The meeting came as the number of active coronavirus cases rose to 3,102, the highest tally since April 14, with 503 new infections on Monday and 262 more infections from midnight to early Tuesday evening.
While the number of deaths and hospitalizations has remained relatively low, the number has started to climb. The 38 people in serious condition are the highest total since the end of May.
Health ministry officials at the coronavirus cabinet meeting, a ministerial body dealing with the crisis, were expected to suggest several measures to tackle the increase in morbidity, many of which targeted school-aged children – the most large unvaccinated group in the country. One proposal would require parents of children isolated, due to exposure to a confirmed patient, to also be required to self-quarantine, according to Israeli media.
In addition, officials were to recommend that events attended by more than 100 children require unvaccinated participants to take a rapid test for the virus before entering. Israel’s national vaccination campaign is currently only open to children aged 12 and over. The measure would also apply to people who visit retirement homes.
Other measures would require all those returning from abroad to remain in quarantine until they obtain the results of a mandatory test for the virus carried out at the airport. Currently, only those who have not been vaccinated or cured must wait for their results in isolation. In addition, those entering the country would be required to take another test for the virus four days after returning to Israel.
The health ministry was also expected to recommend a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone returning from a list of around 20 countries reported due to their high rates of viral infection. The quarantine, which can be shortened to 10 days under certain conditions, would apply to all travelers arriving from these locations, whether or not they have been vaccinated or previously recovered from COVID-19.
The proposed measures will only be implemented if the daily number of cases exceeds 1,000, although officials were expected to tell the cabinet that figure will be reached by next week, according to reports.
The meeting ended Tuesday evening without any official announcement.
Travelers seen in the arrivals hall of Ben Gurion International Airport, June 30, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni / Flash90)
Figures from the Department of Health showed the average number of daily cases in the past seven days to be 322, up from a seven-day average of 205 a week ago.
The resurgence of the virus has become a major problem for the new government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, coming less than two months after the number of cases decreased, allowing Israel to lift most restrictions and reopen public life.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz told a conference at Ben-Gurion University on Tuesday that Israel was trying to tackle the virus while avoiding “panic” and keeping restrictions to a minimum to allow prosecution of an almost normal life.
But restaurateurs, cinema operators and other players in the hospitality industry have expressed concern over growing discussions by officials about a partial return to some of the restrictions on public life that were previously introduced to fend off the pandemic.
In particular, owners fear the government will reapply the “green badge” system, which has limited access to sites to those who have been vaccinated – more than half of the population – but has effectively banned children.
Shai Berman, director of the Israel Restaurants and Bars Association, told Channel 12 that since the number of severe cases is stable and relatively low, the reintroduction of the Green Badge system is “out of touch with reality. “.
“I don’t see the general public and business owners cooperating with this action,” he said.
Ofir Miller, chairman of the board of directors of the Israel Attractions Association, whose members operate recreation and entertainment venues across the county, urged officials to think hard before shutting down the venues.
“To our regret, we were one of the last industries to open up after the coronavirus crisis,” Miller said. “If indeed a decision is taken to tighten the restrictions, I am hopeful that this time there will also be an enlightened plan to exit the crisis, without discrimination between the different industries of the economy, and following a continuous, logical path. and uniform. for everyone. “
Cinema Industry Association director Danny Kafri told Channel 12 that limiting access to children “is impossible from our perspective during the summer vacation period.”
Such a move would result in “losses that are simply impossible,” he said.
The leisure industries have been among the hardest hit over the past year, during which lockdowns and other restrictions largely shut down many sites.
The resurgence of the coronavirus in Israel has been largely attributed to the spread of the Delta variant, which was first detected in India and is believed to be twice as contagious as the original COVID strain.