Israel Shops to Close as Country Nears Third Wave, Official Says

The resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Israel will lead to a new round of tightened restrictions, and possibly the country’s third lockdown, Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said.

On Tuesday, new cases rose to 2,862 -- past the 2,500 threshold the government had set for stricter limitations. Israel has been slowly reopening its economy after exiting its second lockdown in mid-October, but now most retail and public-facing workplaces will be closed again, Kisch said.

“We won’t go into a full shutdown” but “we are on the edge of another wave and we have to reduce the numbers and the infection rate,” Kisch said. “Only work without public interaction will be accepted and all the rest will be closed.”

Israel Shops to Close as Country Nears Third Wave, Official Says

The country hopes to avert a third lockdown as it begins administering Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine this month, but Kisch said a further shutdown is still possible if the new restrictions aren’t effective.

Israel Shops to Close as Country Nears Third Wave, Official Says

Kisch sees a 60% vaccination rate as the threshold to reverse Israel’s outbreak. But he’s worried about resistance, and expressed concern that if Israel calls early elections amid the current budget turmoil, then vaccine messaging could suffer.

“I think we have to fight a lot of fake news around the safety and benefits of the vaccine,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to get the vaccine first in order to boost acceptance.

Along with Pfizer, Israel also has deals to purchase vaccine doses from Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc. Kisch wouldn’t comment on any further talks with vaccine makers but said Israel is “still working to increase whatever we can,” with priority given to vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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