“The next steps will be tightening the Green Pass and additional options — as much as possible without harming the economy,” said Health Ministry director-general.
By Meira Svirsky, World Israel News
New verified COVID-19 cases in Israel soared Monday to over 3,800, with seriously ill patients numbering at 221. It was the highest number recorded since mid-June when new cases were down to single digits.
Fifteen people have died in Israel from the illness since Sunday, a number which raised the average death rate this past month to two per day.
Officials say the surge in cases is due to the Delta variant, which, while highly contagious, is still not bringing the death rates with it as were seen in the original virus. This is mainly believed to be because of the high rate of full vaccination in Israel among the older population, which ranges from over 80 percent in those 40-49 years of age age to 93 percent in those 70-79.
However, the surge has prompted the government to take the unusual move to offer a third shot of the vaccine to boost the antibodies of the most vulnerable populations — those who are immunosupressed and those over-60 years old.
The booster shot, which came before the approval by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration, has been administered to over 45,000 people since its rollout on Sunday.
While the government hopes the booster will protect these vulnerable populations, the correlation between antibodies and immunity is still uncertain, according to Health Ministry Director of International Relations Dr. Asher Shalmon.
In a press briefing on Sunday, Shalmon said that according to data collected from around the world, it “seems” the vaccine does work against the Delta variant. Yet he acknowledged that even individuals with high levels of antibodies have contracted it while some with low- or medium-level antibodies have not, and that scientists do not know why.
In Israel, Health Ministry statistics indicate that while vaccinated and unvaccinated people currently have active cases of the virus, serious cases per 100,000 among those not vaccinated number three to five times higher than among the vaccinated.
The coronavirus cabinet is scheduled to convene Tuesday to discuss tightening existing restrictions. At a press conference Monday, Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said, “The next steps will be tightening the Green Pass and additional options — as much as possible without harming the economy.”
The Green Pass, which went into effect again last week, allows those who are either vaccinated or recovered or those who can present a negative coronavirus test (taken within 72 hours) into events of more than 100 people. Children under 12 were exempt from the Green Pass restrictions.
The new regulations that are expected include making the Green Pass obligatory for events with fewer than 100 people and the obligation to present a negative coronavirus test for children under 12.
More countries may also be in included the “high risk” category, which entails a seven-day quarantine for returning travelers (whether vaccinated or not).