Israel Pauses Easing Corona Restrictions as Delta Rate Climbs

AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

Israel on Wednesday reneged on lifting certain coronavirus restrictions amid an outbreak of the Delta variant, as more than a hundred new cases per day were identified for several days in a row – a morbidity rate not seen in months.

Many of the new cases were from fully vaccinated individuals. More than 80 percent of Israel’s adult population has received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

A new coronavirus cabinet, composed of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and other senior ministers, was established on Wednesday.

Among the amended regulations, Israelis are now required to wear masks in certain public spaces including the airport, border crossings, and wherever medical treatment is provided. Last week the requirement to wear masks indoors was dropped, marking the last coronavirus regulation as the country fully reopened.

The Health Ministry also announced that under certain circumstances, including proximity to a coronavirus carrier on an airplane, vaccinated or recovered individuals would be ordered to self-isolate.
Hezi Levi, the Health Ministry’s director general, also stressed the mask requirement may be reinstated as early as next week if cases continue to climb.

There are 554 active coronavirus cases in the country. Earlier this month, that number had dipped below 200. At the height of the pandemic, there were more than 10,000 new daily cases.

Entry into Israel for vaccinated tourists has been postponed August.

More than 7,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were administered on Tuesday, the highest in over a month, following the decision to inoculate 12-15 year olds.

The country is also working to speed up the delivery of its next shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, not due until September.

Around 70 per cent of the latest infections were of the Delta variant. According to Levi, half of those infected were children and a third had been fully vaccinated.

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the Delta variant, first identified in India, could account for 90 percent of new Covid cases in the EU in the coming months.

“The Delta variant is more transmissible than other circulating variants and we estimate that by the end of August it will represent 90 percent” of cases in the EU, the ECDC said according to AFP.


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