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Health official: ‘No choice but to extend the lockdown for another week’

Virus czar also says there’s a possibility of compelling travelers to Israel to produce negative virus test from previous 72 hours

Police at a temporary roadblock by the beach promenade in Tel Aviv, during a nationwide lockdown. January 16, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Police at a temporary roadblock by the beach promenade in Tel Aviv, during a nationwide lockdown. January 16, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said on Sunday that he believed Israel would have no choice but to extend its third national lockdown, which is ongoing.

“Looking at the data today, there will be no choice but to extend the lockdown for another week,” Ash told the Kan public broadcaster as Israel neared the grim milestone of 4,000 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The cabinet is set to decide this week whether to extend the tightened coronavirus lockdown, which began a week ago and is set to expire Thursday night.

Channel 12 News reported Saturday that while the Health Ministry is pushing to extend the tightened lockdown measures, opposition from Blue and White and ultra-Orthodox parties could cause them to expire Thursday as scheduled.

Israel’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Nachman Ash, visits at the coronavirus department at the Ziv hospital in Safed, in northern Israel. December 24, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Ash also addressed criticism that flights were still bringing hundreds of travelers to Israel per day despite the lockdown, suggested that people entering the country could be compelled to produce a negative coronavirus test.

“We are working to obligate everyone who boarded a plane from abroad to perform a coronavirus check 72 hours before the flight to Israel,” Ash said.

As of Saturday night, Israel’s death toll stood at 3,959. Since the beginning of 2021, 621 Israelis have died from the virus.

The mounting fatalities came as the national vaccine drive continues to expand, with additional shipments of hundreds of thousands of shots set to arrive early this week.

A technician collects nasal swab samples for COVID-19 at the coronavirus lab, at Ben-Gurion International Airport on December 14, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

All Israelis over the age of 45 are eligible to receive the first COVID-19 shot through their health providers starting Sunday.

Over 2 million Israelis have already received the first shot of the vaccine, and nearly 225,000 have been administered the second dose.

Coinciding with the launch of the vaccination campaign has been a surge in coronavirus cases, with some 9,000 daily new infections diagnosed in recent days.

There has also been a sharp rise in fatalities and the number of patients in serious condition from COVID-19 complications. As of Saturday night, 1,184 people were in serious condition, 274 of them on ventilators.

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