New Delhi (NVI): Israel has tightened a national lockdown today in a bid to curb a sharp rise in new COVID-19 cases, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promising that all Israelis, above the age of 16, could be vaccinated by the end of March.
With a population of nine million, Israel is leading the world in a swift rollout of vaccinations, but the number of new infections has climbed to around 8,000 a day, the highest in months.
Israel imposed its third lockdown on December 27.
Many Israelis, however, ignored travel and social-distancing restrictions, prompting stricter measures that will include additional police roadblocks and the closure of most schools and more businesses.
The new restrictions will be in effect for at least two weeks.
Meanwhile, in a speech on Thursday, Netanyahu said vaccine supply agreements with Pfizer Inc meant that all Israelis over the age of 16 would be able to be inoculated by the end of March, or perhaps even earlier.
Israeli officials have said they hoped Israel could emerge from the pandemic as early as February if the vaccination programme, launched on December 19, maintains its speed.
Some 17.5 per cent of the population – and 70 per cent of citizens aged 60 or older – have received their first shots of the Pfizer vaccine, with second-round of inoculations set to begin on Sunday.
So far, Israel has reported 4,71,048 cases of coronavirus infection while the number of fatalities have have exceeded 3,500 in the country.