Over 6,000 New Cases: Israel Hits Seven-month High in COVID Infections

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An Israeli man receiving his third coronavirus vaccine, earlier this week
An Israeli man receiving his third coronavirus vaccine, earlier this weekCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Israel reported 6,275 new coronavirus cases on Monday according to data from the health ministry, marking the highest daily figure since early February.

According to the health ministry, the number of serious coronavirus cases in Israel has reached a six-month high with 394 cases, two days after the government tightened restrictions in a bid to contain the outbreak of the delta variant across the country.

Experts explain: If most Israelis are vaccinated, why is COVID surging?

After a steady rise over the past weeks, the rate of positive coronavirus tests spiked on Monday to 4.91 percent.

More than 5.8 million Israelis have received their first vaccine; 5.4 million have received their second vaccine. 577,899 Israelis have received their third coronavirus vaccine. 

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called upon Israelis 60 and over to get vaccinated, after citing an Israeli survey that found that people suffer fewer side effects after the third shot than after the second one. 

On a visit to offices of the Israeli army unit that does coronavirus contact tracing, the prime minister noted that 90 percent of patients in Israel who are in serious condition are at least 50 years old. He urged those 50 and over to take particular care not to become infected and dubbed the new campaign to provide a third vaccine dose to Israelis 60 and over a major success.

On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control added Israel to its highest risk level, advising U.S. citizens to avoid travel.

The CDC raised Israel to a "Level 4: Very High Level of COVID-19" classification, advising American to ensure they are fully vaccinated before travelling if they must travel to Israel.

It also warned that because of the current situation in Israel, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.

The recommendation includes the West Bank and Gaza, as well.

The CDC had previously classified Israel as a "level 3" country, advising Americans to avoid all nonessential travel.

Addressing concerns that Israel was headed to another lockdown, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Monday that a general quarantine was a "last resort" and that the government will do anything it can to avoid the measure. "The coronavirus isn't going to disappear any time soon," Horowitz said. "We are laying down the infrastructure that will enable us to live with the coronavirus in the long term."

Also Monday, Israel's coronavirus czar, Nachman Ash said that the Health Ministry has not yet decided on a figure that would trigger a lockdown. "It's a complicated issue, it's not just about the number of seriously-ill patients. It's also the number of people on ventilators, the rate of infection and the number of confirmed cases," Ash said at a press conference. "In the coming days, we'll see if morbidity is slowing down and if we need to initiate additional steps," he said, noting that the effect of the third dose of the vaccine on the outbreak still had to be examined.

Ash also reiterated his call on Israelis to get vaccinated, but said that the ministry was not planning on taking action against those who refuse.  

On Sunday, Israel reinstated several restrictions in order to curb the spread of the virus. The Green Pass – a certificate granted upon full vaccination or proof of immunity –  is now required in culture and sports events, hotels, gyms, restaurants, cinemas, cafés and conventions, with the exception of houses of worship. 

Masks are now also mandatory in outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people.

Meanwhile, Israel decided to tighten measures at its borders, and will require arrivals from all but ten countries worldwide to go into extended isolation – regardless of their coronavirus vaccination status.

The new regulations are slated to come into effect on August 16, pending approval by a Knesset panel which is all but guaranteed. According to this measure, arrivals from only 10 countries will be allowed to enter Israel without requiring extended isolation upon return if they have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. Instead, they will only need to isolate for 24 hours or until they receive a negative coronavirus test.

This list includes Australia, Austria, China, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Hungary, Moldova, New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan. Of these, only Austria, the Czech Republic and Moldova currently allow entry to Israelis.

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