Israeli Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said on Tuesday that Israel will not be able to avoid tightening COVID-19 restrictions.
“There is a clear trend. We’re headed toward [a period of] rigorous restrictions,” he told Army Radio.
According to Health Ministry data published on Wednesday, Israel’s COVID-19 morbidity stood at 3.5 percent on Tuesday. The Military Intelligence COVID-19 task force noted in its latest report, published on Wednesday, that the virus’s rate of reproduction was now 1.21.
“Over the last month, the rate of reproduction is significantly greater than 1, an expression of the accelerated spread of the pandemic,” the report states.
On Thursday, the government scrapped plans to impose a curfew over the Hanukkah holiday. Instead, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that if the virus’s reproduction rate reaches 1.32 or the daily number of new cases reaches 2,500, a special period of “tightened restraint” would be imposed for three weeks.
“If after this period we will get a reproduction rate that is below 1, we will stop with the enforcement, but if it stays high we will have to impose a lockdown,” he said.
The “tightened restraint” period will see many businesses shut down—including malls and schools in communities particularly hard-hit by the virus. It will also require a ratcheting up of quarantine measures for those arriving from abroad.
The second shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, between 300,000 and 400,000 doses, landed in Israel on Wednesday morning. The country’s vaccination campaign is set to kick off Sunday, Dec. 20. By the end of the month, Israel is expected to have 3.8 million doses of the vaccine. With each individual requiring two doses for immunity, the vaccines should be enough to inoculate nearly 2 million people.
Health Ministry Director professor Hezi Levy spoke with the directors of Israel’s hospitals on Tuesday night, and informed them no directive had yet been issued to begin vaccinations.
It remains unclear which hospitals will be the first to receive the vaccines and how many vaccines each hospital is set to receive, although Israel’s largest hospitals will likely be the first.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told The New York Times it was set to approve Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use on Friday. The FDA confirmed Moderna’s findings that the vaccine was 94 percent effective in clinical trials.
Israel’s Ministry of Health announced last week that it had signed an agreement with Moderna to triple the number of vaccines it will purchase from the company in 2021, from 2 million to 6 million doses, according to a joint statement by the ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office.
In the meantime, a poll carried out by Haifa University’s School of Public Health found that less than 30 percent of men and 15 percent of women are interested in getting vaccinated at this time. Only 20 percent of Jewish respondents and 16 percent of Arab respondents said they would get vaccinated immediately.
Broken down further, the survey of 1,000 Israelis over the age of 30 found that seven percent of Jewish men planned to refuse the vaccine, as opposed to 30 percent of Arab men. Seventeen percent of Jewish women and 41 percent of Arab women said they would refuse to get the vaccine.
In total, 58 percent of Jewish men and 41 percent of Arab men expressed interest in getting the vaccine, some immediately and some after a few thousand vaccines had already been administered. Forty-one percent of Jewish women and 25 percent of Arab women said they would be interested in getting inoculated.
Professor Manfred Green, who heads the School of Public Health’s international master’s program, said, “The gender and ethnic differences that arise in the survey shine light on the populations on which explanatory emphasis should be placed with the aim of as many people getting vaccinated as possible in order for us all to go back to our routines as quickly as possible.”
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.