As COVID-19 Cases Spike in Israel, Authorities Drag Their Feet Supplying the Country With Vaccines
According to the plan proposed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, 200,000 new vaccine doses will be delivered to Israel on 1 August. That batch will only be given to the elderly, and there are fears that the country will be drawn into another crisis if the jabs are not supplied on time.
Despite having almost freed itself of COVID-19, Israel seems to be going through a third wave of the virus.
More than 2,000 new coronavirus cases were registered in Israel on Tuesday, the highest number so far since the beginning of the wave that erupted at the end of June.
The number of patients now stands at nearly 13,750, pushing the overall tally of those who have contracted the virus since the beginning of the pandemic to 864,000 people. 138 of the new patients are in severe condition, and 26 are on ventilators.
Vaccines Are Needed
Experts believe that the reason for the new eruption is the spread of the Delta variant, which is thought to be 70 percent more contagious than the original virus.
In a bid to curb its spread, Israeli authorities have already implemented a number of measures. Facial masks have become a must indoors. Israelis coming from abroad are now required to quarantine for 24 hours, or until they receive a negative COVID-19 test result, whereas the arrival of foreign tourists that was scheduled for the beginning of August has now been pushed ahead indefinitely.
But experts are questioning whether those measures will be enough to contain the spread of the virus. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who now heads Israel's opposition, says he doubts it.
Speaking at a weekly meeting of his party Likud on Monday, the ex-PM slammed the current government and the man currently at its helm, Naftali Bennett, saying that the only way to tackle the pandemic is through supplying Israel with millions of vaccines that "the country has already paid for" and that are just waiting to be shipped.
Since the mass vaccination drive kicked off last December, Israel has inoculated more than 5.3 million out of its 9 million citizens. Although the country hasn't reached herd immunity yet, the number of people who have been vaccinated was enough to let the country function and keep its public offices and private businesses open.
The Delta variant is believed to be more resilient to the vaccine but recent research shows that it still prevented symptoms in 88 percent of cases. It also helped to keep patients from hospitalisation in 96 percent of cases.
Yet, oddly enough, the Israeli government is not in a rush to bring those jabs to Israel. At the beginning of the month, Bennett vowed that the country will have enough vaccines for all of its citizens but during a weekly meeting with his ministers he said only 200,000 of them will be brought on 1 August.
If this is accurate, that amount will suffice only for a limited number of citizens, and they will probably only be used to vaccinate the elderly. The rest of the population will need to wait for better days.
Dragging Their Feet
It is not really clear why the Israeli government is dragging its feet on the matter. Some say it is because the authorities doubt a third portion of the vaccine is actually needed. Others claim Israel is waiting for the green light from the US Food and Drug Administration. Yet, there are those who believe it is because the government first wants to approve the budget before it commits to new supplies.
Netanyahu has already warned that the current government's policy might lead the country to a disaster.
"For Israel to keep winning over the coronavirus, it needs two million vaccines [not 200,000]... it will save lives, protect our health and keep our economy blossoming and open."
The only question is whether Bennett and his government will manage to obtain them.