56,748 Cases, 433 Deaths: Israel Reaches Red Line As Daily Cases Soar To 2,085

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein & newly appointed "coronavirus czar" Prof. Ronni Gamzu. (Screenshot: Yuli Edelstein Twitter)

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The Health Ministry reported a new record number of 2,085 new coronavirus cases on Thursday in the previous 24 hours, a “red line” sign that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had stated would call for a return to a lockdown – over 2,000 new cases in one day.

The number of active cases has risen to 32,755 active cases, with 295 seriously ill patients – a number that is also above the “red line” that the prime minister previously announced – that if the number of seriously ill patients reaches 250, strict measures will have to be taken. There are 79 patients on ventilators and the death toll has risen to 433.

Prof. Gabi Barbash, whose appointment as “coronavirus czar” was said to be final, decided to give up the position at the last minute following a conflict about the extent of the authority the coronavirus czar will receive as well as the division of power between the prime minister, the health ministry and the czar. Prof. Ronni Gamzu, currently the head of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv and a former Health Ministry director-general, was appointed to the position instead on Wednesday night after midnight.

Barbash gave Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Edelstein an ultimatum on Wednesday to come to an agreement about the amount of authority he would hold in the position by midnight Wednesday or he would leave the position. Edelstein reportedly was opposed to ceding sweeping powers to Barbash while Netanyahu was reportedly willing to do so.

Prof. Ronni Gamzu (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In an interview with Yediot Achronot, Gamzu said he is against using lockdowns as a method to reduce the coronavirus infection rate, viewing it only as a measure of last resort. Instead, he supports reinforcing the ban on gatherings as well as increasing enforcement of health regulations among other measures.

The Knesset passed the “Great Coronavirus Law” late Wednesday night allowing the government to declare a state of emergency and legislate emergency regulations without prior Knesset approval. The law essentially strips the Knesset’s coronavirus committee of its power since it will no longer have the authority to reverse government orders.

The committee has been a source of conflict as it repeatedly went against the government’s wishes and decisions, first approving the opening of gyms and pools hours after the prime minister and health minister announced they would be closed and then allowing restaurants to open for indoor service when the government proposed a compromise for outdoor service only.

The Knesset’s coronavirus committee convened on Thursday and for the final time, went against the government’s wishes and approved the re-opening of gyms beginning on Sunday at 6 a.m. as well as the opening of tourist sites on weekends.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)