The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination process across the United States has been, to put it lightly, a hot mess. Since the first shot was administered on December 14, the number of vaccines available hasn’t matched with its dire necessity, and states have even toyed with halving one dose of the vaccine to avoid running out of vaccines completely. And it’s a far cry from the vaccination process playing out in other countries like Israel, where, according to The Intelligencer, at least half of the population has been vaccinated since December.
But despite Israel leading the world in terms of how many people are vaccinated against the virus, COVID-19 cases are still on the rise throughout the country. The Intelligencer reports that almost 74 out of every 100,000 Israelis are infected, compared to 40 out of every 100,000 Americans. And while Israel’s COVID-19 death toll currently sits at just over 5,000, less than a year ago in May 2020, it was 281.
So, what exactly isn't adding up here? The virus’s new variant — the B.1.1.7, which was first found in the United Kingdom — has been credited with the soaring positive infection rates. “This lockdown is very much affected by the British mutation,” Yoav Kisch, Israel’s deputy health minister, told the Israel Defense Forces radio network Army Radio, as reported by the Financial Times. “The numbers we used to see go down at a much faster rate are going down much slower.”
Prematurely ending country-wide lockdowns have also equated to more positive cases. Though Israel ended its third lockdown on Saturday, their national coronavirus information center fears another surge in infections by March due to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions too soon, given that hospitals are still overwhelmed and not everyone over 60 has been fully vaccinated.
Ending lockdown too soon for a third time follows a pattern first set by the mishandling of Israel’s first lockdown by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last May. After encouraging residents to go out and “have fun,” what followed was a summer of “no framework for testing, no nationwide contact-tracing system,” according to an unnamed senior official speaking to The Intelligencer. Today, only 24 percent of the country approves of the job the government is doing with handling the virus.
As of Monday, positive COVID-19 cases in Israel remain on a steady incline, with 568 infections per 100,000 people reported over the last 7 days, according to Reuters. It's unclear of Netanyahu or other local leaders have a plan in place to combat this, or how vaccinations will prevent an already widely-spreading wave across the country.