The Health Ministry may decide as early as this week to shorten COVID quarantine from 10 to five days, as the country gears up for mass quarantines in the face of the highly-infectious omicron strain.
The decision will be made based on the findings of research to be completed this week by public health services and the Health Ministry’s Central Virology Laboratory.
If the experts' findings support such a step, the ministry may decide to shorten quarantine for confirmed COVID carriers to five days, as is the practice in the United States, and a week to 14 days for non-vaccinated individuals who were exposed to the virus.
Israel's current regulations stipulate that vaccinated people who were exposed to a confirmed carrier must isolate only until they test negative for the virus, including in a rapid home test.
Israel decided to review its quarantine rules in the face of increasing infection driven by the omicron strain, which is expected to push a large number 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.
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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.”