List of over 30 areas to be released today • Balad head: Gamzu program does not address unique characteristics of Arab society

Prof. Ronni Gamzu visits Daliyat al-Karmel on Saturday, September 5. (photo credit: HEALTH MINISTRY)
Prof. Ronni Gamzu visits Daliyat al-Karmel on Saturday, September 5. (photo credit: HEALTH MINISTRY)


As Israel prepares to place severe restrictions on more than 30 “red zones” throughout the country, the Health Ministry reported that as of Saturday, more than a thousand Israelis have died from the novel coronavirus.

Twelve people died on Saturday, bringing the total to 1,007.

The final list of cities to be locked down, out of the list of more than 30 red cities, was expected to be released Sunday, but coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu said full lockdowns were likely only to be implemented on eight to 10 of the “reddest” communities.

These are expected to include Bnei Brak, Elad, Tira, Kfar Kassem and Umm el-Fahm – haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Arab cities, where the infection rate tends to be highest.

Gamzu explained last week that residents of the reddest cities would be restricted from traveling more than 500 meters from their homes. In addition, schools – except special education – would be closed, entry and exit would be limited to only essential workers, and nonessential businesses would be banned from operating.

Putting restrictions on red cities is part of Gamzu’s traffic-light program, which the government voted to support last week. However, both Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Health Ministry director-general Prof. Chezy Levy have warned that if the program is ineffective, more steps — including a possible nationwide closure – could be necessary.

“If the traffic-light plan does not succeed, we will take more serious steps,” Levy said during a weekend interview on Meet the Press. “If we do not see the large gatherings, and take the right steps, there is a chance that we will stop the closure.” He said the coronavirus cabinet would meet Sunday to discuss the regulations.

These restrictions are similar to the spring lockdown, but this time there is the fear that residents of certain cities, mainly those with ultra-Orthodox and Arab residents, will not comply with authorities.

Gamzu visited the Arab town of Daliat al-Carmel on Saturday, where he told resident leaders that each day around 750 Arab patients are diagnosed with the virus and that many of them will die.

“It’s very simple: In the Arab sector, in Arab society, around 750 are infected, and that number will rise to 800. According to statistics, half a percent to a percent could die within three to four weeks,” he said. “Hundreds of Arab citizens may die of corona in the coming weeks. It is not an attempt to scare – it is simply the coronavirus. It is impossible to continue like this, it is impossible to live as usual.”

He also emphasized that it was incumbent on all Israelis “of every color” not to act as if “everything is as usual.”

N12 broadcast a report on Saturday night about weddings in Arab towns with hundreds of guests and no social distancing, including one where the groom was a doctor and his father was a retired policeman.

MK Mtanes Shehadeh, chairman of the Balad Party, which is part of the Joint List, criticized Gamzu for his handling of the pandemic.

“The Gamzu program is doomed to failure. It does not address the unique characteristics of Arab society: the critical lack of epidemiological tests and investigations, the lack of tools for enforcement in local authorities and the need for dedicated information in Arabic. There is also no adjustment to the density of construction and schools, and the outline of events is not applicable. Without dialogue and adjustments it will not work,” he tweeted on Saturday.

“Instead of blaming Arab citizens for the rise in morbidity, Gamzu should take responsibility,” he said, adding more work should be done to increase responsibility before lockdown.

Later, he tweeted photos of the long line to one coronavirus testing station, writing, “A heavy load at the test station in Majd el-Kurum, which serves a large area in the North. This indicates the severe shortage of inspection stations in Arab localities. I’ve been warning about this for weeks.”

Troops will once again help Israel Police enforce lockdown regulations in the cities that will be locked down. Following a request from the police and the Public Security Ministry, 500 troops will be assigned to the police starting Monday, IDF Home Front Command chief Maj.-Gen. Uri Gordin said on Friday.

Also on Saturday night, N12 revealed the list of regulations that were negotiated over the weekend by the government and hassidim who are interested in traveling to Uman, Ukraine, for Rosh Hashanah.

Last week, the Ukrainian government said it would deny entry to any foreigners for the holiday, and Gamzu has spoken out strongly against allowing such travel and gathering.

These new regulations include that the worshipers will stay in small capsules and that the pilgrimage past the grave will be done rapidly. Finally, the return to Israel will also be done in capsules, and returnees will be asked to stay in isolation upon their return.

Likud Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who was tasked with putting together a program to allow several thousand hassidim to travel to Uman, said the regulations still needed to be submitted to the Ukrainian government for its approval.

The Health Ministry reported that of the 26,283 active coronavirus patients in Israel, 439 were in serious condition, among them 128 who are intubated. On Friday, 30,788 tests were performed – of which 8.5% were positive.

Some 2,617 people were diagnosed with the coronavirus on Friday and an additional 1,120 between midnight and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post