much as possible. The police are not planning to enforce these new guidelines, with the public expected to comply voluntarily.
Confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel have jumped by more than 40% to 433 in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Wednesday, predicting a steeper rise as mass testing is implemented. Six patients are in bad condition.