Ministers Consider Extending Lockdown as Infection Rate Continues to Rise

Police set up temporary roadblocks on road 40, as Israel enters a nationwide lockdown, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on January 8. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The government will be asked to decide on an extension to the current coronavirus lockdown later in the week, as health experts warn the coronavirus infection rate remains too high for curbs in restrictions.

On Jan. 5 the government approved a two-week nationwide lockdown in an effort to drive down the country’s rocketing morbidity rate.

Israel’s coronavirus commissioner, Prof. Nachman Ash, said last Wednesday that the country’s third national lockdown will likely be extended by a week.

The Blue and White party, headed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and other MKs, have voiced opposition to the plan, claiming that the lockdowns are exacting too high a toll on the country’s economy, which is estimated to cost some NIS 4.25 billion ($1.3 billion) a week.

“We must see an effective plan to fight the spread of coronavirus,” Gantz said over the weekend.

“We must insist on seeing real enforcement of mitigation regulations before we can discuss extending the lockdown,” Gantz said.

Yerushalayim continues to lead the country with active case counts, with one out of five of all COVID-19 patients living in the capital. In the past week alone, the city’s positivity rate rose from 15% to 17% with 10,250 new cases confirmed.

The Health Ministry, which is advocating for an extension to the lockdown, said the R factor should be the determinant, claiming that the extensive vaccination drive that began last month is expected to soon begin to have an impact on community spread.

Despite the bleak statistics, one shining spot remains Israel’s world-leading vaccination drive, with more than two million members of the public receiving at least one inoculation jab since December 20.

The current lockdown is set to expire on Thursday at midnight.

Although the full Cabinet was set to meet on Sunday, the coronavirus lockdown was not added to its schedule and decisions were not expected before the middle of the week.