COVID: Isolation period in Israel shortened to 7 days

 
Passengers in Ben-Gurion Airport amid ongoing coronavirus restrictions, Feb. 2021
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)

Israel registers over 745 cases in 24 hours, most since March, but serious morbidity remains limited * No decision on green pass, tourism plan.

The isolation period in Israel was shortened to seven days and the regulations’ enforcement was transferred under the responsibility of the Public Security Ministry, the coronavirus cabinet decided on Tuesday night, as some 745 new COVID-19 cases were registered on Monday, marking the highest number since March, although serious cases remained low.
Prior to the decision, those who were required to isolate – after coming into contact with a verified case or after returning from abroad – needed to quarantine for two weeks, which could be shortened to ten days with two negative PCR tests at the beginning and the end of the period.
Now, people will be able to take the second test on the seventh day and be released when they receive a negative result.
“In order to increase the public’s cooperation and trust, the cabinet decided to allow those who quarantine to undergo a test on the seventh day of their isolation, wait for a negative result and then be released,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said. “At the same time, we will increase enforcement on violations in this matter. People who go out without a test will be fined NIS 5,000.”
“The goal of this decision is to increase the number of people respecting the isolation’s requirements,” he said. “We set measures that the public can meet.”
“We are committed to doing everything to protect public health with minimum disruption to daily life,” Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz wrote in a tweet. “I ask each of you to act with personal responsibility, and those who need to isolate – just stay home.”
The cabinet convened to discuss Israel’s next moves against the outbreak.
The ministers transferred the responsibility for the enforcement of coronavirus regulations to the Public Security Ministry, which will direct the police and local authority inspectors for this purpose.
Enforcement efforts in order to ensure that Israelis wear masks indoors as required, as well as the work to inform people about the importance of the vaccine, are going to be stepped up, the cabinet decided.
At the same time, preparatory work will be conducted in order to introduce a system of rapid testing – also known as antigen tests - and additional requirements for indoors gatherings with more than 100 participants, but no final decision was made on this topic.
“We believe that there are three principles to follow in continuing to deal with the coronavirus,” Bennett said at the beginning of the meeting: to focus on how to open as opposed to how to close; to give sufficient time before new measures come into effect so the public has time to prepare and increase their trust; and to maintain close ties with businesses to understand their needs and adjust the government’s decisions.
Until a few weeks ago, a green pass was granted to fully vaccinated and recovered individuals, or children too young to get jabbed who had undergone a PCR test in the previous 72 hours, giving them access to specific venues and activities.
The Health Ministry reportedly recommended that the cabinet required a green pass or a rapid test for entering any indoor event or venue with more than 100 people – including restaurants, theaters, synagogues and weddings, but at this stage the proposal was not approved by the ministers.
In addition, Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov presented an outline to reopen the country’s borders to foreign nationals, but no decision was made on the matter, neither about the details of the plan nor about the date.
Israel has been closed to foreign nationals for more than a year, with limited exceptions.
Vaccinated tourists from countries with low morbidity were supposed to be allowed in starting on July 1, but the date was postponed to August 1 amid an increase of cases.
According to the new outline, those who are inoculated with a vaccine recognized by the US’s FDA or the EU’s EMA will be able to enter with just a negative PCR test, while individuals jabbed with other vaccines will undergo a rapid serological test upon arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport, with results in 15 minutes, to confirm the presence of antibodies in their blood.
Some 745 new COVID-19 cases were registered in Israel on Monday, and another 496 as of 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
While the number of new virus carriers is the highest since March, the serious morbidity – which the government considers the most crucial parameter to monitor – remained low.
Some 45 patients were in serious conditions as of Tuesday, two fewer than 24 hours before. In April, with a similar number of active cases – around 4,800 – there were 270 such patients.
As anticipated by the Health Ministry’s Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash in a press conference on Monday, the ministry updated the data regarding the number of tests performed daily in the last month after it was discovered that a significant number of negative PCR tests performed at Ben-Gurion had been counted twice.
While the previous data showed that in the past weekdays, the number of tests performed was often higher than 70,000, the figures after the correction stand at around 50,000-55,000. As a consequence, the rate of tests returning a positive result also increased from 0.6%-0.8% to 1.0%-1.3%.

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