Published: August 8, 2021

Israel considering integrating the national lottery into its inoculation campaign

The government is reportedly considering integrating the national lottery into its inoculation campaign as it seeks to incentivize the over one million Israelis who have yet to be vaccinated to do so.

A budget of roughly $31 million has been set aside for national and local authorities to help incentivize vaccine holdouts, Channel 12 reported Friday, but Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked have not yet decided how best to spend it.

One option being considered is to offer greater funding to local authorities with higher vaccination rates, in order to encourage local leaders to push vaccination rates upwards, the network said. Another proposal would see individuals compensated directly, with hundreds of shekels being offered to families for each child over the age of 15 or 16 who gets vaccinated.

Yet another option being considered is to recruit the national lottery, which would enter those holdouts who get vaccinated in a raffle, with one winner receiving a grand prize and 100-200 others receiving prizes worth tens of thousands of shekels in total, Channel 12 reported.

Bennett, Shaked and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman all back the initiative, the report said, but it has faced legal hurdles for being available only to parts of the population.

Channel 12 also reported that Shaked is seeking to move forward with a plan to vaccinate eligible children at schools, despite opposition from Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, who has made a series of controversial comments in defense of those refusing to vaccinate. It was not clear whether such a plan could move forward without Shasha-Biton’s approval.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has held discussions in recent days to determine the point at which it will recommend a national lockdown.

According to the network, health experts determined that a lockdown would be necessary if and when Israel reaches a total of 600 to 700 seriously ill patients. As of Friday, the number of severe cases stood at 257, but the figure has been climbing rapidly in recent days.

Unnamed health officials told the network that even if the government “hits the brakes” at 600-700 such cases, the number would still likely grow to 1,200-1,400.

However, the officials noted that if they see a decrease in serious cases as a result of the campaign to distribute a third booster shot to Israelis over 60, the government may be able to hold off on another lockdown.

The network said another factor that could stave off a lockdown would be a drop the virus’s basic reproduction number — or the number of new cases each infected person creates.

Separately on Friday, Channel 13 reported that the Health Ministry is expanding its rollout of the third vaccine dose and has instructed psychiatric hospitals across the country to give employees and patients over 40 a booster shot.

In geriatric wards and nursing homes, employees over 40 and hospitalized patients over 18 will be vaccinated with a third dose, the report said. The vast majority of patients in these facilities are elderly, but some younger people with disabilities also live in these hospitals and would be eligible for a booster shot.

Earlier Friday, the Health Ministry reported almost 4,000 new coronavirus cases the previous day, ahead of new restrictions set to take effect next week.

According to ministry figures, 3,858 infections were confirmed Thursday, the fourth day in a row that new cases had passed 3,000. There were 28,329 active cases out of 893,105 verified infections in Israel since the pandemic began.

Serious cases — a key metric used by decision-makers in the current wave — dipped slightly to 257. Of those, there were 61 people in critical condition, with 48 on ventilators. In total, 481 were hospitalized for COVID-19 complications.

The death toll stood at 6,516, with seven more added to it Friday.

According to the ministry, 3.80 percent of the over 100,000 tests performed Thursday came back positive.

The ministry also said that out of Israel’s population of some 9.3 million, over 5.8 million have received at least one vaccine dose, nearly 5.4 million have gotten two and just under 350,000 have been administered a booster shot.

Amid a continued rise in cases, ministers on Thursday approved significantly expanding restrictions on gatherings under the Green Pass system, despite misgivings over an 11th-hour decision to exempt places of worship.

Starting Sunday, gatherings of any size, indoors and out, will be limited to those who have been vaccinated, recovered from the virus, or who present a negative COVID test, under the Green Pass system, which will also extend to hotels, restaurants and gyms.

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