Fourth wave? Israel returns masks, number of cases climbs

June 27, 2021 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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The Ministry of Health announced Friday that all Israeli are required to wear masks in closed public areas, only a week and a half after the requirement ended, and as the number of new Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continue to climb in the country.

A resident of Gaza City walks past a mural painting inspired by the coronavirus pandemic. Gaza, Apr 6, 2021. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS

The Ministry of Health updated Saturday night that it documented 226 new cases over the weekend after the daily average about a week ago was 10 cases a day. The percentage of positive tests rose slightly to 0.4%.

The municipality in Binyamina is the first to turn Red, and several others, including Tel Aviv, have turned Yellow.

The majority of the cases are children who were infected in school with the highly contagious Delta (Indian) variant, which has spread to several locations in the country.

However, only 47 Israelis are hospitalized and the number of patients hospitalized in serious condition remained low and stable at 26.

Over 5,538,000 Israeli citizens have received the first dose of the vaccine, some 59% of the entire population, and more than 5,156,000, about 55%, have received the second shot.

Some 85% of the adult population is vaccinated, and therefore the effects of this outbreak on the health system and its ability to contend with a mass influx of patients is expected to be minimal.

Professor Eran Segal, a scientist at the Weizmann Institute and an expert on COVID-19, explained that if the increase in severe cases will indeed be moderate with an open economy, then Israel will have to decide on its strategy.

One option is to leave the economy open and accept a certain death toll from COVID-19 as we do with other diseases. With vaccines, this is an option, as there is no longer the danger of collapse of the health system.

Another possibility is to act to eradicate the virus and to continue to ease or place new restrictions in Israel in accordance with the morbidity data.

“This is a policy decision, and therefore a decision that only a government can take,” he emphasized.

He noted that if the number of severe cases returns to what it was at its peak, an unlikely scenario in his opinion, then “there is no question and we will have to bring back major restrictions.”

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