Coronavirus in Israel: Cabinet meets to discuss new restrictions

The coronavirus cabinet was due to meet late overnight on Sunday over new plans to stop the spread of the virus, as cases continued to rise.

Among the measures discussed at the meeting, some were to be adopted: expanding wastewater sampling, increasing daily coronavirus testing, requiring additional testing for people returning from abroad, requiring testing for children or unvaccinated people who wish to participate in large gatherings and ask people to wear masks during mass gatherings – even outdoors.

The country, like the rest of the world, is struggling with the Delta variant – a mutation of the coronavirus that is at least 50% more infectious than its British predecessor.

Although in recent days, active cases in Israel have risen from less than 200 to nearly 1,200, the number of severe cases has remained stable and even declined slightly on Sunday. There were 114 new cases diagnosed on Saturday, but only 63 more between midnight and press time on Sunday.

The number of serious cases stood at 23, up from 26 the day before.

There is currently only one red city in Israel, two oranges and five yellow.

“Our approach is simple,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at a cabinet meeting on Sunday morning. “Maximum protection for the citizens of Israel with minimum disruption to the routine and economy in Israel. Masks instead of restrictions. Vaccines instead of lockdowns. “

Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz did not appear to want to impose further widespread restrictions on the country that would hurt its economy. Rather, they wanted to convince young people between the ages of 12 and 15 to receive the vaccine, as well as adults who had not yet been vaccinated.

“The Delta variant, as has been said, infects 50% more but we know the vaccine works,” Bennett said on Sunday. “It just works. People who can be vaccinated and who do not simply put themselves and those around them at risk. “

He also called on young children to encourage their parents to register them for the vaccine.

“I especially appeal to young people,” Bennett said. “I know how much you want to relax this summer and you can. I have four children of these ages; we don’t want to impose any restrictions – no parties, no trips, nothing. However, it is precisely because of this that if you do not want restrictions placed on you, go today and get vaccinated. Talk to your parents and get vaccinated.

According to health funds, around 30% of adolescents aged 12 to 16 have been vaccinated and the country could reach up to 50% of this age cohort in the coming days.

The airport has been Israel’s Achilles heel in the fight against the virus.

On Sunday, the government took several additional steps to crack down on the complex, including approving the Health Ministry’s recommendation to require all Israeli passengers over the age of 16 to complete a declaration before leaving Ben-Gurion Airport. they are not traveling to a “forbidden” country with a strong infection.

Airlines will be advised not to allow passengers to board the aircraft without this declaration.

The government also extended regulations for travel to and from banned countries until July 11 and added that leaving for any of those countries without special permission would be considered criminal and punishable by a fine of NIS 5,000. .

The current list of banned countries includes Argentina, Brazil, India, Mexico, Russia, and South Africa. People returning from these countries are required to self-isolate even if they are vaccinated.

The Department of Health continues to recommend avoiding all unnecessary travel abroad, especially to countries with travel warning notices.

On Sunday, two nations were added to this list, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, while Maldives and Nepal were removed from the group, which now includes Belarus, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, l Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan, Namibia, Paraguay, Seychelles, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

In addition, parents who prevent their minors from getting tested for the coronavirus upon arrival at the airport will face a fine of 3,500 shekels.

major-general. (res.) Roni Numa has been appointed special airport commissioner for coronaviruses, Bennett announced at the morning cabinet meeting.

“For a year and a half now, there has been a huge national weak point, and that is Ben-Gurion Airport,” Bennett said at the opening of the government meeting. “Therefore, in coordination with the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Health and the Minister of the Interior, we have decided to appoint a special director to manage the transitions and prevent the entry of this virus and future variants and virus from around the world in Israel. “

Numa has previously worked to coordinate efforts to defeat the pandemic in the ultra-Orthodox sector and in Bnei Brak.

Finally, the ministers approved the publication of a call for tenders for the establishment of an additional COVID-19 test complex at the airport.

Department of Health Director General Chezy Levy also announced his resignation on Sunday in a letter he sent to Horowitz, who thanked him for “serving the country during one of the busiest times. difficult known to the Israeli health system ”.

Levy took office last June. He will return to his former position as General Manager of Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

An announcement on the appointment of the new director general will be released soon, the health ministry said in a statement.

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