COVID cabinet to meet on green pass as Israel registers fourth wave peak
HADASSAH UNIVERSITY Medical Center managed all its COVID-19 patients at Ein Kerem, keeping Mt. Scopus coronavirus-free
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Some 1,377 cases were identified on Tuesday, but the number of serious patients slightly declined.
The coronavirus cabinet is set to meet on Thursday afternoon, as the number of new cases in Israel continues to climb but the increase in serious morbidity remains limited.
Among the topics the ministers are expected to discuss are the return of the green pass outline and the situation at the airport, in order to counter what many experts are now calling the fourth wave.
In light of the spike in cases – with 1,400 identified on Tuesday – a green pass system is expected to be approved granting access to all gatherings of more than 100 participants only to people who are fully vaccinated, recovered or having had a negative test performed in the previous 72 hours.
In the past few days, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz have been meeting with representatives of the industries to which the green pass is expected to apply – such as culture venues and gyms – in order to receive their input on how to minimize any negative impact on such businesses. Speaking at a press briefing, Horowitz said that hotels are also going to function under the green pass.
One of the question marks about the outline is whether the tests will be funded by the state or by the individual citizen, especially in the case of children who are too young to be vaccinated.
Starting next week, rapid testing stations are going to be set up around the country, operated by the Magen David Adom emergency rescue service. Rapid tests – or antigen tests – are considered slightly less accurate than PCR tests, but are cheaper and offer results within minutes.
The minister said that rapid tests for children will be paid for by the government, including those done within the framework of the education system.
“We are preparing to open the school year in the full, normal way,” Horowitz said. “This is our goal: more tests and less restrictions.”
Also beginning next week, Israelis will be able to buy at-home tests in pharmacies.
THE CABINET will also discuss the situation at Ben-Gurion Airport.
Some 10% of new cases are among people who have returned from abroad, in spite of the fact that everyone is required to present a negative PCR test before boarding (in addition to the one that all travelers must take upon their arrival in Israel before leaving the airport).
Earlier on Wednesday, Health Ministry’s Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash said in an interview to Ynet that they are working on two proposals: either to demand that everyone who returns enter isolation, or to expand the list of countries that are banned or that require vaccinated and recovered individuals to also enter isolation – which is already going to be expanded on Friday.
While the former recommendation has appeared to be the one preferred by health officials, it has reportedly caused many disagreements among members of the cabinet.
By Wednesday evening, Israeli media said that the proposal to require general isolation had already been rejected.
Also, due to the disagreements between its members, a date and time for the cabinet meeting were only set on Wednesday for a Thursday afternoon meeting. Initially, the ministers were reportedly going to meet on Tuesday, then on Wednesday, then on Thursday morning.
“We will go when they call us,” Ash told Ynet.
During the meeting last week, Bennett and Horowitz asked their colleagues to approve the return of the green pass for all indoors gatherings but their request was rejected and the cabinet approved similar requirements only for weddings and events where food is served – the so called “Happy Badge.”
Israel had not registered over 1,400 cases since March and the reproduction rate (R) – which measures how many people each virus carrier infects on average – has been consistently more than 1 for the past few weeks, indicating that the outbreak continues to expand (on Wednesday it stood at 1.4).
In addition, some twenty people have succumbed to the virus in July so far. While the number is still only a fraction of the deaths registered at the peak of the pandemic in January – when dozens of people sometimes died of COVID in a single day – the figure is more than double the victims recorded in June.
ON THE other hand, the increase in serious morbidity has remained limited.
Around mid-June there were less than 200 active cases in the whole country, with only 20 patients in serious conditions. As of Wednesday night, the number stood at 68 among about 9,000 active cases.
Also on Wednesday, The Jerusalem Post confirmed that Israelis over the age of 18 will soon be able to receive the Moderna coronavirus vaccine.
Beginning July 28, health funds will be able to place orders for the Moderna vaccine, which will then be made available to eligible Israelis from August 1, according to a letter sent by the Health Ministry to the funds. At that point, the Pfizer vaccine will only be administered to those under the age of 18, for whom the Moderna vaccine is not yet approved, and for people who are waiting for their second dose.
Later at night, opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that in the past several days he has spoken with the heads of both Pfizer and Moderna, and that the government should start giving a third shot of the vaccine to the elderly.
Israel is currently the only country in the world administering a booster to immunocompromised patients – a strategy that has yet to be approved by the world’s main health regulatory bodies.
Since about half of the current cases are people who were fully vaccinated, as well as some 65% of the patients in serious condition, health officials and experts are examining the data to understand whether there is a decline in vaccine efficacy connected to the time elapsed from the shots.
Maayan Hoffman contributed to this report.