Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Police at a roadblock in Jerusalem during the 3rd nationwide full lockdown, January 10, 2021.

Israel’s Health Ministry will consider starting lockdown relief in two weeks if morbidity data continue to fall. The move will depend on weighing the morbidity data as well as the immunization program. A source in the Health Ministry told Kan 11 News that a situation assessment is expected towards the end of this week, based on the trending of coronavirus morbidity.

On Sunday, it was reported that the measure for progress toward easing the lockdown would be the number of vaccinated Israelis who have received both doses, and not necessarily the number of infected or sick patients.

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There are two schools of thought in the government: one believes that once 2.5 million citizens have been vaccinated with both doses it would be possible to open up the economy. In contrast, the other school is talking about the need for 5 million Israelis who have received the double dose.

At the current rate, the gap between the two schools stands at 3 to 4 weeks, or a difference of tens of billions of shekels to the economy.

Whether or not one school overcomes the other, there are some in government who promise a sharp return to the routine economy, suggesting there won’t be a gradual reopening but for a binary move – when there is a significant share of vaccinated people in Israel, the economy can be brought back to life.

On the other hand, officials in the Health Ministry said on Monday morning that even when Israel comes out of the lockdown, no matter how long it lasts, life will not immediately return to where it was in before the lockdown. They warn there won’t be full trade, including the opening of malls, for a long time, and that exiting from the lockdown will be gradual.

Sheba Medical staff receive the second round of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, January 10, 2021. / Miriam Alster/Flash90

A total of 91,000 tests were performed in Israel on Sunday, and the rate of positive results was 7.4% – a very high figure compared to recent days. After a record number of patients on respirators, the Health Ministry reported that on Sunday 6,706 new infections were diagnosed. 1,715 patients are hospitalized, of whom 1,044 are in critical condition. 3,671 died since the outbreak of the pandemic in Israel.

So far, 1.87 million people have been vaccinated in Israel, but the vaccinating pace has slowed down due to shrinking inventory. Nearly two million more Israelis are expected to receive the “vaccine certificate” and the “green passport” in the coming month. On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport, and were welcomed personally, as is the custom, by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein (Huge Shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Arrives in Israel).

Sources in the Health Ministry say they are working on a clear exit strategy and explain that “the rate of graduality has not yet been determined, and will depend on the trends of morbidity, based on the rate of vaccinations and the number of seriously ill patients.”

They added that “if we see a decrease in mortality, and at the same time a high rate of vaccinations, we’ll increase the rate of reopening the economy.”

Education is expected to be the first area to reopen.

The head of the Magen Israel program’s group of experts, Prof. Ran Blitzer, told Reshet B Radio on Monday morning: “We are seeing the first signs of stabilization, but it’s very difficult to predict. The fact that about 70% of people ages 60 and over have been vaccinated should halve the number of patients in a critical condition. In a week and a half, it will be easier to make decisions about what to do next.”

Prof. Blitzer added that the healthcare system in Israel has been managed for several years on the verge of economic inadequacy. “This method means that the ability to deal with exceptional challenges, certainly in such a dramatic event, comes with a price. I hope that after we recover from this year, new decisions will be made about how to preserve the system,” he said.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.
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