Just 10 days after they had lifted it, Israel was forced to reimpose the requirement of wearing masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces, due to a rise in the cases of COVID-19. This is a major blow for a country that prided itself on conducting one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world. Nachman Ash, the head of the pandemic response task force in Israel said that mask-wearing would be mandatory in indoor situations from Friday noon after more than 100 new cases were recorded in the country for four successive days. The 227 new cases on Thursday were the highest number that had been seen in the last two months.
On Friday, Ash said that the cases were doubling every few days. He said that another worrying fact was the spreading of the infections. If there were two cities where most of the cases existed, there are more cities where the numbers are increasing and communities where the cases are rising. According to Ash, this increase in cases is mostly because of travelers who are returning to the country and are infected with the Delta variant. This is considered highly contagious and considered responsible for nearly 70% of the new cases that have occurred.
The re-imposing of the requirement of masks is a setback for Israel, as it was only on 15th June that it was lifted after one of the quickest vaccination campaigns globally. Of the 9-million population, around 5.2 million people have been given both doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID vaccine. A special deal had been made by Israel with the drugmakers that allowed it to receive millions of doses early on, in exchange for disclosing the health data regarding the impact of the vaccine. However, Israel has been criticized for not vaccinating the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip or in the West Bank, which come under the Israel blockade.
As per the Palestinian health ministry, two doses have been given to about 270,000 Palestinians. Last week, a deal between the Palestinian Authority and Israel was called off for 1 million jabs of the Pfizer vaccine. The shipment was rejected by the PA because the doses were on the verge of expiry. So far, 5,000 doses have been provided by Israel to the authority so far, along with shipments from the UAE, China, Russia, and the UN’s COVAX program for middle and low-income countries.
Ash stated that even though there was a surge in COVID cases in the country, there wasn’t a parallel rise in the number of deaths or hospitalizations. He was hoping that they can avoid a fourth wave of serious COVID-19 infections. Ash said it was apparent that enough time hadn’t passed, but they were hoping that vaccines could protect from an increase in difficult cases and hospitalizations. The new directive of the health ministry urges people to wear masks in indoor as well as crowded outdoor spaces, including the Pride events that are scheduled for this weekend. Last year’s event had been suspended because of the coronavirus.