The head of the Health Ministry on Sunday called for Israel to tighten its current lockdown as the country's infection rate remained high exactly one week into the third closure of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We are seeing the infection rate run amuck and doubling itself. Meanwhile the number of patients in serious condition on the country's coronavirus wards has doubled in less than 10 days," Levi told Ynet.
Israel's third nationwide lockdown, which began on December 27, was expected to last for two weeks or until the daily infection rate dropped below 1,000 and the R number (indicating the number of people each infection person passes the virus to) fell to below 1.
On Saturday, Israel saw 3,977 new cases of the virus, as 75,000 tests showed an infection rate of 5.3%. Out of the 1,228 patients currently hospitalized, 749 are in serious condition, of whom 177 are ventilated. The official death toll now stands at 3,391.
"We will definitely demand that the conditions of the closure be tightened. We will bring [this demand] to a vote by the government," Levi said. "This closure is not comprehensive enough and people are not abiding by it."
"A painful closure that is a little tighter will reduce the infection rate to levels we think are manageable," Levi said. "At the same time, we will continue with the vaccination campaign."
Much like the previous lockdown that ended in mid-October, the public are restricted from venturing more than one kilometer from home or visiting other households; all trade and entertainment venues are shuttered; restaurants are only allowed to operate a food delivery service and social gatherings are restricted to 20 people in open spaces and 10 people indoors.
Unlike the previous two lockdowns, however, schools have remained open for all grades, with some mitigation in areas of high infection.
Levi also called for a discussion on shuttering schools for first to fourth grades, but said the most pressing issue was making the closure "more stringent."
Levi's plea was echoed by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, whose office said Sunday that he would bring the proposal for a tighter two-week lockdown to a government vote.
"In light of the significant and alarming increase in infections, the number of patients in serious condition and the discovery of the mutated strain, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein intends to present a resolution to the government for a full closure for a short period of two weeks," his office said.
Edelstein himself said Sunday: "Anything that remains open threatens the closure. If we want something short and effective, there should be as complete a closure as possible.”