Despite vaccinations, Israeli health official admits ‘pandemic is raging’

Israel’s enters its third national lockdown as coronavirus number keep surging.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel woke up to its third national coronavirus lockdown Friday as the country tried to get surging infection rates down.

Health Ministry statistics released Friday morning showed 63,440 Israelis are actively sick with the virus, double the number from two weeks ago with 7,597 new cases in the past day.

“The epidemic is racing, we have already seen infections spreading like wildfire,” said Dr. Sharon Elrai-Price, the head of the public health services, who warned that Israelis had to pay attention to the lockdown restrictions because “the prognosis of the seriously ill is worse than we expected and we are in a catastrophe.”

Elrai-Price told a committee Thursday night in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, just before the lockdown took effect at midnight that the numbers are doubling every two weeks.

“This is a raging epidemic and the numbers will go up,” she said, adding that the unless Israelis stayed home and stopped congregating the numbers would double again in two weeks.

There are 1,534 Israelis currently hospitalized with the virus and of those, 894 are in serious or critical condition with 226 connected to ventilators to keep them breathing. Those numbers are triple what they were four weeks ago on December 10.

Even though Israel has already inoculated more than 15% of its population with the first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, the surging infection rate forced the government to move from an unsuccessful partial lockdown that started on December 27 to the full closure.

Under the restrictions, schools and businesses are closed and Israelis cannot travel more than one kilometer from their home except for essential services like food and medicine that remain open. Restaurants can open, but for delivery only, and gatherings are restricted to a maximum of five people indoors and ten people outdoors – effectively closing houses of worship for at least the next two weeks.

Only immediate family is allowed in homes, with fines if one is caught in somebody else’s house. There are some exemptions for events like wedding and funerals, but those are limited to a maximum of 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors.

On Thursday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Pfizer had a agreed to send more vaccines to allow Israel to become the first country to vaccinate it’s entire adult population, expected to happen by the end of March. In return, Israel will share the data from the program so that Pfizer and other countries can learn from the experience.

Netanyahu also called on Israelis to stay disciplined and stick with the strict health regulations.

“We need everyone to make one final effort. I call on everyone to adhere to the lockdown rules – all sectors, without exception,” Netanyahu said. “We will look after each other and we will keep the rules because the coronavirus does not distinguish between us and neither can we distinguish among each other. Everyone needs to strictly observe the lockdown, in a great final effort.”