Netanyahu to call emergency Covid meeting in 24 hours; Health Minister warns more stringent action needed

“If we don’t take the most stringent action, in March we will be in the same situation as Italy last March,” Edelstein said.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to call an emergency meeting of the coronavirus cabinet to tighten Israel’s national lockdown, as 8,300 Israelis were diagnosed with the virus on Monday.

He says tighter restrictions coupled with the massive, high-speed vaccination drive will be enough to rein in the pandemic.

“Thanks to the millions of vaccines, with a short, tight lockdown we will save many lives and we will be the first in the world to bring back the economy,” Netanyahu said.

Israel’s positive test rate is 7.6%. This is the highest daily number of new infections and percentage of positive tests since September 2020, when 9,000 cases were reported in one day.

The country is under a modified lockdown, in which commercial businesses are closed but schools and many workplaces remain open. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has referred to the lockdown as a “Swiss cheese” and is pushing for tighter restrictions.

During a meeting of government officials, Edelstein reportedly said, “If we don’t take the most stringent action, in March we will be in the same situation as Italy last March.”

Yedioth Ahronot reported that 42% of the new infections occurred among teachers and students from kindergarten to high school.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he believes schools should remain open. “This is the most important thing in my eyes, and we will do everything to keep the education system open,” Gantz told Ynet.

“Most of the infections found among students did not occur inside the education system. If most of the infections are outside [of schools], then why sacrifice education?”

%Israel has so far vaccinated 1.37 million Israelis – some 15% of the overall population, and the highest per capita rate in the world – but Israeli hospital heads warned that morbidity rates are out of control.

Prof. Pierre Singer, head of intensive care at Beilinson Medical Center in Petah Tikva, told Channel 13 News that patients heading to the hospital are now “younger cases. We have patients who are 48, 32, 55. I see whole families infected. People have not understood this disease is infectious, dangerous, it’s not over.”

Salman Zarka, director of Tzfat’s Ziv Medical Center, said to Channel 13 that the virus is “hitting again, more than in previous waves. Patients are coming to the hospital in very serious condition… We still have a few months in which we must keep the rules.”

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“It’s such a shame, so needless to get sick now, when we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”