Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
Israeli youth receives COVID-19 vaccine injection at Clalit's vaccination center in Jerusalem, on June 24, 2021.

Israel’s Health Ministry said Wednesday that it is expecting to see at least 500 new cases of COVID-19 per day by next week, if not more, multiple media outlets reported.

By Wednesday, health officials reported the daily new case count had reached around 300, due mostly to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant identified first in India.

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The Health Ministry reported that 283 new cases of the virus were diagnosed on Tuesday; by Wednesday evening, another 224 new cases were reported, with several more hours in the day left to go.

Israel’s COVID-19 Delta Variant Outbreak Spreads Exponentially Nationwide

Just two weeks ago, the ministry reported 26 new cases diagnosed per day – ten times less than the current morbidity. One week ago, the ministry reported 138 new cases in one day – more than five times the rate than the previous week. This week, the rate was double.

Of more concern is the fact that about half of the adults who became infected were already fully vaccinated. The Health Ministry said that some 90 percent of the new infections are being caused by the Delta variant.

No Increase in Serious Cases – Yet
The good news is the number of infected Israelis reported in serious to critical condition has remained low and in fact is still dropping, with just 24 patients reported on Wednesday – down two from Sunday. Of those, sixteen are on respirators. In January 2021, almost 1,200 coronavirus patients were listed in serious/critical condition.

At the request of the Ministry, the Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency medical response service has again begun to vaccinate Israeli citizens.

MDA said it plans to establish vaccination complexes throughout Israel in cooperation with local authorities and the Ministry of Health to inoculate Israeli teens ages 12 to 15.

A campaign to vaccinate all of Israel’s teenagers in as short a period as possible was kicked off this past Tuesday by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as he toured a vaccination center together with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and incoming Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash, who has served as Coronavirus Commissioner up to this point.

Bennett told reporters, “We can beat the current coronavirus wave without restrictions. Vaccinations instead of lockdowns, masks instead of restrictions.”

Travel Restrictions Return
Some restrictions appear inevitable, however. The government has prohibited flights abroad to “maximum risk” countries, listed as “red” on the Health Ministry’s “traffic light” system of coding.

The move that was confirmed by the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee, albeit with a warning from the committee chair, Labor MK Gilad Kariv, that such a measure should not be decided unilaterally by government ministers without Knesset oversight. He threatened to cancel any further sanction imposed in that manner.

The list of “red” countries includes Argentina, Brazil, India, Mexico, Russia and South Africa. Those who violate the restriction will be hit with a NIS 5,000 fine.

In addition, incoming flights from “red” countries have been moved to Terminal 1 to segregate those passengers from travelers in Terminal 3 who are entering the country from safer countries.

BGI Airport May Close If Morbidity Continues to Rise
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said Wednesday the Israel may be forced to close Ben Gurion International Airport again, if the number of new daily cases of the virus continues to rise.

“The reality today is different from what it was a few months ago, and we do try to keep flights open to citizens,” Shaked said during a visit to BGI Airport.

“It is possible that in the future – if the morbidity increases – flights will be stopped. We are currently trying to protect normal daily life.

But she added: “If there is a significant outbreak, closing the airport is the solution.”

Bennett Appeals to Teens to ‘Get Vaccinated’
“Our strategy is the maximum protection of Israeli citizens with the minimum violation of routine,” Bennett had said on Sunday at the start of the weekly government cabinet meeting.

“I am appealing directly to young people: I know how much you want to enjoy the summer and you will be able to. We do not want to impose any limits – not on parties or trips or on anything. But precisely because of this, if you do not want to have limitations, go out … and get vaccinated,” Bennett said. “Talk to your parents and get vaccinated.”

To the parents, he said, “The Delta disease can harm those who are not vaccinated, and that is the children.”

Bennett urged parents to get their children vaccinated, adding that he has set a goal of inoculating 30,000 teens each day until July 9 – the final date on which it is possible for Israelis to get the first shot of the two-dose vaccination series.

There will be enough vaccine doses for the second shot, to be administered 21 days later; but by the end of this month, the viability date of all those vaccine doses currently in Israel’s possession will expire.

“Thus we have 10 days in which we can still administer the first vaccination,” Bennett said Tuesday.

“We invite parents to come with their children to get vaccinated, in order to get back to routine and for the health of us all,” MDA Director-General Eli Bin said Wednesday in a statement sent to media.

“The plague is not yet behind us and it is very important that the youth get vaccinated, so we will defeat the coronavirus.”

At present, there are four communities rated as “red” by the ministry under its “traffic light” system: Binyamina, Kfar Saba, Kochav Yair and Tzufim. Just one is rated at “orange” at present: Modi’in. Four more cities were rated at “yellow” – Herzliya, Pardes Hanna, Ramle and Tel Aviv.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.