Bennett Vows to Avoid Another Lockdown as Serious COVID Cases Mount

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Health care workers in the quarantine facility for coronavirus patients in Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital, on Thursday.
Health care workers in the quarantine facility for coronavirus patients in Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital, on Thursday. Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Saturday that his government would do everything in its power to avoid another lockdown, while the number of seriously ill COVID patients in Israel keeps climbing. 

According to Health Ministry data released on Saturday, serious COVID cases in Israel is nearing 500, as the delta variant continues to spread through the country. Out of those 494 patients, 113 are in critical condition and 83 are on ventilators.

There are currently 827 people hospitalized with the coronavirus, and patients from central Israel are being taken from crowded local hospitals to medical centers in Jerusalem. There are about 1,000 beds set aside for coronavirus patients throughout the country.

Bennett wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday night that the government would do all it can to avoid imposing another lockdown, which he called "a tool that is destructive to livelihoods, the economy and to the education of our children."

He called the measure a last resort. "It's easiest for a government to declare a lockdown and give money to closed businesses and workers who will sit at home, but the policy of lockdowns has a terrible cost."

On Friday, 5,868 Israelis were diagnosed with COVID – 4.93 percent of all tests that day came back positive. During the third wave of the coronavirus in Israel, in contrast, an average of nine percent of tests came back positive. There are currently 48,401 active cases in the country.

Over the weekend, over 70,000 Israelis aged 50 and over received a third dose of the COVID vaccine; in all, about 846,000 Israelis have gotten a booster shot. Over 100,000 more people have booked appointments to get theirs in the coming days.  

Twelve people have died from the virus over the weekend, raising Israel's COVID death toll to 6,622 since the pandemic erupted.

In an attempt to cope with the rising infection rate, the Health Ministry approved on Friday giving a third dose of the COVID vaccine to people aged 50 and up, as well as to medical staff aged 30 and up who work with coronavirus patients. It also approved giving the booster shot to prisoners aged 40 and up, if at least five months have passed since their second dose.

More than 70,000 Israel have received the booster shot, and 846,000 people in Israel have been vaccinated with the third shot overall. 

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