Israel Tightens Restrictions As Covid-19 Cases Rise

New restrictions to curb Covid transmission came into effect in Israel on Wednesday when the prime minister urged citizens to get vaccinated, after the largely inoculated country posted its highest daily infection figures since January.

The measures, announced Sunday, require vaccination certificates or negative coronavirus tests to enter a variety of public spaces, including restaurants and bars, cultural and sports venues, hotels and gyms.

The same applies to the faithful who wish to enter synagogues, mosques or churches with more than 50 assistants.

The capacity of stores, shopping malls and industrial parks has also been limited to one person for every seven square meters (75 square feet).

After its launch last December, Israel’s vaccination campaign helped dramatically reduce infections.

According to the Health Ministry, 58 percent of Israel’s approximately 9.3 million residents have received two injections of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine.

But infections are on the rise again, fueled by the spread of the most contagious Delta variant of the virus, with restrictions lifted in June and re-imposed since July.

According to the Health Ministry, more than 8,700 people tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday, the highest number in a single day since January.

‘Vaccines work’

In recent weeks, the state has begun giving booster shots to Israelis aged 50 and over, while urging the vaccination of children as young as 12.

About a million Israelis have not been vaccinated, although they are eligible.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has warned that if vaccination numbers do not increase, the Jewish state could face another lockdown during the peak holiday season, which begins with New Years celebrations on September 6.

Bennett said that his government’s “strategy is clear … protect everyone’s health and keep the country open, because a new blockade would be destructive to the future of the state.”

“Vaccines work,” he added. “It is a scientific fact. It saves lives.”

Cases are also increasing among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip blocked by Israel.

Official figures show that infection rates have increased sevenfold since Aug. 1, with several hundred cases per day reported in recent days, after weeks of double-digit counts.

The Palestinian Health Ministry official in charge of the hospitals, Naji Nazzal, blamed the rise and growing number of hospitalizations on the Delta variant, the official Wafa news agency reported.

The Health Ministry spokesman in Hamas-controlled Gaza, Ashraf al-Qudra, said on Wednesday that the coastal strip was suffering from “the third wave of this epidemic.”

Gaza resident Helen El Jamel told AFP that after the cases decreased, people became complacent and “mingled in the markets, they did not use sterilizers and they did not wear a mask.”

(AFP)

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