All Israelis over the age of 45 will be eligible to receive the first COVID-19 shot through their health providers starting Sunday as Israel’s vaccine drive continues to expand, the Health Ministry announced Friday.
Thursday saw 56,716 Israelis receive their first inoculation, totaling 1,992,806, with another 64,366 getting their second shot, reaching 169,707 — by far the highest vaccination rate in the world, according to the Our World In Data website.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed last week that Israel would ramp up its vaccine drive further, to a target of administering 170,000 shots a day, as a new batch of hundreds of thousands of doses of Pfizer’s vaccine touched down at Ben Gurion Airport.
By late March, Israel will have vaccinated 5.2 million citizens against the coronavirus, according to a plan drawn up by the Health Ministry.
Coinciding with the launch of the vaccination campaign has been a surge in coronavirus cases, with over 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.
Updated figures published Friday morning by the Health Ministry said 9,192 new cases had been confirmed the previous day — the fourth in a row with over 9,000 cases. However, the rate of positive tests, 7.7 percent, was roughly half of the record reached in September. The number of daily tests has grown dramatically and stood at 123,111 on Thursday.
Initial figures for Friday showed a similar positivity rate of 7.2% — 1,807 cases out of 25,230 tests conducted by 10 a.m.
The number of total cases since the pandemic began, which passed half a million Monday, reached 533,026, including 79,084 active cases — a new all-time record. Of them, 1,141 people were in serious condition, including 351 listed as being critical and 291 on ventilators.
The death toll surged to 3,892 — an increase of 49 since Thursday morning.
Due to the high morbidity and mortality figures, the government last week tightened lockdown measures that took effect a week earlier, ordering the closure of schools and businesses.
Netanyahu urged Israelis to adhere to government-mandated virus restrictions and said no decision had yet been made on extending the third nationwide lockdown, which health officials have signaled will last beyond the original January 21 end date.
Police geared up to significantly expand enforcement of the lockdown over the weekend, setting up checkpoints that will operate 24 hours a day.
Police said dozens of checkpoints were set up along main highways, as well as within cities and towns. The increased enforcement measures began at 6 a.m. on Friday.