An Israeli health official has warned that a new post-vaccine strain of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) could force Israel back into lockdown
. At the same time, the Israeli prime minister said the only way to avoid another lockdown is to continue vaccinations
COVID-19 cases in Israel are still rising, despite it being one of the most vaccinated nations in the world
. Around 60 percent of its population is fully vaccinated, and another five percent has received one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
As of Wednesday, Aug. 18, Israel has 59,218 active COVID-19 cases. Of these, 991 are hospitalized, 600 in serious condition and 103 on ventilators. These figures are from the Israeli Ministry of Health
Since the release of that government data, another 4,583 confirmed COVID-19 infections were detected, with 5.39 percent of COVID-19 tests coming back positive.
Dr. Asher Shalmon, director of the Health Ministry's Department of International Relations
, warned that the country will enter lockdown if the new post-vaccine strain reaches Israel.
"If it reaches Israel, we will get to the lockdown that we so desperately want to avoid," he said.
This new post-vaccine strain, originating from South America and first identified in the United States, is reported to be more contagious and more resistant to the COVID-19 vaccines.
Health Ministry Director-General and Coronavirus Commissioner Nachman Ash said if the country's COVID-19 morbidity does not decrease, the government will be forced to introduce other measures as well. One of the possibilities the government is exploring is postponing the beginning of the school year.
Israel has also recently implemented a new system of travel restrictions. All travelers entering Israel now have to self-isolate for two weeks regardless of their vaccination status or their recovery from a previous COVID-19 infection. This two-week isolation period can be shorted to seven days with two negative PCR tests. It can also be skipped if the traveler comes from a selected list of countries, including Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand, Hungary and China.
Israel is also expanding its vaccine passport system
, known as a "green pass." Under the green pass system, only fully vaccinated individuals, people who have recovered from COVID-19 or people who have a negative rapid test in the previous 24 hours will be allowed to enter most areas.
For malls and retail stores, green passes will not be required but only one person per seven square meters will be allowed to enter them.
Israeli government still pushing for vaccinations
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the only way the country can avoid going back into another lockdown is if they keep getting vaccinated.
"If Israeli citizens continue to be vaccinated on a large scale, we can overcome the delta variant," said Bennett during a televised press conference. Bennett falsely believes that the COVID-19 vaccines can protect people from the delta variant. He is also ignoring the fact that fully vaccinated individuals contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
Bennett himself recognized that the rise of the delta variant has created a "new situation" for Israel and other similarly high-vaccination countries due to the variant's high rate of transmissibility.
The prime minister continued attempting to coerce Israelis into getting vaccinated by emphasizing the dangers of another lockdown.
"A lockdown is the easiest step for the government. Lots of people say, 'Press on the lockdown button… and everything is in order,'" said Bennett. "Except for one thing. In doing so, we are destroying the future of the country. A lockdown is the last line of defense, only when all other options were exhausted."
Bennett further talked about how a lockdown would be economically devastating for Israel. It would leave the country saddled with debt and without any funds to purchase necessary medical supplies as well as key military equipment.
"A vaccinated country is an alternative to lockdowns," he said.
According to the Health Ministry, 5.42 million people in Israel are fully vaccinated. Another nearly half a million people have received at least one dose.
Another 1.16 million people have received a third dose or a "booster shot" of the COVID-19 vaccine. Israel recently began administering an extra dose of the side effect-riddled COVID-19 vaccines to immunocompromised people and people over 50.
"The decision was not easy for us, but we knew it was the right way to fight the coronavirus," said Bennett. He further claimed that the third dose of the vaccine offers more protection than just two doses. (Related: VACCINE FAIL: 64% of Israel's COVID-19 patients in serious condition are fully vaccinated
has the latest information regarding COVID-19 policies in Israel and other parts of the world.