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

Israeli health officials are mulling a recommendation for a return to mandating masks outdoors as well, according to a report Saturday by Channel 12 News.

The Health Ministry is also considering the possibility it will be necessary to reimpose other restrictions as well, such as limits on the number of people allowed at indoor and outdoor gatherings.

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There is also a possibility the ministry will ask the reconstituted Coronavirus Cabinet to require unvaccinated Israelis to provide a negative PCR test result to enter certain establishments.

However, none of the above has yet been decided with any finality.

The reconstituted Coronavirus Cabinet is set to reconvene Sunday for the first time to consider strategies for ending the latest rise in the number of coronavirus cases in Israel.

Thus far, Israel has pushed back the entrance of individual tourists to the country to August 1.

On Friday, after one week of allowing Israelis to be mask-free indoors, the cabinet also reinstated the requirement to “mask up” indoors after 227 newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 were recorded.

According to Dr. Dorit Nitzan, European Regional Emergency Manager of the World Health Organization, the Delta variant — responsible for the majority of new cases in Israel — does not cause serious illness among vaccinated populations.

However, in an interview on the Israeli “World Order” program, Nitzan said, “There are a million people in Israel who have chosen not to be vaccinated. . .We see that people who are not vaccinated become more seriously ill [with the Delta variant] and that even if infected, people who have been fully vaccinated (with two doses) are protected from contracting a serious illness.”

The Health Ministry is expected to present two strategies to the cabinet, according to Channel 12 News.

The first strategy is likely to be a recommendation for a set of restrictions aimed at quickly bringing down the morbidity.

The second strategy may or may not be paired with the first: that is, to refrain from issuing limitations on public gatherings and businesses, with or without the possibility of lockdowns –on the condition that the rise in COVID-19 cases does not result in a corresponding rise in seriously ill Israelis.

The second strategy is obviously more attractive since it will not harm the present rebound in the Israeli economy.

It is possible, however, that the ministers will attempt to create a third strategy by combining elements of the first two.

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov told the news team he intends to recommend a major increase of fines for Israelis returning from abroad who break quarantine – possibly by as much as NIS 10,000 or more.

“If we reach high numbers of the virus we will need to close the borders [again], Razvozov said. “We should not be hysterical [about this]. We are going to live with the coronavirus for many years. We need to know how to control the crisis, and not have the virus control us.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said he wants to raise the daily vaccination numbers to some 30,000, rather than its current 10,000.

Health officials added that after reviewing global data, they believe Israelis who are fully vaccinated are protected against “serious illness” from the COVID-19 Delta variant, even if they become infected.

The Delta variant, first identified in India, has been found to be 60 percent more contagious than the UK variant, which was found to be 70 percent more contagious than SARS-CoV-2, the original COVID-19 coronavirus. The Delta variant is also believed to be responsible for 70 percent of the new cases in Israel.

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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.