Israel's coronavirus czar said Monday that although he previously called the current nationwide lockdown the last, he is now much more cautious due to the emergence of new coronavirus strains.
Israel's third lockdown is set to end on January 31 but health officials have recently said they are worried about the rise in cases caused by the UK strain of COVID-19, which is not only more contagious but also appears to lead to more complications among children and pregnant women.
Prof. Nachman Ash told Ynet the lockdown exit-strategy outlines that will be presented before the government will detail a very slow reopening of the economy. "When I was asked two weeks ago if this was the last lockdown, I said that probably it was, but today I am more careful," he said.
"If we reopen the economy too fast, it will lead to another wave of illness and we want to avoid that," he said. "The new mutations, especially the spread of the UK mutation, requires us to come out of the lockdown very carefully. We will have to reopen the economy more carefully than we had planned a few weeks ago, and if we succeed, we will avoid another lockdown."
He said the Health Ministry will present two versions of the exit strategy for the government later this week. "One outline is tailored to a high infection rate ... The second option is a broader outline, if the number of patients in the hospitals decreases," he said.
The professor added the exit strategy has three phases, the first of which includes partial reopening of the education system and trade, while the timing of each stage is not set in stone due to constantly-changing virus behavior.
"We have seen a decline in the number of new cases in recent days and the coefficient of infection has dropped to 0.9. However, there is some data that concern us. The number of hospitalized is still high, while the number of those in serious condition is pushing 1,200."