Pandemic Measures Just Barely Extended by Conflicted Israeli Government
With less than ten minutes remaining before the stroke of midnight Sunday put an end to the nationwide, monthlong lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Israel’s government hastily extended the complete closure by five days, heeding dire warnings by concerned health officials. The decision to prolong the shutdown was not taken lightly, as some partners to the coalition government, namely Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, pointed to the failure of the latest closure to reduce cases and contain the spread of the coronavirus. Despite Israel’s entire nonessential workforce and education system being shuttered for nearly five weeks now, and despite the mass vaccination effort that has so far seen nearly a quarter of the country inoculated, the Jewish state has suffered its worst month yet, with 1,500 of the total 4,800 dead from the coronavirus registered in January alone. In the neighboring Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, about five million Sputnik V vaccinations soon will be distributed, after Jerusalem last week authorized their delivery from Russia. On Monday, Israel began transferring to the Palestinian Authority some 2,000 vaccines, out of a total of 5,000 expected in the coming week, to inoculate health care workers in the West Bank. Over the past few months, international forums have slammed Israel for not providing Palestinians with proper protection gear and inoculations in accordance with the Geneva convention, while Israel has pointed to the Oslo Accords, signed by the PA and Jerusalem in the 1990s, which designate Ramallah as the authority responsible for such matters.