Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is attempting to secure extra doses of U.S. pharmaceutical Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Moderna made global news with its announcement that its vaccine was 94.5% reliable in clinical trials.

“We have signed a supply agreement to a certain extent and are negotiating with them over additional supplies, and I hope that following this conversation, we may complete the negotiations quickly,” he reportedly explained. “My policy is to bring as many vaccines as possible from as many sources as possible to as many citizens as possible in as little time as possible.”

Israel has procured a NIS 230 million ($66-million) agreement for a million and a half doses.

It is hoped Moderna’s vaccine will arrive by April.

Netanyahu also signed an agreement with Pfizer for up to 8 million doses on its vaccine last week. The deal would enable four million citizens to be inoculated beginning in January.

“Israel will be among the first countries to receive Moderna’s vaccine,” Netanyahu reportedly noted. “My goal is to bring as many vaccines as possible, from as many countries as possible to as many citizens as possible as quickly as possible. This will not happen today or tomorrow. It will take more time, not years, but months. We are already seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. (But) until the vaccines arrive, and even afterward, we must not slacken or become complacent.”

Netanyahu called on Israeli citizens not to become complacent and follow the rules.

“Alongside your cooperation, we will continue to make the correct, balanced and responsible decisions,” he added. “These decisions have put Israel in a very good place relative to the other countries of the world.”

Israel saw 613 new coronavirus cases in the latest Health Ministry figures. There are 130 patients on respirators. To date there have been 2,732 fatalities.

Netanyahu’s vaccine move comes as Covid measures have been further relaxed in recent days.

Israelis thronged to shopping centres on Tuesday but it led to long queues and unseemly arguments between frustrated customers waiting up to two hours with four people allowed inside a shop at a time.

In some cases, security guard attempts to disperse crowds failed as customers refused to leave their places in a queue. Shop owners were criticised for lack of planning.

Owners of open-air markets unable to open led to protests in Tel Aviv. Some owners flouted Covid rules resulting in fines by Municipality inspectors.

In spite of retracting measures there has been a tightening of the lockdown in ‘red’ cities and a ‘night curfew’ in ‘orange’ cities though there is a shortening of transition between an ‘orange’ and ‘red’ city.

Sadly, ultra-orthodox communities continue to violate restrictions.

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox residents of Bnei Brak clashed with police when officers closed a synagogue with worshippers praying inside on Tuesday night.

Forces were reportedly attacked by protesters necessitating reinforcements.

“The synagogue appeared shut but after closer inspection was found to hold dozens of people congregating in violation of the law while endangering the health of the people present,” a police spokesman said. A NIS 5,000 fine was handed out.

Netanyahu though has voiced renewed optimism in the battle against the pandemic.

“We have the possibility of exiting from the coronavirus,” he reportedly said. “It has been within our grasp for several months. We will not endanger the health and lives of the citizens of Israel.” Netanyahu also addressed the economy noting assistance plans for business owners, the self-employed, those seeking work, the handicapped and students. He added, Despite the unprecedented health challenge, our economy is strong.”

In related news, school pupils in Grades 5 and 6 return next week followed by grades 11 and 12 before the end of the month.

The government is also aiding students with emergency funds.

Liaising with the National Union of Israel Students, an additional NIS 800 million is now available in assistance for students in distress.

“We will continue to bring additional assistance programs and look after all citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu reportedly explained.

Proposals will expand scholarships whilst a national task force of students led by the Social Equality Ministry Youth Authority and Union of Israel Students will see a preference for employing students daycare centers by local authorities and promotion of youth employment along with more internships.

“Approval of the assistance plan for students constitutes major news for the student public who are the future generation,” Finance Minister Katz reportedly said. “I will continue to act in the face of the various challenges to encourage employment and lead the economy to growth.”

Higher and Continuing Education Minister Elkin added, “This emergency assistance will help students deal with the coronavirus crisis and continue their studies.”

Social Equality and Pensioners Minister Cohen, commented, “In effect we are establishing a national task force of students throughout the country that will act to dispel the severe loneliness of older adults during the coronavirus crisis. These are two very important and worthy goals and we will act so that this gets underway as soon as possible since the need on the ground is urgent.”

A National Union of Israel Students Chairman spokesman said, “We fought and we have brought great news for students in Israel. Signing the agreement comes after long months in which we waged an uncompromising struggle together with the student associations in order to make certain that every student who was hurt economically would be eligible for assistance which would allow them to survive the crisis, reintegrate into the labour market and continue their academic studies.

“Alongside the assistance programs for students, we will continue to support Israeli society as a whole and in the framework of the agreement we will establish a national student network for providing support in the frameworks of education and to additional populations that were hurt economically by the crisis.”

The union thanked ministers and academic institutions for recognising the importance of students to Israeli society.