Explained: Israel’s New COVID Testing and Quarantine Guidelines

A guide to the new COVID regulations that took effect on December 30 in light of the omicron wave in Israel

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Haaretz
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A queue for coronavirus tests in Jerusalem.
A queue for coronavirus tests in Jerusalem. Credit: Emil Salman
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Haaretz

The uptick in the number of new coronavirus cases in Israel in recent weeks has driven the government to reimpose new restrictions in an effort to curb infections.

Haaretz explains how the new COVID measures that took effect last week amid a fifth wave of the highly infectious omicron variant work. 

Isolation following infection with COVID-19

Test and quarantine regulations.

• Isolation is required for people who have a confirmed case of the coronavirus or who have a borderline positive result and have yet to receive the results from a second test.

• Isolation is required until the individual receives confirmation of recovery from the illness from a doctor – but only after 10 days or more of isolation and only if the patient has not exhibited symptoms for at least three days.

Testing and quarantine following exposure to a confirmed patient

• Anyone who was in close contact – for more than 15 minutes at a distance of less than 2 meters (6 feet) – with a confirmed COVID patient

Vaccinated individuals: People with a negative rapid official test (meaning not a home test) are exempt from quarantine. As of January 6, Israelis who received their first shot will acquire a temporary vaccination certificate, which will expire after a 30-day period.   

• A positive official rapid test must be followed by a PCR test, and in the event of another positive test result, 10 days of quarantine.

• Anyone who is vaccinated or recovered from coronavirus who provides care for a child under age 12 who is infected with COVID (or for an individual who is unable to care for themselves and has COVID) will remain in quarantine along with the infected person until the patient receives a negative PCR test result. The test may be taken on the last day of the infected person’s isolation period.

Unvaccinated individuals who have never had COVID and who are exposed to an infected individual must remain in quarantine for 14 days. This may be shortened by a negative test result beginning on the seventh day in quarantine.

• Anyone who is unvaccinated or who has not a recovered from COVID and who cares for an infected child under 12 or for an infected person who is unable to care for themselves – will, after completing the care for the other individual, enter quarantine for 14 days. That period can be shortened by a negative test result beginning on the seventh day in quarantine.

Gatherings

People gathering in crowds of more than 50 people even if it is outdoors are now also required to wear masks.

Locations requiring presentation of a green pass:

• Cultural events and prayer services held outdoors with more than 100 people.

• Houses of worship with more than 50 people.

Patrons at the Ramat Aviv Mall in Tel Aviv being checked for their green passes.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

• Food stands in malls and shopping centers, restaurants, bars, dining rooms and cafes (no green pass requirement for areas outdoors).

• Large stores of more than 100 square meters (1,076 square feet) in area – but not including stores providing essential services, such as grocery stores and pharmacies.

• Cinemas, theaters, museums, places of entertainment, clubs, fitness centers and studios, festivals, event halls, conferences and exhibitions.

• Hotels: In addition to the green pass, access is permitted to those presenting a negative result from a PCR test conducted within the prior 72 hours.

• Covered and outdoor swimming pools at hotels, hostels and guest houses. At all other swimming pools, purple pass rules apply.

• Indoor tourist attractions and amusement parks. There is no green pass required for outdoor attractions and parks.

• Universities and other institutions of higher learning.

• Field trips for children outside of a formal framework – such as youth groups – from locales ranked red or orange (the two highest infection rates).

Admission to these locations is permitted on presentation of a green pass or a negative rapid COVID test paid for at the individual’s expense. The government will assume the cost of testing for children between the ages of 3 to 12 years and three months as well as other individuals who are not permitted to be vaccinated.

Air travel restrictions

• Quarantine upon return from abroad (from countries with infection rates designated as orange): Travelers must remain in quarantine until a negative result on the third day of quarantine.

• Departing passengers are permitted to leave the country with a valid green pass or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to the flight’s departure.

• Traveling from Israel to a red country is forbidden for Israeli citizens and permanent residents – other than in exceptional cases requiring permission from the exceptions committee.

• Those returning from a red country are required to spend a full 14 days in quarantine, but the period can be reduced by a negative test result beginning on the seventh day. 

Distance learning guidelines

Elementary schools in red cities

Coronavirus vaccination at an elementary school at Kasra-Samia in Israel's north.Credit: Fadi Amun

• If a student in first through fourth grades is confirmed as infected with COVID – the student’s class will shift to instruction with as little contact as possible, but where this is not possible, classroom instruction will continue as usual.

• If a student in fifth or sixth grade is confirmed as infected with COVID – the student’s class will shift to distance learning (such as Zoom) or instruction outdoors or in some other manner that reduces contact among students indoors at school.

Junior high and high schools in red and orange cities

• Where 70 percent or more of the students in a classroom are either vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus, they will receive regular in-person instruction.

• Where fewer than 70 percent of the students in a classroom are either vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus, classes will be held through distance learning or outdoors.

Students who have received the first dose of the vaccine will be considered to have a green pass for the purpose of calculating the 70 percent qualification of in-classroom instruction, until January 9, 2022.

The Green Classroom

Green Classroom project guidelines apply in locales with low infection rates (designed green), at elementary schools and preschools in which a confirmed case of the coronavirus is diagnosed. The plan permits students and teachers to come to school even if they are required to be in quarantine – as long as they test negative. They will also be required to perform a home COVID test every morning for a week.

However, the guideline expired on Sunday night, with thousands of students returning to distance learning. The government's next steps are not yet clear. 

General definitions

Rapid test center in Hadera, IsraelCredit: Ilan Assayag

• Individuals are considered vaccinated if they have received two or three doses of the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine, and a week has elapsed since the last dose of the Pfizer vaccine – or at least two weeks following doses from the other manufacturers. The vaccination is considered valid for half a year from the date of the last dose. For those who have received three doses – it is deemed in force for half a year from the last dose, or until February 28, 2022 – whichever is later.

• Certificates of recovery from COVID are issued to patients who have received a positive PCR test result; or an antibody blood test in the case of patients who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The recovery certificate is valid for half a year or until March 31, 2022 – depending upon the case.

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