Covid Roundup 30 August

Gamzu plan authorized…ish?

The Coronavirus Cabinet today finally voted unanimously to adopt the Gamzu Plan, which is known in Israel as “Tochnit HaRamzor”, the traffic light plan. Under the plan, cities will have different rules according to the level of infection, with additional restrictions on red cities and relaxations in most everywhere else. It will come into effect after passing through the Knesset, which won’t happen until the second week of September .

Votes on the plan had been delayed for three meetings running after opposition from Haredi parties, who opposed the tighter restrictions because many red cities would be Haredi (due to the high infection rate in that community). So why did they accept it now?

The answer is predictable: because the plan has been partly neutered already. One of Gamzu’s key recommendations was that schools should close in red cities. The Coronavirus Cabinet voted to ignore this part of the plan. Prof. Gamzu condemned this decision tonight, saying it would cause new outbreaks and that he would continue to campaign against it. But some of this is moot, as Haredi education restarted two weeks ago in any case.

Cultural reopenings

As part of the Gamzu Plan, cultural centres in green cities will be allowed to reopen with up to 1000 people, as long as the hall is maximum 60% full and only 100 people use each entrance.

Of course, there is no law or rule to stop people who live in red cities going to these cultural events in green cities, so I don’t see how this can possibly be a good plan, but I suppose we’ll see.

Hospitalizations, serious cases still rising

Last week I noted the sharp rise in serious coronavirus cases in Israel’s hospitals and speculated on the cause. Well, some of the cause was actually a counting error in the Health Ministry’s system, where the most critical patients were counted in the ‘serious’ category twice.

However, the real numbers of both hospital admissions and serious cases are up. The weekend jump in hospital admissions last week never went away. Today’s weekend jump brings us close to 900 patients admitted, half of whom are in serious condition.

Deaths also continue to be high. Throughout August, an average of 12 Israelis a day have passed away from the virus. While not as high as the spring disasters in New York, Italy or the UK, Israels per-capita daily death toll is high for developed countries at this phase of the pandemic.

Teachers’ union: “Reopen schools more!”

Unlike in many other countries, Israel’s Teachers’ Union thinks that schools aren’t reopening enough. The Government plan allows older schoolkids to only have two days in class a week with the rest as distance learning, though this is up to each local government to decide. The Teachers’ Union demands that all pupils are back in class fulltime despite the virus, or they will strike on the first day of school…

…but the same union says that reopening schools is unfair on vulnerable teachers, who could catch the virus. The union demands that these teachers should be put on indefinite paid sick leave, or they will strike on the first day of school.

So that’s one thing that’s normal, at least.

Other short points

  • The coronavirus labs are on strike. For now they’re only giving people positive results but that might stop in a day or two, shutting down Israel’s testing.
  • Uman… do I have to write about Uman? No. I don’t. And you can’t make me.