Israel’s ‘Warp Speed’: Vaccinated Israelis now exceed those infected

More than half a million Israelis expected to be vaccinated as of Tuesday, but infections still on the rise.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Tuesday that more Israelis are now vaccinated against the coronavirus than the total number of citizens who have fallen sick with the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.

“In total we have reached about 495,000 vaccinated so far,” Edelstein said in a short announcement. “In nine days of vaccinations we have more [people] vaccinated than all those who were infected since the beginning of the epidemic. It is not by chance that we are the leading country in the world in terms of vaccination speed.”

Despite a not-so-complete national lockdown that started on Sunday, the infection rate continues to climb with the Health Ministry announcing 5,449 new infections in the past day, the highest number in the past three months. All numbers continue to rise and Prof. Ran Blitzer, the head of the team of experts advising the government on health policy, said people have to stop using the term lockdown.

“It is not a closure. We are using the wrong expression and causing a disproportionate public response,” Blitzer told Kan Radio. “What should guide people right now is to avoid a disease that is spreading unchecked. It will take weeks for the at-risk population to be protected.”

Although health officials had called for the education system to be closed during the two-week lockdown ordered by the government, cabinet members instead voted to keep schools open – a move health experts said would force the restrictions on business and movement to stay in place for extra weeks.

The lockdown called for Israelis to remain within one kilometer of their homes and forced many shops and businesses to close except for those deemed essential, although many shops in the central region of the country were seen with their doors open for business on Monday despite the threat of fines.

Statistics released by the Ministry showing vaccinations by age group and locality revealed that only 21 percent of those aged 60 and over have been vaccinated, which may indicate that the opening of the vaccination campaign to the entire population is still far away.

While large municipalities are leading in getting vaccinations, the numbers are low in the Arab and ultra-Orthodox Jewish localities.

Despite the higher infection rate in the Arab sector, there are only six immunization centers in Arab municipalities and Knesset Member Mtanes Shihadeh called on the government with an urgent request to open more places for Israel’s Arab population to get the vaccine, Kan reported.

As of Tuesday, there were 38,656 Israelis currently sick with the virus, with 1,025 of them hospitalized. The death toll stands at 3,256, an increase of 155 in the past week.