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COVID-19 cases on rise in Israel despite vaccine effort

Paramedics vaccinate elderly people nursing home in Tel Aviv on 13 January 2021 [Nir Keidar/Anadolu Agency]
Paramedics vaccinate people in Tel Aviv on 13 January 2021 [Nir Keidar/Anadolu Agency]

Israel has vaccinated more than three million citizens against the coronavirus pandemic. However, the numbers of new infections are still on the rise, Anadolu Agency reports.

"The surge of COVID-19 infections is a complicated question," Ian Miskin, head of the coronavirus care and vaccination for the Clalit healthcare provider in Jerusalem, told Anadolu Agency on Monday.

He said the British-born variant of the coronavirus could be the main cause behind the rise in the numbers of COVID-19 cases in Israel.

"When the vaccination campaign started in late December, the new variant was the cause of 30-40% of infections. Now, around 80% of the new virus cases were diagnosed with the British variant," he said.

READ: Israel confirms over 2,500 virus cases, 23 deaths

Miskin said the British virus variant is spreading among children.

According to the Israeli Health Ministry, more than three million people have received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Around 1.7 million Israelis have received two doses of the vaccine, the ministry said.

Miskin said almost 90% of Israelis over 60 have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

"The second phase of the campaign includes vaccinating Israelis over 40 and 50. We need 2-3 weeks to complete their vaccination," he said.

"In almost a month, the majority of Israel's population will be vaccinated against the virus."

Israel recorded 2,596 new infections and 23 fatalities from the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday.

Since the start of the virus outbreak early last year, 641,373 people in Israel have been diagnosed with the virus, according to Health Ministry figures. The death toll stood at 4,768.

The Israeli government has imposed a strict lockdown, including the closure of Ben Gurion airport and border terminals, as part of efforts to stem the spread of the pandemic.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed hope that normal life could return in March.

READ: US politicians slam Israel for preventing Palestine access to covid vaccine 

Israel will hold general elections on March 23, with the pandemic and the vaccination campaign becoming main topics during electoral campaigns.

Several Israeli figures have blamed Netanyahu for failing to deal firmly with certain Israeli groups that refuse to abide by the coronavirus measures.

"Many times, we face difficulty in convincing some of the population to take the vaccination," Netanyahu said, in reference to the Ultra-Orthodox Jews who refuse to abide by the measures.

Miskin expects that the virus may last for long in Israel as the country prepares to reopen its borders.

"It is a war, but we can win it," Miskin said.

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