Government extends lockdown until January 31 amid soaring virus rates

The COVID-19 pandemic in Israel is starting to sound like a Charles Dickens novel: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

On one hand, Israel if leading the world in its vaccine campaign that has seen 30 percent of the eligible population in the country inoculated in just four weeks.

On the other hand, four weeks into a third nationwide lockdown, Israel is recording its highest numbers in daily infections since March, even setting a record this week of more than 10,000 positive cases in a single day. 

And based on that last fact, the Cabinet has extended the current lockdown another 10 days and will not end until Jan. 31, keeping children at home and businesses shuttered.

This third lockdown was tightened two weeks ago to include school closures and the closing of all nonessential businesses and stores. Some businesses never even had a chance to open up since September when Israel entered its previous lockdown.

Most Israelis were not shocked by this decision as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been urging for a few days now that the lockdown be extended.

“This might not be popular nor convenient during elections, but this is what we need to decide today,” Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting. “It’s a lot easier to ignore the incredible jump in morbidity and just open everything, but this will cost many lives.”

Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash actually recommended extending the lockdown by two weeks until Feb. 4 at least and would not even commit to how to roll back the lockdown.

The infection rates in ultra-Orthodox areas is at 30 percent while schools, Torah studies and even mass weddings carry one as usual, all in contradictions to the new rules. However, the fines handed out in these neighborhoods have been disproportionately lower, enraging the rest of the population whose children are home and businesses are closed.

On the vaccine blitz, at least 2,272,000 million Israelis had received the first round of the vaccine while more than 550,000 received the second dose as well by Jan. 20. In one day some 210,000 vaccines were administered, a new record.

“That is the pace to defeat the mutation!” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein tweeted, referring to the British strain of the virus.

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