Israel's Health Minister: Lockdown Is Only Way to Curb Surging COVID Infection Rates

Israel will see 10,000 daily cases unless harsh step to stem the spread of the virus are taken, Coronavirus Information Center report says

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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Health Minister Yuli Edelstein at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, December 2020.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, December 2020. Credit: Hadas Prush
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Tuesday that a third lockdown is the only option to curb Israel's rising coronavirus infection rates, after Israel started its national vaccination campaign earlier this week.

"We've wasted precious time and missed the train for [just imposing] more restrictions," Edelstein said.

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A report released by Israel's Coronavirus Information Center on Tuesday said that Israel must impose serious restrictions to be able to stem new coronavirus infections.

"Without harsh steps to halt the spread of the virus and in light of the current rate of infection, Israel will see 10,000 new cases a day by mid-January," the report said.

The report added that the R number – the average number of people that each infected person will infect – is rising, and currently stands at 1.3. The Health Ministry set a threshold of 2,500 new cases a day and an R number of 1.32 to demand the cabinet to impose more restrictions.

Earlier on Tuesday, coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said that action must be taken immediately to reduce the incidence of disease.

Speaking in an interview with Army Radio, Ash said that a decision on the matter will be made Tuesday, or Wednesday at the latest. He added that a lockdown is "definitely on the table."

"There's uncertainty regarding which steps to take, whether to adopt our primary recommendation for tightened restrictions or to go for something more severe like a lockdown.

"A lockdown is definitely one of the options on the table, in light of the rise in new cases and delayed decisions. It could very much be the best move at the moment," Ash said.

If imposed, "the duration of the lockdown depends on how strict it would be," Ash said. "If we go with tightened restrictions, it'll take five weeks to significantly lower the number of diagnoses. A full lockdown would take less time – I estimate that a lockdown, as of today, would last about three weeks."

Prof. Chezy Levy, the director general of the Health Ministry, also referred to the possibility of a third lockdown. “We have recommended to tighten restrictions as well as to impose a lockdown,” Levy told the Ynet news website.

Levy said he assumes that just tightening present restrictions would no longer provide the expected results. “We need to nip the infection in the bud.”

To date, 29,596 people were vaccinated against the coronavirus, with 17,847 receiving the vaccine at health maintenance organizations and 11,749 in hospitals, Health Ministry data shows.

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