By unanimous vote on Tuesday night, Israeli government ministers approved extending the nationwide lockdown for ten more days, until January 31.
In addition, they voted for a requirement that travelers entering Israel present a negative coronavirus test from within 72 hours before their flight, in response to reports that much of the surge in infections has been due to lax health security at the airports.
During the cabinet meeting by videoconference, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “This might not be popular nor convenient during elections, but this is what we need to decide today. It’s a lot easier to ignore the incredible jump in morbidity and just open everything, but this will cost many lives.”
He added that “this is a difficult decision for many Israeli citizens but a last effort is needed here, a joint effort by all of us to get out of the coronavirus [pandemic] and save lives.”
While Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, backed by health officials, advocated extending the lockdown by another two weeks, Blue and White ministers were insisting on no more than 10 days, according to leaks in the media.
The head of the National Security Council, Meir Ben Shabbat, who is tasked with overseeing the government virus response, said that the impact of the lockdown on the infection rate is still not evident. He also warned that despite the decision to begin inoculating people under 45, there are still 300,000 Israelis over the age of 60 yet to be inoculated.