Israel facing third lockdown even as vaccines arrive in country

The daily number of Covid-19 cases passes 2,500, the mark set by the government for tightening restrictions.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel passed the mark on Tuesday set by the government for tightening restrictions on the economy to clamp down on the spread of the coronavirus.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told Kan Reshet Bet, “We are on the way to shutting down trade, according to the data.”

More than 2,800 people were diagnosed with the disease on Tuesday, the highest number in two months. The infection rate stood at 3.5%, with over 83,000 tests performed. As of Tuesday, there were 673 patients hospitalized, 381 of them in serious condition, with over a third of these (138) on respirators.

When the corona cabinet decided Thursday not to impose restrictions for the eight-day Chanukah holiday that began that night, it also decreed that if the number of daily infections passed 2,500, it would impose a three-week period of various close-downs. This would include shutting stores that receive customers and schools in red and orange cities.

There are currently 41 red and 48 orange cities in the country. Almost all the red ones are Arab towns, while most orange ones are Jewish, such as Raanana, Kfar Saba, Ashkelon and Kiryat Gat. Jerusalem is now in the orange category as well.

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The ultra-Orthodox center of Bnei Brak, which has been a frequent hotspot for the coronavirus, is not on the list.

If the numbers do not go down significantly over the 21-day period, a third lockdown of the country could follow. Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Asch has warned that this could even happen within 7-to-10 days if the number of infections is not reduced enough.

All this comes as the country is starting to inoculate health care workers as the first on the priority list for emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. They will receive a second dose of the vaccine after three weeks.

The Ministry of Health has decided to speed up the immunization process and plans to begin a mass vaccination program next Wednesday. According to Walla News, a central complex that includes all four of Israel’s HMOs will be established at the Exhibition Grounds in Tel Aviv. Other centers will be opened in the north and south of the country.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 3,022 people have died in Israel.