Ministers to Approve Tighter COVID Restrictions as Infections Remain High

YERUSHALAYIM -
Healthcare workers take test samples of Israelis in a drive-through complex to check if they have been infected with the coronavirus in Yerushalayim, on Tuesday. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Coronavirus Cabinet is to convene Wednesday afternoon to approve further restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the Delta variant of the virus, as the number of new daily cases was once again in the 6,000 range.

Israel on Tuesday saw 5,755 new cases of COVID-19, with 107,010 tests conducted. There are 400 people hospitalized in serious condition, including 62 on ventilators. Since the start of the pandemic, 6,580 Israelis have succumbed to the virus.

On Monday, Israel exceeded 6,000 new cases, the highest in six months, amid government warnings that a lockdown would be necessary if contagion was not slowed.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with senior health officials on Tuesday, who recommended the extension of the Green Pass restrictions for more businesses and venues. Under the terms of the Green Pass system, people must show proof of vaccination, documentation of recovery from COVID or a negative coronavirus test to gain admittance to public sites. The latter should also apply to children aged three and over, they said.

The health officials also recommended a limit of 50 people for indoor gatherings and 100 people for outdoor gatherings at private homes that were not subject to the Green Pass regulations.

The Cabinet was also expected to approve an expansion of rapid-testing sites for more locations around the country. Testing for children over the age of 12 will be at the expense of their families, according to the recommendations.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said Tuesday that the government had made a “strategic decision” to live alongside the pandemic and to accept that there would be seriously ill cases and even fatalities due to the virus.

“This is a pandemic and in pandemics people die,” Shaked said.

After public condemnation, Shaked sought to clarify her remarks, writing on social media that any death was a loss and the sanctity of life was supreme.

“There has been no complacency on the part of the government,” Shaked said. “We understood the gravity of the situation from the start.”

Shaked said there was no shortage of vaccines, as some have claimed. “We evaluate the situation every week and anticipate our needs,” she said.

Former deputy director-general of the Health Ministry, Prof. Itamar Grotto, warned Wednesday that the peak of the fourth wave in the country was still ahead of us.

Speaking to Army Radio, Grotto said that “it is difficult to say that the government’s restrictions will do significant work. In the end, we have two options – a closure and an effort on vaccines. The effectiveness of the rest is questionable.”

Grotto emphasized the importance of the third vaccine and said that it “prevents disease, even if not 100%, and prevents serious illness – only 4% of the vaccinated patients are in serious condition.”