Despite Prime Minister Netanyahu's bullish statement on Thursday that the pandemic "is behind us", coronavirus czar Professor Nachman Ash warned yesterday that the R-number has sneaked above 1 again and repeated his warning of just over a month ago that a fourth lockdown is possible. There is good news around, with the number of seriously ill cases at its lowest point since December. There is also some initial evidence that breastfeeding mothers who have been vaccinated pass on antibodies to their babies. Meanwhile, the Cabinet has tonight approved further easing of restrictions. From tomorrow, Ben Gurion Airport will partially reopen, providing the chance for 1000 Israelis stranded overseas to return home. Furthermore, the limits on people who can meet either indoors or outdoors will be increased and restaurants will be allowed to reopen.
We're not sure why anyone would refuse the offer of a Covid-19 vaccination but, bizarrely, there are apparently even hospital staff who have chosen to remain unprotected and the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem announced on Thursday that medical staff who have not either been vaccinated or have acquired immunity will no longer be able to treat patients.
After two weeks of falling, Israel has risen slightly to 16th place, for the number of coronavirus tests per million people (1,345,440), still one place below the UK (1,382,664). This compares to the disputed territories in 93rd place (235,639).
After last week's fall, Israel remains 54th for deaths per million people (637 per million). The UK also remains in 6th place with 1,826 deaths per million, still far higher than Israel: a testament to the heroes of Magen David Adom and all those involved in the Israeli health system. Also impressive is the statistic for the disputed territories, with only 411 deaths per million people despite a slight rise to 70th place in the list. Both Israelis and Palestinians are therefore much less likely to die of Covid-19 than the frequency of confirmed cases would suggest, whereas people in the UK are much more likely to die.
What about life in the disputed territories?
The big story of the week has been the distribution policy of vaccines by the Palestinian Authority, with footballers, the PLO executive committee and the Joradanian royal family getting vaccinated ahead of ordinary Palestinians. Funnily enough, in the absence of an opportunity to blame Israel, this has not received a great deal of publicity in the western media.
The governor of Ramallah, Dr Laila Ghannam, the first female Palestinian governor, has ordered a full lockdown for one week starting from this evening, with only bakeries and pharmacies allowed to open as normal and grocery stores only allowed to open on Sunday and Thursday.
Tragically, a funding dispute appears to have arisen over the vaccinating of 120,000 West Bank Palestinians who work in Israel and West Bank yishuvim. The programme was due to start tomorrow, but has been put on hold while the wrangling continues. With the Palestinian Authority having paid at least $159 million to terrorists and their families during 2020 as a reward for attacking or murdering Jews, it presumably would have no difficulty in funding a programme for saving lives, if that were its leaders' priority.