Israel Imposes New COVID Restrictions for the High Holy Days

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Lines in Tel Aviv for COVID tests last week.
Lines in Tel Aviv for COVID tests last week.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Israel's Health Ministry announced tightened restrictions on Saturday ahead of the High Holy Days, as the country braces for mass gatherings amid the ongoing fourth wave of coronavirus. 

The Health Ministry is recommending that all prayer services be held outdoors, and that any synagogue which hosts more than 50 people will require the worshipers to present proof of immunity to enter. Children under the age of 12, who have not been vaccinated, will need to take in a PCR test, with a rapid antigen test deemed insufficient.

The decision came as Health Ministry statistics revealed that 9,739 new people tested positive for COVID on Friday, a decrease from the previous two days, which were both all-time peaks for Israel at 11,284 and 11,304 respectively. 

While serious cases steadily fell for four consecutive days, Saturday halted the trend in its tracks, with a minor increase from 661 on Friday to 677 on Saturday evening.

In light of continuing wave, restrictions on private gatherings will be limited to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

For public events, up to 1,000 people will be permitted in indoor spaces and up to 5,000 in outdoor spaces, and entrance will be subject to the proof of immunity.

Masks will be required to be worn in any gathering of more than 100 people, and also recommends wearing masks in smaller gatherings.

From September 7-9, during Rosh Hashanah and the following day, PCR tests will be valid for 96 hours, as opposed to the typical 72, allowing anybody who does a PCR test on Sunday, September 5, to enter synagogues for the length of the holiday.

Up to 8,000 people will be permitted at the Western Wall in capsules of 15, and all attendees must be masked. There will be guards there to enforce the health restrictions.    

As of Saturday night, 6.01 million people in Israel have received the first vaccine dose, 5.5 million the second, and 2.57 million people the third. There are currently 90,750 active cases in Israel and 7,154 have died since the pandemic began.

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