Israel Cuts COVID Isolation to Seven Days Amid Omicron Surge

The new COVID rules will go into effect overnight into Thursday as the number of Israelis in isolation reaches 150,000

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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People wear face masks to protect against the coronavirus at the Mahaneh Yehuda market in Jerusalem, on Friday.
People wear face masks to protect against the coronavirus at the Mahaneh Yehuda market in Jerusalem, on Friday.Credit: Hadas Parush
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

The Health Ministry's Director-General approved on Tuesday to shorten the isolation for COVID carriers in Israel from ten to seven days, a statement by the ministry said.

According to these rules, individuals who show symptoms during the last three days of the isolation will be required to quarantine for a total of ten days. The new regulation will go into effect overnight into Thursday. 

Health Ministry's director-general Prof. Nachman Ash said that the ministry decided to shorten the isolation period because it found out that the chances of infecting another person with COVID are significantly reduced after a week.

This decision, according to prof. Ash, enables sustaining the economic activities in the country during a period of high infection rates. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz wrote on Twitter that the new policy will allow Israelis “to live alongside the coronavirus.”

As of Tuesday, nearly 150,000 people in Israel are in quarantine, Health Ministry data showed. Out of those in quarantine, around 10 percent are children under of 15, many of whom are unvaccinated. 

A line to a coronavirus testing facility in Jerusalem, this week. Credit: Emil Salman

Israel decided to review its quarantine rules in the face of increasing infection driven by the omicron strain, which pushed a lot of people into isolation. This will not only disrupt the lives of many Israelis, but also lead to economic damage estimated to cost billions of shekels.

The American Centers for Disease Control decided two weeks ago to shorten the recommended isolation time in the United States to five days for Americans with asymptomatic cases of the virus or whose symptoms had elapsed 24 hours prior.

When such individuals leave quarantine, they are asked to wear masks in the presence of others to reduce the chance of infection.

The change was based on scientific sampling proving that COVID is most infectious in its early stages, usually a day or two before symptoms appear and up to three days thereafter.

The CDC also updated its quarantine directives for people exposed to confirmed carriers: Those who are not vaccinated or whose vaccination has expired are required to isolate for five days and observe strict facemask protocols for another five days.

The CDC said that if an exposed person cannot be isolated, they must wear a facemask any time they are around others for 10 days after exposure as well as get tested after five days.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Wilensky said: “The omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society. CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”

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