JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a nationally televised address said Israelis must tighten their discipline in following rules to reduce the spread of COVID-19 or face new restrictions.
“As long as there is no vaccine for the virus, it will return and spread if we are not strict about being cautious,” Netanyahu said Saturday night shortly after the close of Shabbat. “We are all called upon to continue adhering to the rules.”
Netanyahu displayed a graph showing a steep increase in the number of confirmed cases of the deadly virus in Israel in recent days. The increases come as Israel continues to relax restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including opening up workplaces, schools and malls.
On Sunday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told the Cabinet at its weekly meeting that there was a fivefold increase of Israelis who tested positive for COVID-19 the previous day alone.
Netanyahu reminded citizens to maintain social distance, wear masks and wash hands.
“If we do not do this, there will be no choice but to go back to restrictions on the economy and in the public sphere,” he said. “If we do this, we will be able to continue to open our economy, bring back jobs, restore growth and restore hope.”
The prime minister said the coming days would be “a test to see if there is a change in trend that would require a change of policy, such as closing education institutions.”
At least 17 schools and nurseries have had to close and students quarantine after teachers or students tested positive for the coronavirus.