Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reiterated his intentions to keep Israel open, amid new figures from the Health Ministry showing that coronavirus is actively spreading in the country after a ten-week lull.
After a steady decline in COVID numbers, the R number – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – hit 1.02, indicating the virus is spreading again.
Addressing the recent rise on Saturday, Bennett attributed the recent climb to unvaccinated children, dubbing it "the children's wave." Bennett said that 49 percent of new cases now come from children and urged parents to vaccinate their kids. Starting Tuesday, Israel will make vaccinations available for children ages five to 11, while older children who have already received the first dose will be eligible for a second and third shot at the same intervals as adults.
The prime minister also said the rise in cases is being driven another group, which he called "the unvaccinated who think they're vaccinated," referring to people who have gotten two shots of the vaccine but skipped the booster shot. According to Bennett, the 950,000 Israeli who have yet to take the third shot will be a focal point in the upcoming vaccine campaign.
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Meanwhile, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz insisted there is "no need to panic" and said the ministry will not be imposing further restrictions.
Horowitz also explained the recent decision to allow rapid antigen tests instead of a PCR test upon entering Israel from abroad. In an interview given to Kan public broadcaster, Horowitz said there is no medical significance to the PCR test, since Israel is wants "confirmation for the duration of the flight only, and a rapid antigen test is enough for that." When asked about Israelis returning from countries with high number of cases, Horowitz clarified that any country that will be declared red will be forbidden for travel, but that "we are not there yet."
According to the Health Ministry data on Saturday, there are currently 5,277 active infections in Israel, though only 133 are in a serious condition and no deaths have occurred in four days.
So far, over 4 million Israeli received all three COVID shots. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 8,154 Israeli died from the virus.