JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli leaders decided on Tuesday to extend the country’s lockdown to Jan. 31 just days before it was scheduled to end.
Leaders warned the current lockdown had failed to significantly bring down coronavirus infection rate, and easing the restrictions on Thursday as planned could threaten to overwhelm Israel’s hospitals.
"If we lift the lockdown now, it will cost many human lives," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a meeting with government ministers.
Israel on Tuesday saw more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases, the highest number recorded in one day since the pandemic began.
During the meeting, Defense Minister Benny Gantz called for more police enforcement in ultra-orthodox areas where infection rates are highest.
Roni Numa, the government official overseeing the outbreak in ultra-orthodox communities said Monday that 30% of Israel’s coronavirus infections are coming from the ultra-orthodox, who make up only 10% of the population.
He explained said 20% of COVID-19 tests are coming back positive in these communities, compared to 5% in the general population.
Israel also decided on Tuesday to add new restrictions to those traveling into the country. Those who wish to enter Israel must first present a negative COVID-19 test to their airline no more than 72 hours before their flight, or confirm that they have been vaccinated. This rule will take into effect on Jan. 23.
Government leaders also pushed for Israel to ramp up its vaccination campaign, which now includes vaccinating pregnant women and adults aged 40 and above.
More than 500,000 Israelis have been infected with the coronavirus since the outbreak. Some 4,000 people have died.
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