COVID in Israel: Serious Cases Climb, Infection Rate Remains Stable

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A rapid-COVID test center in Haifa.
A rapid-COVID test center in Haifa.Credit: rami shllush

The number of serious coronavirus cases in Israel has continued to climb as the government tightened restrictions in a bid to contain the outbreak of the delta variant across the country.

According to Health Ministry data released on Monday, the number of seriously-ill coronavirus patients climbed to 360. Overall coronavirus cases grew by 3,372, but the rate of positive tests remained steady at 3.87 percent. In comparison, during the last wave of the pandemic the rate was 9 percent.  

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 told 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 world countries 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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