Indoor mask rule back in Israel as COVID cases surge despite successful vaccine rollout


The Israeli health ministry has reimposed a rule stating that masks have to be worn indoors. Although the rule was dropped just ten days ago, it has come back as COVID-19 infections are rising to their highest levels since April amid the spread of the new Delta variant which was first seen in India. The health ministry has requested people to also wear masks outdoors if there is a crowd.


Israel had a successful vaccine rollout and was among the top vaccinated countries in the world. About 5.2 million out of 9 million Israelis are totally vaccinated as they have received both the doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. However, there is a surge in the numbers of cases recently and the government wants to stop the spread.


Nachman Ash, the head of the pandemic task force in the country, told public radio that the mask rule was brought back after the number of infections crossed hundred these past four days. On Thursday, there were 227 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The cases were doubling every few days.


Ash said that another worrisome issue was that the infections were spreading. They were not confined to two cities and there were a number of cities and communities where the cases were rising.


He added that the cases were most probably due to the Delta variant of the coronavirus. He added that although there were a larger number of positive cases, the number of hospitalizations or deaths had not increased proportionally and believed that it was a matter of time and that not enough time had passed.


Israel was one of the first countries in the world to vaccinate a huge number of its citizens. Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had struck a deal with Pfizer getting millions of doses and had agreed to share the impact data with the company.


Prime Minister Naftali Bennet warned his people of a new outbreak of COVID-19 cases and asked them to cancel travel plans. There will also be a delay in opening Israel’s borders to allow tourists. He has also asked parents to vaccinate children who are 12 years and above as its vaccine stocks would soon expire.


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