Israel's COVID Spike Continues Amid Delta Spread, but Serious Cases Plateau

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Haaretz
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Shoppers in Jerusalem's Mahaneh Yehuda, yesterday.
Shoppers in Jerusalem's Mahaneh Yehuda, yesterday. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
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Haaretz

Israel recorded yet another four-month high in daily coronavirus infections, with 855 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, but Health Ministry data shows that serious cases have begun stabilizing over recent days. 

Although the delta variant continues to make headway, the number of serious cases has slightly declined and currently stands at 52, of whom 18 are in critical condition and 17 on ventilators. Israel has 5,817 active cases and 6,443 people have died from the virus so far. This is down from 53 on Thursday and 51 on Wednesday, following a week of a steady climb in seriously ill patients.

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In an interministerial meeting convened Friday by Prime Minster Naftali Bennett's Office, representatives of various ministries agreed to increase rapid testing, "making them accessible to everybody," according to a brief statement from Bennett's office. Bennett has ordered that four types of rapid test kits approved by the Ministry of Health be approved for use by Tuesday.

Other measures agreed upon by government officials, as delta variant spreads across the world, include "aggressive enforcement" of COVID regulations and "preparations" for the next school year, as well as further examination of entry guidelines at Israel's main international airport.

As of Friday, all passengers arriving in Israel must quarantine for 24 hours or until they receive a negative COVID-19 test result. In addition, arrivals from the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Turkey, Georgia, Uganda, Myanmar, Fiji, Panama, Cambodia, Kenya and Liberia will be required to quarantine for seven days.

Moreover, Israel's Health Ministry issued a travel ban to Spain and Kyrgyzstan, which will come into effect next Friday, and added further countries to the list requiring a seven-day quarantine from next week. These countries include Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Namibia, Paraguay, Seychelles, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

On Friday, the Israeli military also that 135 people in its workforce suffer mild coronavirus symptoms and 535 are isolating at home. 

While over the past month new daily cases have spiked, the daily increase in infections is still lower than the Health Ministry's forecast from roughly two weeks ago, which anticipated that Israel would face 600 new coronavirus cases a day within a week, and 1,000 a day in 10 days.

The delta variant of the virus, which originated in India, is more than twice as contagious as the initial strain and has become the dominant strain of the virus in Israel.

The Israeli government announced Thursday a proposal that would let residents who have vaccinated against COVID-19, have recovered, or have received a recent negative test result, to attend large indoor events.

Speaking in a press conference, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday that Israel can beat the delta variant within five weeks.

Bennett said that his government seeks to avoid the mass lockdowns that characterized the country's handling of the three previous coronavirus outbreaks under his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu. Instead, he said, Israel will opt for a policy revolving around promoting mask wearing, expanding vaccinations and encouraging social distancing.

"We have two options: the first option is to remain indifferent, say that it's the government's problem and then cases will spike, and we'll have to instate a lockdown; the other option is that each of us takes responsibility, and then we can end this whole business in five weeks," Bennett said.

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