Israel is on its way to a third lockdown before even exiting its second as the country passed the ominous bar of 2,500 new COVID infections a day this week.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said the country would have to begin reimposing restrictions and the coronavirus cabinet will convene on Sunday to vote on closing stores again — some that just reopened like last week such as malls — and a reduction in transportation in addition to closing schools in cities that have turned “red” in the traffic light program.
The official death toll reached at 3,040 by Thursday.
The talk of another closure is happening parallel to the kickoff of a mass vaccination program set to begin on Sunday after weeks of build up by the prime minister. On Saturday night after Shabbat, Netanyahu will become the first Israeli to get the vaccine. Then the program will be rolled out for other officials, health workers and the public at large.
As we reported last week, Israel is moving forward with a “green passport” in order to allow people who have had the vaccine more freedoms and to be able to attend events, eat at restaurants, avoid quarantine and fly.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein is also going to war against any claims that the coronavirus vaccine may be unsafe.
“They have been tested in every possible way,” he said. “Top doctors whom I talked to are confirming their safety.”
“My main task is to fight fake news over the next weeks and months,” he said. “I have seen lately that all sorts of people, including Knesset members, are starting to spread fake news, talk about ‘dangerous vaccines’ and call on people not to vaccinate.
Edelstein was responding to calls from opposition parties to hold public talks on the vaccine and possible side effects before going forward.
“Who will be held responsible for damages caused by the vaccine? What populations are more prone to be damaged by the vaccine? Will there be any sanctions or benefits to those who choose to vaccinate?” Yulia Malinovsky, a member of the Yisrael Beytenu party, asked in a letter to the coronavirus committee. “The importance of holding a public debate is extremely high, in order to ensure that the information is transparent so that every citizen in Israel can form an opinion after hearing all medical recommendations.”
Avigdor Liberman slammed Edelstein for making vaccines a political issue.
“Regarding vaccines – there’s no such thing as partisan discipline or agreements between parties,” Liberman wrote on Twitter. “Every person, according to their age, medical condition and doctors’ recommendations, will make their own decisions.”
According to a survey conducted by the University of Haifa, only 20 percent of Israeli Jewish respondents and 16 percent of Arab Israeli respondents said they would be willing to be among the first to take the vaccine. Many people want to wait and see how the process goes.