By Marcy Oster
As Israel racked up a record nearly 7,000 new coronavirus cases in one day, the government met to consider tightening restrictions, including banning synagogue prayer and public protests.
The coronavirus cabinet met Tuesday for several hours but failed to make any decisions about further restrictions to stop the spread of the deadly virus. The cabinet began meeting again on Wednesday afternoon with plans to approve new restrictions by the end of the day.
Among the decisions being weighed are the complete closure of synagogues and a ban on outdoor services, though it is not clear if it would apply also to Yom Kippur, the Kan public broadcaster reported. Also under consideration is the halting or limiting of protests in front of the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. Other restrictions could include limiting employees in private businesses to 50% and closing Ben Gurion Airport.
Several rabbinic leaders called for the closure of synagogues, even for Yom Kippur, to halt the spread of the virus, including Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau and Rabbi David Yosef, the son of former Shas party leader and former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Israel conducted more than 61,000 coronavirus tests on Tuesday, with the rate of those testing positive at a high of 11.3%. On the same day, the country passed a milestone of 200,000 cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. Some 634 people were listed in serious condition, including 171 on respirators.
The so-called coronavirus czar, Dr. Ronni Gamzu, has said that 800 serious patients is the upper limit that hospitals can handle, a number that Israel is expected to pass by the end of the week.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday called on hospitals to hire paramedics and more medical staff to meet the demands.