COVID: New restrictions set in - will Israel go into lockdown?
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Starting August 8, the full green pass system will be in place again (from August 20 also for children under 12), masks will be mandatory in all outdoor gatherings.
The coronavirus cabinet approved new restrictions on Tuesday night, as senior government members admitted a lockdown in September is not a remote possibility anymore.
Starting August 8, the full green pass system will be in place again (from August 20 also for children under 12), masks will be mandatory in all outdoor gatherings and a vaccinated/recovered parent caring for a child in quarantine under the age of 12 will be demanded to isolate as well.
In addition, government offices will work with only 50% of their workforce in person, and the private sector will be encouraged to do the same.
Moreover, more stringent criteria to place countries under travel ban or travel warning will be formulated, leaving a very limited group of nations to be visited freely by Israelis without the need to quarantine upon their return regardless of their immunization status.
“The Delta epidemic is extremely contagious, and is spreading all over the world,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said. “Avoid crowds, and get vaccinated – now. Otherwise, there will be no choice but to impose more severe restrictions, including a lockdown.”
“We need to prepare the public and public opinion for a lockdown in September, which is a month in which the economic damage will be less, and accelerate the immunization effort to try to prevent it,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz also said, referring to the period of the Jewish holidays.
Currently, the green pass outline, which grants access to venues and activities only to people who are fully vaccinated, recovered or who underwent a coronavirus test in the previous 72 hours, applies only to gatherings with more than 100 people. The full system will apply to several activities regardless of the number of participants.
In addition, the current exemption for children under 12 was canceled.
On Monday, the country registered more than 3,800 new cases in the previous 24 hours, with 3.78% of the 113,723 tests returning a positive result. Both numbers mark the highest since the beginning of March.
With the 10 people who died Sunday, and another seven on Monday, the country recorded the highest death toll in 48 hours in four months.
The number of serious patients stood at 221, nine more than on the previous day and 66 more than last Tuesday. Experts are warning that the number has been doubling every 10 days.
Also on Tuesday, Gantz announced that an additional 1,000 reservists will be called back to support the ministry’s activities related to the pandemic. Soldiers are employed for several logistical activities.
In addition, 500 medics are going to be recruited to assist the Health Ministry’s vaccination efforts.
The campaign to vaccinate individuals over 60 with a third shot continues at full speed. Some 142,000 had already received it as of Tuesday afternoon.
President Isaac Herzog met with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz on Wednesday, saying the Health Ministry is facing the "biggest challenge humanity has known in decades," and calling on the Israeli public to get the third jab.
Health Ministry director-general Nachman Ash, head of Public Health Services Prof. Sharon Alroy-Preis and new coronavirus commissioner Prof. Salman Zarka were also present in President Herzog's first working meeting with the Health Minister.
"Every Israeli contemplating the vaccination should not just think of protecting his family, but also protecting Israelis who cannot get vaccinated," Herzog said.
"The Israeli solidarity will overcome this outbreak," Herzog added.
"The Delta variant acts as a novel virus, we are tasked with the dramatic challenge of completing the third vaccination program as soon as possible," noted Health Minister Horowitz.
"Vaccination, masks and following the guidelines set by the Health Ministry will buy the entire country precious time," Horowitz added.
The two biggest healthcare providers, Clalit and Maccabi, announced that another 180,000 and 125,000 of their members had booked an appointment.
“Everyone should know that almost 9 out of 10 serious patients are over the age of 60,” Bennett said as he accompanied his mother, Mirna, to get inoculated Tuesday morning. “The third vaccine, simply ‘recharges’ the body’s defenses and allows us to save lives.”
“I would have come even if he was not the prime minister, because I believe it is really important to all of us,” Mirna said. “Old men and women are doing it, but I worry about the young who did not get the first vaccine. I want to be with my son on Rosh Hashanah, and at my grandson’s wedding in October. I do not want another lockdown.”