Netanyahu Warns of Halt to Restrictions as Infection Rate Climbs

YERUSHALAYIM -
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the coronavirus lab in Ben Gurion airport, earlier this month. (Haim Zach, GPO)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday that if the coronavirus infection rate continues to rise the government will halt the easing of lockdown curbs and tighten the ones that have already been approved.

The Health Ministry said earlier the contagion rate in the country has spiked to 3.3%, the highest it has been in weeks. Last week, Israel for the first time in months also recorded over 1,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for three days in a row.

“If necessary, we will stop the continued easing of restrictions and even tighten those that have already been allowed,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, urging the public “to abide by the rules and obey the instructions” of the Health Ministry.

“We must do everything we can to prevent the deterioration of the situation that could lead us to much more difficult curbs, even more difficult than what we have endured so far,” he said. “It should be internalized that we are battling a severe pandemic that has taken the lives of over 2,800 people, each of whom is a world of its own, and we mourn each and every one of them.”

Netanyahu said that despite the high number of fatalities in the country, other states in Europe, which have a similar population size, endured much greater losses, including Belgium with 16,000 dead, the Czech Republic with 7,300, Switzerland with 4,500, the Netherlands 9,200 and Sweden with 6,000.

“Compared to other OECD countries, our situation is good.”

He said that next week the government will formulate an outline on how to distribute the coronavirus vaccines once they arrive in the country.

“My policy has been, and still is, to bring as many vaccines as possible from as many sources as possible to as many citizens as possible. We see that this policy is proving itself in the wake of various reports on the efficacy of the vaccination testing process, at least in one of the companies,” he said.

“We will continue this effort together with the Health Ministry and its office.”