Coronavirus: Gov't fails to meet on restrictions amid political squabbles

Almost 1.5 million people have received both vaccines • Deaths continues to spike as toll reaches 4,609 • Israel borders completely seal

Israelis are seen walking along the Jaffa Street light rail tracks in the rain amid the coronavirus lockdown, on January 19, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israelis are seen walking along the Jaffa Street light rail tracks in the rain amid the coronavirus lockdown, on January 19, 2021.
The political squabbles that have prevented the government from meeting and extending the lockdown will exact a heavy toll, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Thursday, as the cabinet failed to convene to vote on renewing the current restrictions and the closure of borders. Both sets of measures are scheduled to expire Monday at midnight.
“The cheap political games about our medical demand for extending the lockdown will lead to severe morbidity and eventually also to an increased death rate,” Edelstein said while visiting a clinic in Arara in the Negev with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The approach to containing the pandemic has been a point of contention for days among Blue and White, Likud, and the ultra-Orthodox parties.
Blue and White repeatedly said they would not accept convening the cabinet unless a bill increasing fines for violations of coronavirus restrictions was approved. Netanyahu committed his party to backing the bill, but Blue and White officials accused the Likud of expressing support while deliberately preventing its passage.
Hours after both parties said on Thursday that the Knesset plenum would vote on the bill, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud) announced that the plenum would not convene before Monday.
Health officials are demanding that the lockdown be extended for at least a week, in the hopes of seeing a significant reduction in the numbers of new daily cases, and above all, of critically ill patients, who are straining the nation’s healthcare system.
Some 7,673 new coronavirus cases were registered in the country on Wednesday, according to Health Ministry figures, with 9.2% of tests returning positive results. The figures appear to confirm a decrease in the morbidity rate that has been observed in the past few days. As of Thursday night, some 1,178 individuals were in serious conditions, and 320 were on ventilators.
The death toll since the beginning of the pandemic in Israel stands at 4,612. Some 96 new fatalities were registered since the previous update by the Health Ministry. More than 1,200 people have died from the virus just in the month of January.
Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash pointed to data showing that when there are more than 500 patients, the death rate tends to rise because of hospital overload.
Experts are hoping to see a significant improvement in morbidity as early as next week because of both the restrictive measures and the vaccination campaign.
The country continues to vaccinate about 200,000 people a day. Almost 1.5 million people have received both doses and about 2.9 million the first. The ministry expanded the vaccination campaign on Thursday to all those over the age of 35.
Since Thursday morning, the country has been completely sealed off. The land borders were shut down – after Ben-Gurion Airport was closed earlier in the week – to further prevent people with coronavirus variants from entering the country. In Arara, Netanyahu vowed to extend the closures of the airport for at least another two weeks.