“Unfortunately, we are seeing the beginning of a virus spread within the State of Israel, and we do not always know how to locate its source,” the prime minister said.
By Atara Beck, World Israel News
Amid a renewed spread of the coronavirus in Israel, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is urging Israelis to avoid traveling abroad unless necessary and encouraging children 12 and over to get inoculated before most of the vaccines currently available expire at the end of July.
On Monday, 125 new cases were discovered in the country – the highest in two months. Earlier this month, new cases were registering in the single digits and Israelis felt as if the virus was behind them.
Travelers returning from abroad without isolating according to the rules and who had contracted the Delta, or Indian, variant are suspected as the source of the outbreak.
“We have made a decision to treat it as a new outbreak, and the goal is to stop it as soon as possible,” Bennett said in a statement issued to media Tuesday evening at Ben Gurion Airport, where he visited together with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli.
The Delta variant “infects much more quickly than the variant we are familiar with, the original coronavirus,” Bennett said. “Another characteristic of the Delta variant is that it also infects people who have been vaccinated.
“We have found that even some people who have been inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine have been infected. We know that the vaccine still has effect, a significant effect, but it is still possible to be vaccinated and infected as well.
“The Delta variant, sometimes called the Indian variant, is currently spreading rapidly around the world with a much higher infection rate than we were familiar with,” he warned. “Unfortunately, we are seeing the beginning of a virus spread within the State of Israel, and we do not always know how to locate its source.”
It is estimated that the corona vaccine will be about 15 to 20 percent less effective against the delta mutation.
While the advice not to travel abroad “is a recommendation, not an order” for the time being, the prime minister made a number of decisions that take effect immediately.
“We are immediately reestablishing the corona cabinet,” he said.
Masks must be worn inside Ben-Gurion Airport; anyone entering the country will have to undergo PCR testing for the virus; passengers arriving from red countries will be transferred to Terminal 1; and the number of testing stands at the airport has been increased from 30 to 70. That number will increase further if necessary so that the lines will not be too long.
The prime minister stressed that “all scientific indicators in Israel and the world show that the danger from the disease is immeasurably higher than the risk from the vaccine.
“There is much ‘fake news’ but we are dealing in science, in facts,” he said. “In the U.S., approximately 2-2.5 million children have already been vaccinated and we have not seen large-scale side effects. I can tell you, as the father of children this age, I am taking my children to be vaccinated. The Interior Minister has updated me that her children have already been vaccinated.”
‘We must do this together’
Also, “regarding quarantine, I regret that there have been massive violations of quarantine. I ask that the citizens of Israel, certainly those who have returned from abroad, be strict about the quarantine. To this end we are extending the mobilization of 270 inspectors.
“There was a loophole, that if a child violated quarantine, because he did not bear the responsibility and neither did his parents, then nobody did. We are closing this loophole. The parents of children who violate quarantine will bear full responsibility if the children are below 12. But let us not have to resort to sanctions, we are one country.”
“Let us not become panicky,” Bennett concluded. “We are in a good situation at the moment. All in all, we are saying: We will guard the borders of the country, we will tighten them.
“Inside the country, I say: We must do this together. Let us extinguish this so that we will be able to continue our daily routines. It depends on your conduct alone.”