The new Israeli Cabinet is set to meet this week to discuss reimplementing recently rolled back COVID restrictions and to potentially begin a round of third coronavirus shots this summer, starting with individuals who have a compromised immune system.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he has spoken with “the best experts in the world,” even urged the new government to start dispensing a third round of the COVID vaccine in August rather than wait for the winter months.
“The price of being late… could be deadly and cost many lives,” he warned.
This comes just months after Israel declared victory over the coronavirus, crediting a sweeping vaccination campaign that saw more than half of all Israelis get their shots and more than 80% of the population accounting for age eligibility and recovery from COVID.
The most stringent restrictions were dropped on June 1, including the green passport which prevents ineligibles from entering certain venues. The ultimate sign of COVID’s demise was the dropping of the indoor mask mandate on June 15. That was short-lived, however, as the number of daily cases began creeping up again in recent weeks. Nearly 300 people tested positive each day in the past week.
Now even the green passport is back on the table.
“If the citizens of Israel do not cooperate and if morbidity continues to increase, we will consider returning to part of the green standard restrictions,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the Sunday Cabinet meeting.
The Times of Israel reported this week that 75 high school pupils were confirmed to have contracted the virus after a student was infected by a vaccinated relative who contracted the virus from another vaccinated individual, according to Channel 13 news.
Some 60,000 Israelis are in quarantine due to rising infections, but the number of serious cases has not increased and stands at 23.
Nevertheless, officials fear the unknown Delta variant and want to stay ahead of it.
“We have all tools that we did not have before, including the number of tests and the face masks… and the vaccines. All of these together, and the additional step of reimposing the Green Pass system, should be considered,” Former Health Ministry deputy director-general Itamar Grotto told Channel 13 on Saturday.
Health Ministry Director General Chezy Levy, who announced he will step down, said on Sunday that Israel should limit large gatherings, particularly for children and the unvaccinated.
Israel has begun a serious campaign to inject 12 to 15 year olds bolstered by Health Ministry-sponsored television ads encouraging young people to get vaccinated. As of Saturday night, more than 100,000 in that age group had gotten their shots – many enticed by mobile vaccination units offering ice cream and movie tickets plus a stern warning from the prime minister that their summer vacation without lockdowns was contingent on them getting the shot.
One doctor, Prof. Rivka Carmi, a pediatrician and geneticist, told The Jerusalem Post, “my take was to wait and see.”
“This is a very aggressive campaign saying ‘go vaccinate, we are going to throw away vaccines at the end of the month,’” she said referring to the vaccines’ July expiration date. “People don’t really know the facts – and they should.”
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS