Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy said Saturday that although the national lockdown has been effective in reducing virus infection rates, it has been disappointingly slow to do so.
“The lockdown is working, but at a slow and disappointing rate,” Levy told the Kan public broadcaster.
According to Channel 12, Israel leads the entire world in the number of days locked down since the start of the pandemic. However the current lockdown has not produced the expected dramatic drop in infection numbers, despite Israel’s massive vaccine effort, with officials blaming the British variant of the virus.
Thousands of Israelis are being diagnosed with the virus every day and the positive test rate has remained at around nine percent, compared with lows of around just 1% reached in previous lockdowns.
Levy said it was important for people to remember that social distancing and isolation were the most powerful tools in combating the pandemic.
“The restrictions are difficult for everyone, but keep in mind that this is a disease that can only be prevented by stopping irresponsible personal contact,” he said.
The lockdown is currently set to end overnight Sunday-Monday, but the cabinet is expected to extend the closure.
However, amid headlines about a lack of enforcement in ultra-Orthodox areas leading to gross violations of the health guidelines, the Blue and White party has said it will not approve extending the lockdown until a bill on raising fines is passed into law, arguing the measure is necessary to effectively curb the virus. The Knesset plenum will convene on Sunday to vote on the bill.
Should the Knesset fail to pass the legislation and a lockdown extension on Sunday, there will be a period during which there will be no restrictions at all until the cabinet can meet to order a new lockdown.
While the Health Ministry reportedly wants to add another week, ending the closure after next weekend to take advantage of two days when much of the country would not be at work anyway, some ministers prefer an extension of just a few days.