Israel imposes 3-week night curfew to curb COVID-19 spike

The Israeli coronavirus cabinet decided on Monday to impose a night curfew in an attempt to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, as cases have spiked in the past week, raising concerns that the upcoming holiday season will further fuel the spread of the deadly virus.

Slated to begin on Wednesday, the curfew will last three weeks until after New Year celebrations. However, health experts have doubted that such a measure will be effective.

“At the current morbidity levels, the night curfew is just a band aid, a drop in the sea, instead of other things that must be done,” said Cyrille Cohen, vice dean of the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar-Ilan University.

Israel now sees a daily average of 1,500 new cases and almost 3,000 have died of COVID-19 in the country since March. There is concern that Israel may enter a third lockdown in the coming weeks before a mass vaccination is expected to begin in early 2021.

The Israeli government lifted strict anti-virus measures in mid-October after a month-long nationwide lockdown, the country’s second since the pandemic broke out.

Israel’s economy has been hard hit by the health crisis, leading to public outcry against a renewed lockdown and government being chary of imposing severe measures again.

Actually, the Traffic Light plan approved by the cabinet in the summer was never fully implemented. It allows areas with a lower infection rate to live with fewer restrictions, while red areas will be the first to come under strict measures.

“There was plenty of time to learn and to implement, and things were not done,” Cohen told Xinhua. “Policy was not implemented due to other considerations, not health, and now the whole population is being punished.”

It is worth noting that the night curfew will be nationwide regardless of local morbidity levels.

“While the curfew is a diversion from the localized approach to fighting the pandemic, there is sense in it because it will prevent large-scale holiday gatherings which can jeopardize the situation,” said Arnon Afek, deputy director general of Sheba Medical Center.

Earlier in the week, Israeli media reported that the first batch of vaccines were to arrive in a few days. But massive distribution is only expected to begin when the vaccinations are approved.

“It all depends on the citizens. If people will act responsibly, the night curfew will be effective and we could avert a third lockdown. But if we continue to see reckless behavior, we will end up with a lockdown,” Afek told Xinhua.

To make it worse, Israel is mired in a political crisis again and on the way to its fourth general elections in fewer than two years.

Infighting within the coalition has hampered decision making, with each cabinet minister defending conflicting political interests, while high-profile figures, including senior ministers, have been caught violating the very restrictions they have imposed on the public.

“There is too much politics involved in the health decisions, which are made in order to pacify certain populations, causing people to lose faith,” said Cohen.