Israel’s Health Minister: We’re winning vaccination battle, but losing mutation war

Israel was in danger of “losing the war” against the more contagious new variant of Covid-19 first identified in the UK.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israel’s Health Minister threw some cold water on Israelis’ justified pride in the speed of the country’s vaccine rollout.

In a Monday tweet, Minister Yuli Edelstein said that Israel was in danger of “losing the war” against the more contagious new variant of Covid-19 first identified in the UK.

“We are winning the vaccine race, but unfortunately are losing the war against the mutation,” Edelstein tweeted. “The rise in the infection rate should worry every public official who needs to remember: our first concern is the public health.”

While Israel has vaccinated half of its most at-risk citizens and 10% of its population in two weeks, passing one million on Friday, the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise. The country reported 5,135 new cases on Sunday.

Israel is in the middle of a lockdown, but it’s been described as lockdown-lite and is not getting the results that were expected. Edelstein called for a tougher, tighter lockdown of two weeks on Sunday.

“We’re going through a very severe outbreak and are probably in a more dire situation than we were in at the beginning of September,” Edelstein said.

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He was joined, surprisingly, by Israeli business associations, who have suffered the worst from the lockdowns but prefer a short, intensive lockdown over several less restrictive ones, which don’t seem to be effective.

However, there is disagreement in Israel over whether Israel needs a tighter lockdown than the one currently in place.

Israel’s Minister of Science and Technology Yizhar Shai told Israel’s public broadcaster on Monday that “Dozens of professors looked at the data and saw what I was saying – we are not in a breakout.”

“There are data that show that at the current rate, with a slight decrease in morbidity, we will reach the peak of morbidity at 8,000 verified cases and then we will see the light at the end of the tunnel. This will happen thanks to two things – the steps that started 8 days ago [lockdown’s start] whose effects we haven’t yet seen, and thanks to the vaccines,” Shai said.

“In the next two to three weeks, we will reach about two million people who have been vaccinated or who have had the disease, and at this stage the risk to populations at risk will be lower,” he said.