Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
Young Israeli man receives a COVID-19 vaccine injection, February 10, 2021.

COVID-19 appears to be making a comeback in the Jewish State.

The positivity rate for COVID-19 in Israel has tripled within the past few days.

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According to Israel’s Health Ministry, there were 110 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed Tuesday, including 60 students and staff members in the northern town of Binyamina and the central Israeli city of Modi’in.

It is the second straight day of newly diagnosed cases of the virus totaling more than 100.

This past Sunday there were 49 new cases of the virus and on Monday, there were 105 people diagnosed with COVID-19. On Tuesday there were 110 new cases of the virus.

With 45,175 coronavirus tests carried out, the positivity rate in the country stands at 0.3 percent, barely a week after the mandate to wear masks indoors had been lifted.

At least 14 new cases were found among Israelis who had recently returned to the country from abroad. Of more concern is the fact that at least nine of those people were fully vaccinated.

The Health Ministry conducted 11,1132 tests on students and staff in the communities of Binyamina and Modi’in, in northern and central Israel, where the positivity rate of 0.7 percent was found in the school population – a rate much higher than that which was countrywide.

Some COVID-19 Restrictions Reinstated
In response, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reactivated the Coronavirus Cabinet. In addition to Bennett, the cabinet includes Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev.

The government also decided to postpone the opening of Israel’s borders and the return of tourists to the Jewish State. Entry for vaccinated tourists has now been pushed back till at least August 1. Undoubtedly, many re-evaluations will take place before then.

Bennett and the Ministry of Health also announced a recommendation to vaccinate all 12-to-15-year-olds in the State of Israel. Anyone traveling abroad must be immunized as well.

“In order to take all the steps necessary to maintain the routine of life we have been able to achieve in Israel, it is highly recommended to be vaccinated and protected,” the Health Ministry said in its statement.

Health Ministry Director-General Professor Chezi Levi signed an amendment Tuesday night to the Public Health Order regulating measures that relate to COVID-19.

  • The amendment now states that a fine of NIS 5,000 ($1,540) may be imposed on any guardian or parent of a child age 12 and under if the minor lives with him and violates quarantine.
  • A mask must be worn at Ben Gurion International Airport, all border crossings and anywhere that medical treatment is provided.
  • A district physician, the director-general of the Health Ministry or the head of public health services may order a vaccinated or recovering person to remain in isolation if one of the following conditions is met:
    A. The recovering or vaccinated person was in close contact with a patient who was infected with a dangerous strain of the virus or was in close contact with a person suspected of having the virus, in the event of an abnormal morbidity event.
    B. The recovering or vaccinated person has been in close contact with a patient and is regularly in an institution where there is a population at risk of severe morbidity, an unvaccinated population (ie: small children) or a population known to have a low vaccine effectiveness, or the recovering or vaccinated individual was in close contact with a coronavirus patient on a plane.
  • The director-general of the Health Ministry will be able to issue an order mandating that a mask be worn at an institution for a period of two weeks, to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus.

Now, No One Enters Israel Without a Test
One of the biggest problems facing the government was the flood of arrivals over the weekend at Ben Gurion International Airport, where thousands of returning Israelis passed through the airport without having to undergo a PCR test to check for COVID-19.

“We have resolved this fault,” Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz told an urgent debate in Knesset on Wednesday following the surge in COVID-19 cases around the country. “Now there are no people who are coming into the country without a test, not even one,” he said.

It was a returning Israeli traveler, infected with COVID-19, who spread the virus – first to his family, and then to others.

At present approximately 85 percent of Israel’s adult population has been inoculated against COVID-19. But it’s not enough.

“We must prevent travel to destinations where the virus is rampant and revamp our quarantine policies,” Health Ministry Director-General Professor Hezi Levi told an interviewer Wednesday on Kan Public Radio.

New Coronavirus Travel Regulations
At present, anyone traveling out of Israel is required to sign a declaration saying they will not enter the list of “red” virus hotspot countries banned for Israeli travel — Argentina, Brazil, India, Mexico, Russia and South Africa.

Those violating the ban will be required to be under quarantine upon their return, regardless of vaccination or recovery status. The fine for violating the ban, and/or quarantine, is up to NIS 5,000 ($1,540).

The countries for which Israeli travelers are urged – but not required at present – to eschew, include the Maldives, Seychelles and the United Arab Emirates.

Delta Variant Symptoms Slightly Different
The symptoms associated with the Delta variant appear to be slightly different than those of the classic COVID-19 virus.

According to the Zoe COVID Symptom Study app that tracks people’s symptoms, the signs of the virus – at least in the UK – appear to be changing as the Delta variant spreads.

The top symptoms reported via the app include: headache, sore throat, runny nose and fever.

Of interest is the fact that a cough is becoming less common as a symptom, as is loss of smell.

Researchers have expressed concern that people may believe they have a bad cold and disregard quarantine and the need for a COVID-19 test, which could lead to further spread of the virus.

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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.