Israel Re-establishes COVID Cabinet as Delta Variant Spreads

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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A child being inoculated in the central city of Kfar Sava, yesterday.
A child being inoculated in the central city of Kfar Sava, yesterday.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Israel has re-established its coronavirus cabinet as more than 100 new cases were reported for the second consecutive day on Wednesday.

In light of 110 new COVID-19 cases identified in Israel on Tuesday, the director-general of the Health Ministry, Chezy Levy, announced that people who came into contact with a carrier of a "dangerous strain" can be ordered to go into quarantine, even if they are inoculated. Masks will also be made compulsory at airports, border crossings, and medical facilities.

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Some 87 percent of the 110 news cases were infected within Israel, as efforts to address Israel's handling of arrivals at its international airport continue. This is the second consecutive day in which the number of new daily cases lists above 100.

Due to the uptick in coronavirus cases, the town of Binyamina-Givat Ada in central Israel has been declared an "orange" zone, with a moderate coronavirus infection rate, on the so-called traffic light system developed by the Health Ministry. This is the first time an Israeli locality has been declared "orange" since April.

Out of the 110 new cases, 64 were registered in Israel's education system among students. Thus far, outbreaks in 26 schools around the town of Binyamina-Givat Ada were reported. 

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 – stood at 1.55.

On Tuesday, 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, speaking to the press at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

It appears that the rise in new cases is due to the delta variant of the coronavirus. The variant, which is also known as B.1.617, was first identified last October in India.

Research findings, including those by British health authorities published in the medical journal Lancet, show that two weeks after the second dose is administered, the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is 88 percent effective against the delta variant. That is only slightly less than the 93 percent for the alpha variant.

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