The Israeli government announced this Thursday (24) that it will resume the mandatory use of masks indoors to avoid the Covid-19 contagions, which are on the rise in the country.
After a rapid mass vaccination campaign and measures to restrict mobility, Israel had managed to reduce the number of infections to a rate of less than 0.1 cases per 100,000 people. But this Thursday, the highest daily rate of Covid-19 infections in months was recorded, with 169 new cases, marking the third consecutive day of more than 100 cases in the country. The outbreaks have been attributed to the arrival of the delta variant.
Israel currently has more than 680 active cases, a number higher than the average of 200 last month, but far less than the 85,000 active cases the country had during the peak before vaccination. Across the country, 26 patients are hospitalized in critical condition, including a child who was not vaccinated, said the Ministry of Health. More than 84% of seriously ill patients were not vaccinated, says the local press.
The leader of the task force to combat the country’s coronavirus, Nachman Ash, recommended that citizens avoid traveling abroad, especially those who have not yet been vaccinated. He also asked that anyone who has had contact with someone infected to get tested immediately, even if they are already vaccinated, and respect the quarantine rules.
Ash said that although the country has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, the numbers are still far from the 80% immunized, which would mark collective immunity.
On Wednesday, the Israeli government postponed to Aug. 1 the permission for tourists to enter the country, which was scheduled for July 1, due to the increase in Covid-19 infections.
The decision, which so far only provides for the entry of vaccinated tourists, was announced yesterday by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and was released as part of a series of new measures to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Among the other measures, the increase in fines for violating the quarantine and the intensification of monitoring of contagion chains and information campaigns to encourage compliance with the new regulations, among others, are also noteworthy.
On the other hand, these measures are released a week after the suspension of the obligation to use masks indoors and in a context of concern in the country with the spread of the delta variant, detected for the first time in India.
“Our objective right now, first and foremost, is to protect the citizens of Israel from the rampant delta variant,” Bennett said yesterday during a meeting with executive members and experts, though he added that the intention is to do so in a way that is not greatly disrupt the lives of the population.
Many of those infected with the new variant are already vaccinated patients, which has sounded alarms in the country, where more than five million of the little more than nine million inhabitants were vaccinated and where the pandemic is no longer a concern.
In addition to imposing the use of masks indoors, considering that an important part of the new cases were detected in schools, the Ministry of Health also recommended accelerating the vaccination of children aged between 12 and 15 years.
While the entry of foreigners with tourist visas has been prohibited since the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020, last month the entry of vaccinated groups of tourists on trips organized by authorized agencies and under strict preventive measures was authorized.