Israel's Health Minister Not Expected to Back New Restrictions in COVID Cabinet Meeting

Key indicators continue to suggest Israel's current COVID outbreak is shrinking, as Israel's Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz defies ministry officials' calls for restrictions

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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A man receives a coronavirus vaccine shot in Jerusalem, Thursday.
A man receives a coronavirus vaccine shot in Jerusalem, Thursday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

The coronavirus cabinet will meet for the first time in a month on Sunday, and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz is expected not to ask for tighter restrictions – despite recommendations by others in the ministry to limit large gatherings and events.

The planned meeting comes amid a public spat between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Ministry officials. The prime minister criticized Health Ministry experts during his trip to New York to address the UN General Assembly, including in the speech itself. On Thursday, Bennett and Horowitz met with the country's top health officials to alleviate tensions.

A statement issued by Bennett's office on Saturday said the prime minister welcomed the decrease in the number of seriously ill patients and the rise in vaccinations. However, the statement said, Israel remains at a critical stage of the pandemic and citizens must not become complacent.

Key metrics have suggested that Israel's current wave of coronavirus infections is on the decline. On Saturday, the number of patients in serious condition stood at 587, a day after they hit an almost six-week low of 586. According to the available data, 75 percent of seriously ill patients are unvaccinated, 19 percent are vaccinated but haven't received a booster shot, and 6 percent have received a booster shot.

The R number – the number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – also remained stable at 0.74. This number, which reflects the average from the previous 10 days, hit its lowest point since May earlier this week when it reached 0.72. The death toll meanwhile rose to 7,778.

The rules for Israel's proof of vaccination pass – called the Green Pass – will change on Sunday. On Sunday, all Green Passes currently in use will expire and those eligible for new passes must get them reissued. In general, the new eligibility rules stipulate that those reissuing their Green Pass must have received their third dose of the coronavirus vaccine, or their second dose in the past 6 months.

Almost 78,000 Israelis received the booster shot against the coronavirus on Thursday, the highest figure in almost a month. On Friday, this fell slightly to nearly 46,000. Nearly 3.5 million people in Israel have received a booster shot in total.

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