(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)
Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks this evening (Tuesday, 17 March 2020), at the joint statements with Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov and Health Ministry Director of Public Health Services Prof. Sigal Sadetzki, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem:
"We are continuing our campaign against the Coronavirus. I would like to report to you about three additional actions that we are taking, and I am asking you to do one basic thing, citizens of Israel, without which all of our efforts will be for naught. We have seen what is happening in other countries that did not take these steps. Thousands around the world have already died. As Prime Minister, I must tell you the truth. To my joy, we have not lost anyone; however, this will not continue.
“You will soon hear the Health Ministry estimates of how many victims we could have if we do not change our habits, and this is a genuinely difficult epidemic. This is not child's play. This is not a vacation. This is a matter of life and death. In order to reduce the number of deaths in the epidemic, I report to you this evening about an additional three steps that we are taking.
“First, we will dramatically increase the ability to locate and quarantine those who have been infected. Today, we started using digital technology to locate people who have been in contact with those stricken by the Corona. We will inform these people that they must go into quarantine for 14 days. These are expected to be large – even very large – numbers and we will announce this in the coming days. Going into quarantine will not be a recommendation but a requirement and we will enforce it without compromise. This is a critical step in slowing the spread of the epidemic.
“Second, we are dramatically increasing the number of tests. I have instructed the Health Ministry to significantly increase the number of tests to 3,000 a day at least. It is very likely that we will reach a higher figure, even up to 5,000 a day. To the best of my knowledge, relative to population, this is the highest number of tests in the world, even higher than South Korea. In South Korea, there are around 15,000 tests a day for a population five or six times larger than ours.
“We are importing testing components, including through my personal contacts with world leaders, and by independent production in Israel. At the same time, MDA will begin drive-in Corona testing and will post a proper statement on its website.
“Third, we are stepping up preparations at hospitals to deal with difficult cases. The hospitals are prepared to absorb these patients, including protection for the medical teams and the purchase of around 1,000 additional ventilators. I again salute the medical teams that are doing the holy work of saving lives.
“I would now like to talk with you about the fourth thing, which I am asking of you. I ask that you show discipline and responsibility. Everything that I have described for you today, all of the other steps which you see that we have taken in recent days and weeks, which have put Israel at the forefront of the world, and we are there, all of these steps will not help one iota if there is not discipline and responsibility on your part. I regret that I must say this this evening. There are many among you who still do not understand the magnitude of the danger. I see the crowds on the beaches, people having fun. They think this is a vacation. They are playing, handing things to each other and touching each other. I see the crowded lines in which people are not maintaining the two-meter rule. I see gatherings of family members. I see this on television and I do not believe what I am seeing. I see families, family members, sitting on one couch, almost on top of each other. It is clear to me that there is an internalization problem. This is not child's play; it is life and death.
“I ask you to wake up. Maintain distance, at least two meters. Today I can say – love is keeping your distance. You love your dear ones? Maintain a distance from them. Maintain distance from family members as best you can.
“Now, as part of the discipline effort, I will ask something else of you. Yesterday we defined who needs to go to work and who does not. Whoever does not need to go to work, according to the instructions that we issued yesterday, I ask you not leave your homes and stay inside as much as possible. At the moment, I say this as a recommendation. It is still not a directive but that can change. What I am asking you today is to reduce your going out to what is essential. I assume that you are familiar with the English saying 'My home is my castle.' I ask that you adopt exactly this. Your homes are your castles for protection against the Coronavirus, on condition that you also act responsibly at home. Then stay home. Talk to each other on the telephone, over the internet, on Skype; maintain distance.
“Citizens of Israel, together with my government colleagues, with the medical personnel, with all of the professional teams, I am doing everything so that we in Israel will get through this global crisis. This is a huge crisis. We are only at the start of the campaign; the crux is yet before us. We have no intention of throwing up our hands. We have no intention of giving up. We will continue to struggle against the virus with all means and methods until we find relief."