Ahead of Sunday's scheduled reopening, former Health Ministry Director General Professor Gabi Barabash discussed whether the reopening is likely to affect coronavirus infection rates.
Speaking with 103 FM Radio, Barabash said, "I think that the State of Israel, or its leadership, took a bet when it decided to depend on the vaccines and exit the lockdown with such high numbers. Will we succeed, so that the vaccine truly protects us from not suffering as a result of reopening with high numbers which might rise, and maybe new variants that will develop in the meantime? The future will tell us."
"I would act differently when it came to exiting the previous two lockdowns," he said. "My aim has always been to reach a level where there are only a few dozen cases, and keep things controlled on a low flame, like they're doing in New Zealand and Australia. We have all of the abilities to do that, and we're not there."
"We are stuck in a place where the public sees the vaccine as the most important thing. We won't be able to be completely free even with the vaccines, if infection rates don't drop. The virus isn't going anywhere, it will remain and there will always be - here and around the world - pockets of infection which require different behavior and vaccines," he said, adding that in his opinion, "we will need to get vaccinated once every so often."
Regarding the possibility of large illegal gatherings being held over the Purim holiday, Barabash said: "The government has no control over haredim, they do what they think is correct. Regarding everyone, I would be very careful of Purim parties and of places in which you are together with a lot of people. The fact that the South African variant is here disturbs me, and if we provide it with a cushion of infection in these parties, and it is as contagious as the British variant, it will take over here and we'll have a very hard time gaining control of it afterwards."
So people should not go to megillah readings in synagogues?
"It depends on the conditions. If vaccinated people come under Green Badge conditions and keep a proper distance - you can go. If not? Then no."