Israeli Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said Dec. 15 Israel will not be able to avoid tightening COVID-19 restrictions.

“There is a clear trend. We’re headed toward (a period of) rigorous restrictions,” he told Army Radio.

According to Health Ministry data published Dec. 16, Israel’s COVID-19 morbidity stood at 3.5% Dec. 15. The Military Intelligence COVID-19 task force noted in its latest report, published on Dec. 16, that the virus’s rate of reproduction was now 1.21.

“Over the last month, the rate of reproduction is significantly greater than 1, an expression of the accelerated spread of the pandemic,” the report states.

On Dec. 10, the government scrapped plans to impose a curfew over the Chanukah holiday. Instead, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said if the virus’ reproduction rate reaches 1.32 or the daily number of new cases reaches 2,500, a special period of “tightened restraint” would be imposed for three weeks.

“If after this period we will get a reproduction rate that is below 1, we will stop with the enforcement, but if it stays high we will have to impose a lockdown,” he said.

The “tightened restraint” period will see many businesses shut down – including malls and schools in communities particularly hard-hit by the virus. It will also require a ratcheting up of quarantine measures for those arriving from abroad.

The second shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, between 300,000 and 400,000 doses, landed in Israel Dec. 16. The country’s vaccination campaign is set to kick off

Dec. 20. By the end of the month, Israel is expected to have 3.8 million doses of the vaccine. With each individual requiring two doses for immunity, the vaccines should be enough to inoculate nearly 2 million people.

Health Ministry Director professor Hezi Levy spoke with the directors of Israel’s hospitals Dec. 15, and informed them no directive had yet been issued to begin vaccinations.

It remains unclear which hospitals will be the first to receive the vaccines and how many vaccines each hospital is set to receive, although Israel’s largest hospitals will likely be the first.

On Dec. 15, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told The New York Times it was set to approve Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use on Dec. 18. The FDA confirmed Moderna’s findings that the vaccine was 94% effective in clinical trials.

Israel’s Ministry of Health announced last week that it had signed an agreement with Moderna to triple the number of vaccines it will purchase from the company in 2021, from 2 million to 6 million doses, according to a joint statement by the ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office.

In the meantime, a poll carried out by Haifa University’s School of Public Health found that less than 30% of men and 15% of women are interested in getting vaccinated at this time. Only 20% of Jewish respondents and 16% of Arab respondents said they would get vaccinated immediately.

Broken down further, the survey of 1,000 Israelis over the age of 30 found that 7% of Jewish men planned to refuse the vaccine, as opposed to 30% of Arab men. Seventeen percent of Jewish women and 41% of Arab women said they would refuse to get the vaccine.

In total, 58% of Jewish men and 4% of Arab men expressed interest in getting the vaccine, some immediately and some after a few thousand vaccines had already been administered.

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