Israel went into a tightened version of its third lockdown since the COVID-19 coronavirus was discovered in Israel nearly one year ago in what some experts described as a “better late than never” reaction to skyrocketing rates of infections and a spiraling death rate.
But medical experts had to admit on Monday morning that so far, three full days into the lockdown, the tightened restrictions on movement and other behaviors believed to be conducive to the spread of COVID-19 have yet to take effect, and the rates of infection remain high and have shown no signs of slowing down.
As of Monday morning, the number of new daily cases, as reported by the Health Ministry, stood at 6,706, representing a staggering 7.4% of those tested in the previous 24 hours. The number of serious cases reported on Monday morning was 1,044, including 251 persons who were intubated, the highest number since the beginning of the crisis.
However, with the number of Israelis who have received the first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine approaching 2 million and with the first rounds of the second dose being administered, health officials sounded a note of optimism.
“We are seeing the first signs of stabilization,” Prof. Ran Balicer, chairman of the government’s National Expert Advisory Panel, told the KAN News program on Monday morning. “In a week and a half, it will be easier to make decisions about what to do next.”
His words were echoed by other senior health officials. The Health Ministry announced it will begin offering the vaccine to Israelis aged 55 and older starting Tuesday. The announcement dispelled worries that the rapid pace of vaccination would have to be curtailed because of availability issues. However, another shipment of 700,000 doses arrived in Israel on Monday afternoon and more are reportedly on the way.
“This is the moment to thank those who have really been at the forefront in the past year,” said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein addressing health care workers. “The years 2020-2021 are the years of the angels in white. For a whole year now, you have been there for the citizens of Israel, day and night, on Saturdays and holidays, giving your soul a harsh and cruel reality. Now begin to see the light.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Sunday that it expected Israel to provide vaccines to Palestinians living in the West Bank, as well as to Palestinians who are held in Israeli jails. The statement accused Israel of “trying to absolve itself of its duties as an occupying power, and fully blame the Palestinian government.”
Also on Sunday, a separate statement by the PA said that a shipment of vaccines from drugmaker AstraZeneca would arrive in the West Bank sometime in March.
These developments followed weeks in which different and often contradictory statements were made by various PA officials regarding the issue of vaccines as well as a widely reported but factually vacuous accusation that Israel was intentionally withholding vaccines from Palestinians.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.