JERUSALEM: Israel is planning tougher health restrictions to combat rising cases of COVID-19 as the delta variant spreads, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
If the new plans are approved by parliament, only those vaccinated or who have recovered from coronavirus will be allowed to take part in indoor events of more than 100 people.
They will also have to wear masks, except for eating and drinking.
The proposal is a joint plan drawn up by the prime minister’s office as well as the health and economy ministries.
The Health Ministry has said it would cut quarantine time for those in contact with infected people and for returning nonvaccinated residents from 10 days to seven, following a negative test.
Israel became a pioneer in COVID-19 inoculations after it obtained millions of doses from Pfizer in exchange for sharing extensive health data on their impact. Its initial vaccine rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab was among the world’s fastest, delivering two doses of the vaccine to more than 55 percent of the population, including about 85 percent of adults.
Case numbers dropped dramatically, and in early June Israel eased many restrictions.
But soon after, as cases rose, the Health Ministry reimposed a requirement for masks to be worn in enclosed public places.
In the past 24 hours, more than 600 cases have been reported, up from around 200 per day on average a week ago.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday called on Israelis to wear masks in closed public places and to avoid travel.
“The vaccine is not sufficient to fight against the Delta variant (…) we need the cooperation of citizens to defeat the coronavirus without having to impose a new lockdown,” he said, calling on children aged 12 to 16 to get vaccinated.