The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has just added Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to its list of places where travel is not recommended because of growing rates of COVID-19. On Monday, for the first time since February, Israel documented just under 6,000 new cases, almost 400 of them serious. The increase comes despite Israel’s decision to give a third vaccination to all adults over 60.
Israel was one of the first countries in the world to roll out a vaccine program, and the first to offer a third shot to adults over 60.
Despite that, the number of people contracting COVID-19 continues to climb. Professor Salman Zarka, Israel’s coronavirus czar, says the country is approaching a critical point.
He said that Israel is asking everyone who can, to get vaccinated – not only for themselves but as a sign of mutual responsibility. Zarka said it won’t stop coronavirus but more shots could prevent a fourth lockdown.
Despite an intensive campaign, there are still more than one million Israelis 12-years-old and above who are eligible to get vaccinated but have not yet done so. The rates are higher among teenagers and in the Arab community.
A new Israeli study found that, despite the delta variant, vaccines provide a high level of protection. The study found that the rate of serious infection is six times higher in older people who were not vaccinated than in those who were.
Israel is also trying to contain the delta variant by requiring anyone coming into Israel, including vaccinated Israelis, to quarantine.
Mark Feldman, the CEO of Ziontours, told Israel Radio that the new regulations have frustrated many would-be travelers, leading them to cancel their trips.
“They want to make it so that from almost any country in the world, if you go there, you better be expected to do a seven-day quarantine upon your return here," said Feldman. "They don’t care that to get on any plane to come to Israel you have to do a test, the government doesn’t seem to care that when you land in this country you need to do a test.”
Feldman added that the government has made it all but impossible for non-Israelis to enter the country and has frequently changed its policy.
“As much as the new government has tried, the problem is the policy changes day by day so it’s incredibly difficult to make plans both to travel out of Israel, and to travel from Israel," said Feldman.
Israel has reinstated its Green Pass, meaning anyone who wants to enter a restaurant, a gym or a hotel, must either show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. The government has also set up more than 400 stations around the country for rapid COVID19 testing.
Next month, schools are set to reopen, and there are several Jewish holidays when families gather and many attend synagogue. Some Israeli officials say another lockdown is likely then. Others say that if more Israelis vaccinate and wear masks, they hope serious COVID-19 cases will drop and a lockdown will be avoided.