We are in the midst of a third national lockdown — nearly three weeks after it began and nearly a week after it was tightened even further — and yet Israel has set a new record in COVID-19 infections in a single day with nearly 10,000 people testing positive
The surge in infections is surprising as the lockdown has only gotten more stringent and nearly 2 million people already vaccinated, some 20 percent of the country, with the first of two doses. Healthcare services began administering the second dose already as Israel leads the world in its vaccination campaign.
"At the moment we are in a mighty race between two events: The spread of the disease and the distribution of the vaccines. We are ahead of the whole world in vaccines with the millions of vaccines that we have brought," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "The HMOs and our health system are doing heroic work and we hope that by the day after tomorrow we will reach 170,000 vaccinations a day, a world record."
"At the same time, we are also fighting the spread of the disease which has reached tens of thousands of verified cases a day. This is a very rapid pace," Netanyahu said, acknowledging the challenges facing the country.
Israel is now the 29th country in the world to surpass half a million infections since the start of the outbreak in March. Of 127,000 tests performed yesterday, 7.6% returned positive. Israel now has 74,639 active cases with 1,027 people in serious condition, including 247 on ventilators, while 3,704 people have died, according to Health Ministry numbers on Tuesday.
The Health Ministry said the ultra-Orthodox population accounts for a disproportionately high rate of infection at 30% while making up just 12% of the population. Nevertheless, not one city in the entire country is considered “green” at the moment with a low rate of COVID infections.
Officials have long predicted that the two-week lockdown would not be long enough to bring down infection rates and that it would be extended. Since the infection rates have spiked in the third week of the recent lockdown rather than the hoped-for decrease, that extending the lockdown is likely a forgone conclusion.
Still, no discussions will be held on how or whether to exit the lockdown until next week's coronavirus cabinet.
Some officials are optimistic about the numbers despite the high infection rate over the past few weeks.
“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.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.