A third nationwide coronavirus lockdown seemed just a matter of time on Tuesday, as Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that infection rates had reached a critical level.
“We have missed the train with tightened restraint and there is no escape from a lockdown,” Edelstein said.
“It will take between two and three months for the vaccine [program] to take effect,” Edelstein said. “We wasted precious time, and the state of the infections means we have no choice but to go into lockdown.
“We have reached a positivity rate of over 5 percent and the reproduction rate stands at 1.3. It must be said… we have entered the third wave,” he added, addressing recent discussion about whether the country was experiencing a third wave or not.
Any reproduction value over 1.0 indicates that the virus infection rate is getting worse.
The coronavirus cabinet scheduled another meeting for Wednesday to determine what steps to take. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday evening,
“We need to have another discussion about a lockdown,” the prime minister said. “There is a new outbreak.”
For some days the ministers have been resisting the call from health officials for a lockdown, citing further damage to the economy, still in a process of gradual reopening after the previous closure.
But as the infection numbers have continued to rise, there seems no way to avoid it.
Edelstein’s comments came a few hours after coronavirus commissioner Nachman Ash urged immediate action.
“A decision needs to be made now. Tightened restraint will take about five weeks” to stem the spread of the virus. “Full closure will be shorter — three weeks at the current infection rate,” Ash predicted.
The Health Ministry announced Tuesday morning that 3,594 new coronavirus cases had been diagnosed the previous day, the highest number in months. The total number of infections in Israel since the start of the pandemic reached 380,095.
The number of active cases in the country stood at 27,628, with 472 patients in serious condition, including 119 on ventilators. Another 154 were in moderate condition, with the rest showing mild or no symptoms.
The death toll stood at 3,111.
According to the ministry, 4.2 percent of tests returned positive on Monday, out of the 85,173 administered. That figure showed a continuation of the trend of the rate increasing; last week, the positivity rate hovered around 3%.