JERUSALEM - Israel has expanded its vaccine campaign to give booster shots against COVID-19 to anyone over 50. To that end, the country is opening all night vaccination sites to encourage more people to get vaccinated. All of this comes as the number of cases in Israel continues to rise.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Tel Aviv was known as a party city on the Mediterranean with clubs, bars, restaurants and a thriving gay culture. Now it’s becoming known as the first city in Israel with all-night vaccine stations. Hundreds of people lined up at the stations even before they opened Saturday night at 8 pm, and the stations were operated jointly by Israel’s Red Cross and the municipality.
In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet said the idea was to make sure that anyone who wants to get vaccinated is able to do so without having to miss work to do it. He said that all night stations will open in nine other Israeli cities in the next few days. He said that by Monday, one million Israelis will have gotten their third shot.
At these vaccination stations, there are no appointments needed, and they are open to non-citizens as well meaning that foreign workers who came to Israel illegally from Sudan and Eritrea would also be eligible.
The stepped-up vaccination campaign comes as the numbers of COVID-19 cases in Israel continue to climb. The number of patients in serious condition passed 500 for the first time since March. Some health officials say there could be 1,000 seriously ill within a few weeks and that the hospitals will again be under pressure.
Hagai Levin, a former senior public health official, said that the hospitals can increase their response for patients infected with the coronavirus but that this will come at the expense of other patients.
Israel has also revived its green pass regulations, meaning that only people who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 can enter hotels, restaurants and gyms. Starting later this week, stores must limit the number of customers permitted at one time, and almost everyone returning from abroad will have to go into isolation for a full week and present two negative tests.
There has been growing talk in Israel of a fourth lockdown around the upcoming Jewish holidays which begin in September. Israel’s health minister, Nitzan Horowitz, said that another lockdown would be a last resort. He said Israel is speeding up its vaccination campaign as much as it can and imposing new restrictions, all to prevent a lockdown.
Israel has called up additional reserve soldiers to help in the fight against COVID-19. Yet despite all of its efforts, close to a million Israelis over age 12 remain unvaccinated.
Source: Voice of America