COVID Infections in Israel Reach Another Peak as Delta Wave Continues

Israel's coronavirus cabinet decides to ramp up vaccination efforts, as serious COVID cases increase to their highest point in weeks

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A woman cradles an infant as a coronavirus test is performed on her, in Tel Aviv this week.
A woman cradles an infant as a coronavirus test is performed on her, in Tel Aviv this week.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The Health Ministry reported 521 new coronavirus cases in Israel on Tuesday, an increase of 20 cases from the previous day. The figure is the highest since March 30, when 571 tested positive for the virus.

As of Wednesday morning, there are 40 patients in serious condition – the most since late May – representing an increase of two from the previous day, with 17 in critical condition and 16 on ventilators.

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The rate of positive tests in Israel has also stabilized in recent days at 0.7 percent.

This comes amid concern over the rapid spread of the highly contagious delta variant, which is now responsible for more than 90 percent of Israel’s cases, according to tests of the virus’ genome among confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus cabinet made several decisions during a meeting on Wednesday, but refrained from imposing new restrictions. First and foremost, it will ramp up its national vaccination operation. The cabinet also decided to maintain its current strategy of slowing down the spread of the coronavirus while causing minimal damage to the economy and residents' daily routines.

Other decisions included:

* Increasing public information efforts, with an emphasis on getting vaccintated, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance.

* Maintaining rapid testing stations at the entrance of geriatric institutions.

* Conducting rapid coronavirus tests at day camps and summer camps with 100 or more participants.

* Requiring returnees from abroad to quarantine until results arrive.

* Having the Health Ministry look into the option of shortening the requisite number of quarantine days with an eye to increase public cooperation in enforcing the quarantine requirement.

The decisions are to be implemented over the next seven to 10 days, with announcements preceding their going into effect.

The also cabinet authorized the prime minister and the health minister to make day-to-day decisions to implement the agreed-upon strategy

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's remarks at the outset of the meeting reinforced expectations that the cabinet is expected to focus on the enforcement of quarantine, as opposed to imposing restrictions, even though coronavirus cases are rising rapidly in Israel. 

Bennett emphasized the commitment to protecting Israelis' health, as well as the effectiveness of vaccines and masks in protecting against infection. He shared his excitement for the "great success" of the mission to vaccinate teenagers, noting that "over 150,000 teenagers aged 12-16 have been vaccinated in recent days." 

On Tuesday, more than 17,500 people were vaccinated against the virus. More than one third of youth aged 10-19 have received the first of two doses of the vaccine.

The Health Ministry also expressed concern this week that the Pfizer vaccine's efficacy against the delta variant is much lower than initially presumed.

The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has dropped to 64 percent effectiveness in preventing infection in Israel as the delta variant continues to spread across the country, the Health Ministry said on Monday.

Ma’ale Adumim has been defined as a red zone, six towns have been declared orange zones and 27 towns have been declared yellow zones, according to Israel's Israel's 'traffic light' system. Currently, the categorization does not result in any further restrictions on the area.

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