Israel’s COVID Rise Alarming, Closure Considered

YERUSHALAYIM -
Medical workers, seen through a window of an observation room, wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as they work inside an underground ward treating patients with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Critical Care Coronavirus Unit at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

The Coronavirus Cabinet will convene Tuesday afternoon to discuss tightening restrictions in light of the increase in infections in Israel.

3,818 new infections were confirmed over the last day, and 13 cities are now classified as “red.”

This is the highest since the beginning of March. With some 15 people who died since Monday morning, the country also recorded the highest daily toll in four months, while the number of serious patients stood at 221, some nine more than on the previous day and 66 more than last Tuesday.

Among the measures to be discussed are the requirement of wearing masks in open areas where large events take place.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told ministers Monday night, “The rate of replication is alarming, and the numbers speak for themselves. We are making a big effort to encourage immunization, and are considering increasing the third vaccine to younger people and hope to see a halt. We have to be honest. Hope is not a work plan.… We are keeping our finger on the pulse all the time. It hurts. ”

Among the options being considered is a closure during the month of Tishrei.

The Cabinet ministers are likely to discuss expanding the list of “high risk” countries – meaning travelers, including those vaccinated, would require one week’s isolation upon entering Israel from these destinations.

The Cabinet is also expected to expand the remit of the Green Passport, which was reinstated last week, and which screens certain events to allow entry only to the vaccinated, recovered and those who can demonstrate a negative coronavirus test.

Currently, children under 12 are exempt from the pass, but this is likely to change, and the rules are expected to be tightened to include events smaller than the current 100-person threshold.

On Monday, Health Ministry Director General Prof. Nachman Ash expressed concern over the continued rise in coronavirus cases.

“The situation is worrying,” he said during a press briefing. “This morning again we saw a rise in both normal and serious illness. I call on everyone to adhere to guidelines, use face masks and follow the Green Pass or any other directives. Keeping in line with these measures saves lives. We are all obligated to do so.”

The Health Ministry chief said he was encouraged by the number of Israelis over 60 who were getting their third vaccine dose, with 45,000 having received booster shots so far.

He added that no “special side effects” had been reported among those who received the third jab.