Netanyahu Warns of Possible Second Coronavirus Lockdown

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel may have to renew its lockdown following a surge in coronavirus cases.

“‘We must flatten the curve now,” Netanyahu said at the beginning of Sunday’s weekly cabinet session. “If we don’t change our behavior immediately, and begin to wear masks and keep a distance from each other, the lockdowns will return. None of us want that.”

Netanyahu said he will hold a meeting of ministers on Monday to decide what steps should be taken. Over 20,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Israel, including more than 300 fatalities. The number of cases has steadily risen, from less than 17,000 a month ago, after restrictions were significantly eased and many people ignored instructions to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

While the number of deaths has not spiraled, Netanyahu said the forecasts he was given over the weekend were all “harsh,” without giving further details.

The Health Ministry instructed hospital directors in a letter sent to them on Sunday to be prepared to reopen coronavirus wards immediately, if necessary. The ministry also asked hospitals to refresh personal protection instructions to medical staff, noting that in addition to the increase in the number of coronavirus cases, there has been a rise in the number of personnel who are in quarantine due to exposure to infected patients.

Cautious Reopening

Netanyahu said at the end of last week that he would put any further reopening of the country’s economy on pause. Still, the country is scheduled to restart train services on Monday, and to allow cultural events with audiences of as many as 250 to go ahead.

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange benchmark TA-35 index declined by as much as 2.5% on Sunday to its lowest level since mid-May. While the Israeli economy is continuing to recover, there are signs the rebound is slowing, Meitav Dash Brokerage Chief Economist Alex Zabezhinsky said in a report to clients.

“Against the background of the health situation, and its effect on economic activity, along with other risks, we recommend a medium-low exposure to equities,” Zabezhinsky said in the report, which also refers to global markets.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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