On Wednesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett unveiled a plan worth NIS 2.5 billion for bolstering hospitals in Israel ahead of an expected increase in coronavirus patients. He also defended the decisions made by his government to permit businesses to remain open and avoid any drastic measures, despite the surge in case numbers. Bennett referred to the plan as a ‘booster shot’ for hospitals and stated that the government would immediately offer funding for bringing in 2,000 health workers, 770 beds and 3,000 medical students. He went on to say that these additions would double the capacity of the hospitals for managing coronavirus patients, which means it would go from 1,200 to 2,400 patients.
The Prime Minister said that the Delta variant is affecting the entire world and Israel is determined to fight it. Bennett also added that a scheme for health maintenance funds for putting patients in home hospitalization would also be increased from 1,000 beds to 1,400 beds. The health funds as well as geriatric care centers would also be provided funding for adding more medical staff. The announcement by the Prime Minister came a day after he was reportedly shown figures by health officials forecasting that hospitals in Israel could be overrun with 4,800 coronavirus patients, half of whom would be in serious condition.
The officials had informed Bennett that Israel would need to add 500 nurses, 100 doctors and 200 other support staff and health workers every 10 days in order to keep up. He said that it was necessary to increase hospital capacity because they had to buy time until the new vaccination campaign could go into effect and control the outbreak. He was referring to the country’s latest campaign to provide a third booster shots to patients who have already received two doses of the vaccine. He stated that the move was not just a campaign for health, but for the economy.
This was an acknowledgement of the tensions between implementing far-ranging restrictions for bringing the case numbers down and trying to keep businesses open. He said that he felt the pain of everyone who was suffering due to COVID and losing family members, but he also understood the pain of business owners who are going through a crisis. The number of cases recorded in the country on Tuesday had reached 5,755 and 6,000 on Monday. These numbers hadn’t been seen in Israel since February when the country had experienced its most serious outbreak.
As of Wednesday morning, hospitals had around 400 patients in serious condition and the number of patients hospitalized due to the Delta variant of COVID-19 was around 694. The death toll since the beginning of the pandemic hit the 6,580 mark, which is nine more than it was a day before. Nitzan Horowitz, the Health Minister, said that other than bolstering hospitals in the country, there was also a need for restricting mass gatherings because the rise in morbidity was ‘worrying’. A meeting is scheduled for later about expansion of the Green Pass system.