Chezy Levy: No date set for next coronavirus closure

Number of serious and intubated patients has remained stable.

Prof. Chezy Levy, designated to be the Health Ministry's director-general (photo credit: BARZILAI HOSPITAL)
Prof. Chezy Levy, designated to be the Health Ministry's director-general
(photo credit: BARZILAI HOSPITAL)
“We cannot talk about the date for the next closure,” Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy said on Wednesday, refuting the idea that the Health Ministry and coronavirus cabinet are aiming for a Hanukkah lockdown.
However, he said that the infection rate is rising and “we are following it. We know it went up. I cannot talk about dates. We just need to follow the rate of infection.”
He said that if the infection rate spikes too much, then restrictions might have to be reinstated. He admitted that the government did not choose to follow the full recommendations of the ministry, so “there is a fear of increasing infection.”
This is especially the case with the education system, where all students will be returning to school within the next two weeks. But he said that data gathered from testing teachers and students in the lower grades – preschoolers and students in first through fourth grades already returned to school at the beginning of the month – showed there was only a mild increase in infection.
“As for the morbidity survey for teachers, so far, [the number who have been tested] is not optimal – about 10,000. In any case, the magnitude of the morbidity [is] 2.1% of those screened.”
The ministry has been charged with recommending possible new restrictions to balance the rise in infection from opening schools and additional commerce. Among the options being explored are stopping gatherings through new technological means, monitoring the movements of people who test positive via a new application, and placing a night closure on the country or certain areas.
The cabinet also said that it would be examining – once again – increasing enforcement, especially of young people gathering for raves and weddings, and of people who return from abroad and need to enter isolation.
Ministry data from earlier this week showed that out of 988 Israelis returning from Turkey between October 1 and October 28, some 197 of them tested positive for coronavirus. Many of the travelers are from the Arab sector, which currently has a disproportionate number of sick people.
Over the weekend, coronavirus commissioner Nachman Ash visited the Arab town of Kalansuwa, where he told residents that “weddings are what is causing the outbreak in the Arab community, along with people returning from abroad.”
Levy added that there are 15 red cities and many more orange – most of which are located in the Arab sector.
The ministry is expected to present its ideas at the next cabinet meeting, which has been postponed until next week. The ministry has stressed that it is not interested in a general closure and does not yet think it is necessary.
“Today, there are 500 patients in the hospital. There were almost 2,000 last time we locked down,” Levy said.
He said that the number of serious and intubated patients has also remained stable.
The ministry reported 835 new cases on Wednesday out of 59,664 tested – 1.8% of people tested positive. There were 285 people in serious condition, including 110 who were intubated. He said that the reproduction rate (the R or number of people that one sick person infects) stood at 1.06. Some 64 people died in the last week, he said.
Regarding the vaccine, Levy said that, contrary to reports, it is unlikely that many doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive in Israel in December.
“We may get a small shipment at the end of December, but, really, we are looking at the first or second quarter of 2021,” he said, noting that on Wednesday a committee met to begin discussing an outline for distribution of the vaccines, including who will be at the top of the list of priority recipients.
He noted that it is likely that medical personnel and those who are at highest risk for complications from the coronavirus will likely be inoculated first.