We might have flipped the calendar to 2021, but so far, things are looking a lot like 2020 in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a full two-week lockdown beginning on Thursday night. The coronavirus is spreading rampantly throughout the nation, as 8,308 Israelis were diagnosed with the virus on Monday, the highest figure since September 30 of last year (9,065 cases). Israel is already under a lockdown, but its relatively loose restrictions have not slowed down the virus numbers. The current lockdown includes the restriction of residents travelling more than one kilometer from their homes. Now, new regulations will be implemented, which worldisraelnews.com says will include:
• Educational institutions will be closed with exceptions for special needs and at-risk youth.
• “All professional sporting events will be canceled.
• Only absolutely essential workplaces will be open.
• All trade closed, outside of those deemed essential.
• Public transportation will operate at 50%.
• Gatherings are forbidden outside of 5 people indoors, 10 people outdoors.
• No meetings in homes outside one’s own.”
The Knesset must agree to pass these recommendations for the lockdown to go into effect, which is expected to happen.
The high rate of infection seems counterintuitive because Israel ranks first in vaccinations in the world. Ten percent of its population, including a focus on its at-risk citizens, have already received the first dose of the vaccine.
This is a tough blow to Israel as it welcomes in the new year. The virus is still alive and well, sadly, and people are going to be stuck at home for a while longer. The encouraging news is that Israel has been effective in distributing the vaccine so far. The expectation is that the availability of the vaccine will mean a return to normalcy in a reasonable amount of time after so many months of having no idea of when that might be. The high infection rates shouldn’t raise much concern about the effectiveness of the vaccine yet—immunity is expected after the second dose, not the first—so if things go according to plan, many who have gotten the first dose should be in line to receive their second dose around the time the two-week lockdown ends. Our hope is that this coronavirus lockdown will be Israel’s last and it will be a useful weapon in the fight against the disease.