PM Bennett: Israel Facing 'New Coronavirus Outbreak'

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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Naftali Bennett gives a press statement, Tuesday.
Naftali Bennett gives a press statement, Tuesday.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced that Israel is treating the rise in local coronavirus cases as a "new outbreak," adding that the coronavirus cabinet will reconvene to develop a plan to combat it. 

"I am asking: If you don't need to fly overseas, do not fly," Bennett said on Tuesday, speaking to the press at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

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He added that every traveler at the airport will need to wear a mask from the moment they enter the premises. 

Bennett also decried the lagging vaccination rate in Israel, saying that Israelis must "get vaccinated by July 9" in order to successfully receive both vaccines before they expire. 

He also called on Israeli parents and students to honor the quarantine regulations for community safety. 

The police said they would resume enforcing mask-wearing at Ben-Gurion Airport and increase enforcement of quarantine requirements. Fines on violating a mandatory quarantine will rise from 150 shekels to 250 shekels (77 dollars). Authorities are not expected at this stage to make use of electronic bracelets that track people who are supposed to quarantine, or to require the use of an app for people who are supposed to quarantine to report their location to the police. 

Earlier on Tuesday, the Defense Ministry announced that it will assist the Health Ministry by erecting additional coronavirus testing sites at the airport.

The highest daily coronavirus infection rate in two months was registered in Israel on Monday, with 125 people testing positive after local outbreaks of the delta variant had been reported across the country. Moreover, the rate of positive COVID-19 tests was 0.3 percent, while the rate on Sunday was 0.01 percent. Meanwhile, the R number – the average number a COVID-19 carrier infects – was 1.55.

Israel's Health Ministry recommended on Sunday that the country vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds, following the outbreaks of the Delta variant of coronavirus in the country. However, only about four percent of children ain this age group have been vaccinated against the virus.

Also on Sunday, the Health Ministry officially recommended that youths in this age group receive the jab. The ministry had been hesitant to push parents to inoculate their children due to the low COVID-19 infection rates and high vaccination rates among adults and those at higher risk. The spread of the Delta variant of the virus, which was first discovered in India, along with the newly diagnosed cases, prompted the change.

The director-general of the Health Ministry, Chezy Levy, told Israeli television that about 70 percent of the new infections were with the Delta variant. He also noted that half of those infected were children, and that a third of those infected had been vaccinated. 

Also on Tuesday, a report by Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth revealed that almost 5,000 Israelis returned from Moscow over the last month, even as the Russian capital was undergoing a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Thirty-one of the returning passengers tested positive for the virus.

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