Israel Declines Restrictions despite Increase in COVID-19 Cases due to Delta Variant
Expressing faith in the country's COVID-19 vaccination rate, Israel's new government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has declined to impose new restrictions, even as the Delta variant is leading to a resurgence of infections here.
According to Washington Post, Israeli officials on Sunday decided that a spike in COVID-positive cases did not warrant a return to a lockdown or significant restrictions other than reinstating an indoor mask mandate that had been dropped two weeks earlier. "This past week, there has been a rise in the number of people testing positive in Israel, but there hasn't been a complementary rise in the number of people hospitalised. But we need to know, the delta variant does infect vaccinated people," said Bennett.
The Israeli PM further said that his government would focus on expanding its already world-leading vaccination rate and tightening quarantine enforcement. Travelers who violate a ban on visits to "red countries" where variants are raging will face a new USD 1,500 fine.
"Our attitude is simple: maximum protection for the citizens of Israel with minimum damage to routine and the Israeli economy. Masks instead of restrictions. Vaccines instead of lockdowns," he said.
Israel has vaccinated almost 59 per cent of its population with both shots of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccines, and about 62 percent with at least one shot, according to Washington Post.
However, now the country is now grappling with an outbreak of the Delta variant of the virus that has forced other countries to impose additional restrictions and lockdowns.
Public health officials say the rate of vaccination, while not blocking the aggressive delta variant entirely, is still shielding the population from its worst effects.
"We have reached a level of herd immunity in Israel that also provides cross-protection against the delta variant, and for that reason, the virus does not spread as quickly, it doesn't reach the most vulnerable population and it doesn't cause a lot of hospitalisations," Yoram Weiss, director of Jerusalem's Hadassah University Medical Center, said on Monday.
The Delta variant, which appears to be more transmissible than other forms of the virus, is driving a surge of coronavirus infections in several countries.
Israel began to see a rise when 26 new cases popped up June 14. That number recently spiked to 230, reported Washington Post.
Earlier this month, Israel said it would deliver more than a million doses of its vaccine inventory to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, where the rate of inoculations is far lower, in exchange for the same number of doses from a fresh delivery in a few months.
The deal fell apart when Palestinians rejected the agreement after coming under withering criticism on social media for accepting "old" vaccine doses. (ANI)
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