Israel expanded its booster shot campaign to everyone aged 12 and up, the Health Ministry announced Sunday, after an expert panel attributed Israel's ability to curb its renewed wave of coronavirus to the rollout.
In addition, the Health Ministry announced that those who have received their third shot of the coronavirus vaccine, or who have received their second dose within the past six months, will be exempted from quarantine upon return to Israel from international travel starting this weekend.
This applies to arrivals from all countries except for a handful of countries defined as "red," meaning high risk. Israelis are banned from flying to the red countries, which include Mexico, Turkey, Georgia, Bulgaria, Brazil and Spain.
The only requirement for receiving the booster shot is having received the second dose of the vaccine at least five months prior. Those who do not receive a booster shot will no longer be considered vaccinated as it relates to restrictions if more than six months have elapsed since their second shot, coronavirus czar Salman Zarka said. That change will go into effect on October 1.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said after the announcement that the booster shot being available to all was "a privilege that no other country has," and that the booster campaign is already seeing success. "The increase in serious cases has begun to slow," Bennett said.
According to data released by the Health Ministry on Sunday, there are currently 726 COVID patients in serious condition – the highest such figure since early March – with 149 on ventilators – the highest since early April.
An expert panel said in a report presented on Friday to the government and the National Security Council that a renewed wave of COVID infection in Israel, spurred by the delta variant, has been curbed thanks to the country's world-first booster shot campaign and a series of restrictions imposed over the past weeks.
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On Saturday, the Health Ministry director general said that Israel's coronavirus diagnoses and serious cases seem to be on a downward trend, following vaccination efforts.
"It all depends on continuing to vaccinate," Prof. Nachman Ash told journalists at a press conference. "The mass of inoculated people is the main factor."
Ash said that over the past ten days, the number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – known as the R number – has declined, and that it may soon fall below one person per COVID patient. "From there, we'll begin to see a drop in infections," he said.