Israel Eases Lockdown but Vaccinations Slowing

Israel eased its third lockdown against the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, keeping its main airport closed but allowing some businesses to reopen along with public parks.

On Saturday, the Finance Minister, Israel Katz, said boldly that this would be “absolutely the final lockdown.” But earlier last week, Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the death rate remains “very high” and a long Government debate over when to reopen schools continues today.

The reason is that coronavirus tests are still showing a high percentage of positive results, such as the 8.8 percent of more than 52,000 tests carried out on Sunday.

Thus far Israel has managed to vaccinate more than 22.5% of its population with a first dose, and 15.1% with a second dose. But the vaccination programme is slowing down, despite vaccines being offered to all Israelis over the age of 16.

Kalanit Kaye, manager of Clalit’s vaccination efforts, says the pace of their inoculations has slowed dramatically:

“At the beginning of the campaign we got used to inoculating
between 100,000 and 120,000 people per day, and in the
last few days we are barely reaching half of those figures.”

She thinks that is because of “fake news” online, promoting scepticism about vaccines.

A group called ‘Independent Journalism 2020’ is opposing the government and health professionals, claiming online that they are coronavirus spreaders. Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Health Minister, Yuli Edelstein, have both been targeted by the group.

Some of the Israeli ‘anti-vaxxers’ have been posting messages urging people to reserve vaccination appointments but then not turn up, thus forcing the vaccinators into a situation where they may have to waste the vaccines because of the short shelf-life once they have been removed from deep freeze.

But on Sunday some of them went further and vandalized a vaccination site in Tiberias, spray painting an accusation that “the vaccine kills” on its exterior.

The exact effect of these anti-vaccine campaigns remains uncertain but there has been a drop in the number of people between the ages of 20 and 40 being vaccinated. This is the age-group more likely to take note of online messages.

UPDATE 9th February

Here is a video report on this matter by ILTV News: