Friday, 29 January, 2021
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2021-01-29 08:56:44.569 GMT
By Gwen Ackerman
(Bloomberg) — With more than 30% of its population
vaccinated, Israel leads the fight against Covid-19. Yet the
emergence of more infectious variants is overwhelming its
hospitals, showing the long road ahead for the rest of the
After inoculating 82% of Israelisaged 60 and more, going
into a nearly month-long lockdown and shutting down the national
airport this week, Israel is indicating the end of the tunnel
may be further away. That dents hopes for a rapid vaccine-driven
global recovery after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge
at Davos to make Israel a test case for how quickly Covid shots
can help reopen economies.
“We see a wave of infection that refuses to decline,
apparently because of the mutation,” Health Minister Yuli
Edelstein said at a press conference on Thursday.
As the European Union fights to get adequate supplies of
vaccines and the U.S. pushes to get more shots into arms, the
Israeli situation is evidence of the difficulty of fighting a
virus whose ability to quickly mutate keeps it a step ahead of
efforts to contain it.
People who have gone through the vaccination cycle made up
2% or less of those hospitalized, said Head of Public Health
Sharon Alroy-Preis, adding that “they were definitely more
protected.” Still, not enough people have completed the
inoculation cycle to draw conclusions about the efficacy of the
vaccine, Ran Balicer, head of the Covid-19 National Experts
Team, said on Ynet television.
The so-called British variant, 50% more infectious and
possibly more virulent than the original virus, is to blame for
the inability so far of the vaccination campaign and the
lockdown to curb the spread, Israeli health ministry officials
Although the vaccine is believed to work against the
British variant, the mutation’s more contagious nature means
higher infections and hence more hospitalizations. The health
ministry’s main goal now is to bring down the numbers of the
seriously ill who are overwhelming hospital wards and exhausting
The rate of infections in Israel has declined slightly to
about 9% and people seriously or critically ill has stabilized
at about 1,100. But the number of patients on respirators has
hit a record, Corona Commissioner Nachman Ash has said. More
than 4,600 people in Israel have died from the virus, and more
than 7,600 people are being diagnosed with it daily.
Balicer said it would likely take another 10 days before
the country sees critical cases decline, allowing the economy to
begin to return to normal.
Netanyahu has set a target of inoculating all Israelis
older than 16 by the end of March.
“The faster we vaccinate and the faster the population goes
to get vaccinated, the faster we can bring the spread under
control,” said Hezi Levi, Health Ministry director.