With Nearly 150,000 in Isolation, Ministers to Debate Shorter Quarantine

YERUSHALAYIM -
Magen David worker take a COVID-19 rapid antigen test from Israelis, at a Magen David Adom drive through complex in Yerushalayim, on Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Nearly 150,000 people in Israel are in quarantine, Health Ministry data showed Tuesday, as ministers prepare to discuss a proposal for shorter isolation time for confirmed COVID carriers, in a bid to minimize harm to the economy.

The overall number of serious cases has more than doubled in a week. According to the Health Ministry, 94.7% of hospital beds across Israel are now occupied, with some hospitals already operating beyond full capacity.

The government fears the anticipated strain on hospitals, likely to be augmented by a personnel shortage driven by infection. Currently, 3,743 medical workers are missing work due to COVID-19 or quarantine requirements, including 542 physicians and over 1,000 nurses. The number of health workers in quarantine has doubled in less than a week.

Israel currently mandates people to isolate for 10 days if infected with COVID, and that unvaccinated individuals quarantine for seven days if exposed to a COVID carrier. Those who come into contact with a coronavirus patient while fully vaccinated are required to isolate until they get a negative result on a rapid antigen test, which they can take at home or at a state testing center.

On Monday, the expert panel advising the Israeli government on the coronavirus recommended that the isolation period for confirmed cases be reduced to a week, as long as they do not have symptoms.

The Coronavirus Cabinet is expected to discuss this measure in its meeting later on Tuesday. For the time being, there is no recommendation on reducing quarantine time in the case of exposure to a confirmed carrier.