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October 16, 2020 9:04 am

Netanyahu: Despite ‘Major Success’ of Lockdown, Exit Must Be Gradual

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A street cleaner walks past shuttered shops, amid Israel’s second national coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown, in Ashkelon, Israel, Oct. 7, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen. – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened Thursday’s coronavirus Cabinet meeting by lauding what he called the “major success” of the nationwide lockdown, according to a statement released by his office.

“We are seeing a decline in all data, a clear and consistent decline,” he said, at the start of the meeting convened to determine the details of an exit from the closure that has been in place since Sept.18, the eve of Rosh Hashanah.

“We want to converge on the indicators that the Health Ministry and experts have suggested to us so that we can begin to gradually ease the current conditions of the lockdown,” said Netanyahu. “We need to do this so that we do not have an additional lockdown in two or three weeks.”

Therefore, he said, the exit must be “gradual, responsible, careful and controlled.”

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He went on to say that “there is no doubt that as of now there is a success here which they are already beginning to talk about and look at in many countries, mainly in Europe, where the morbidity in several countries has already passed us.”

Those countries, he continued, “are now deliberating on a question that we deliberated on and already decided—yes to a lockdown; yes to lowering the numbers quickly. But now our great challenge is to continue the decline without bringing about a new outbreak and a new increase.”

The prime minister concluded his remarks by pointing out the “dramatic decline over three weeks in morbidity, related to wearing masks. This is also connected to the fact that larger sections of the public, according to all impressions and the data that has reached us, are wearing masks—and this changes everything.”

“This must continue,” said Netanyahu. “Our responsibility as public leaders is also to continue to call on the public to follow the rules, especially wearing masks and keeping distance.”

According to the Israeli Health Ministry’s eight-stage lockdown exit plan, released on Saturday, the first stage of the plan can be put into effect once daily COVID-19 cases drop to 2,000.

Based on the ministry’s data, the country reached that goal on Wednesday, with 1,994 new cases recorded. However, Israel’s National Coronavirus Project Coordinator Ronni Gamzu told Army Radio on Thursday that the target figures would need to be met for an entire week.

According to Health Ministry data from Thursday afternoon, there have been 299,502 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Israel since the onset of the pandemic, 43,793 of which are currently active, with 739 patients in serious condition, 247 on ventilators and a national death toll of 2,109.

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