The highest daily coronavirus infection rate in two months was registered in Israel on Monday, with 125 people testing positive after local outbreaks of the delta variant had been reported across the country.
The director-general of the Health Ministry, Chezy Levy, told Israeli television that about 70 per cent of the new infections were with the Delta variant. He also noted that half of those infected were children, and that a third of those infected had been vaccinated.
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The delta variant was first discovered in India and is considered highly contagious.
As recently as mid-June, new daily infections in Israel were only registering in the single digits. A requirement to wear masks was lifted nationwide last week.
There are 434 active coronavirus cases in Israel; 258 patients are in serious condition, according to Health Ministry data released Monday. The number of fatalities in Israel is 6,428. More than 5.5 million Israelis have received their first coronavirus vaccination, and 5.1 million have received their second dose.
Israel is facing several local COVID outbreaks, as the army reported that two inoculated soldiers tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday, with further cases across the country also confirmed on Monday.
In two schools, nine staff members contracted COVID-19 even though they are vaccinated against the coronavirus.
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Due to the uptick in coronavirus cases, the town of Binyamina-Givat Ada in central Israel has been declared a "yellow" zone, with a moderate coronavirus infection rate, on the so-called traffic light system developed by the Health Ministry.
This is the first local authority to be defined as such since May, when all cities and zones in Israel were declared green.
On Monday afternoon, after a situation assessment on the new outbreak, Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the Israel Defense Forces, Home Front Command and defense establishment to prepare to renew its coronavirus testing efforts, and not to close the contact tracing department as originally planned.
Israel's coronavirus czar Nachman Ash ordered the IDF Home Front Command on Monday to prepare to reopen testing centers across the country.
Also on Monday, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced that Israel will issue large fines for Israelis who travel to barred countries. The new regulations are due to go into effect in the coming days.
While "the situation in Israel is different from the rest of the world," Horowitz said, "[We] have to do whatever is necessary to contain the spread of strains."
DPA contributed to this report.