Israel is set to reinstate an indoor mask mandate in a bid to contain outbreaks of Covid-19, the latest setback for one of the world’s most vaccinated countries as the infectious Delta variant drives a surge of cases in children and vaccinated people.
The mandate will be restored when the average number of daily Covid-19 cases over the course of a week exceeds 100, Israel’s health ministry said Thursday, a threshold its public health director Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis believes will be met Sunday.
At the time of writing, there are already more than 100 cases reported for Thursday, which is the fourth consecutive day where Israel has registered over 100 new cases.
Israel’s Coronavirus Commissioner Professor Nachman Ash recommended people “to start wearing masks indoors already now,” the Jerusalem Post reported, adding that they will be “mandatory” as of next week.
While infections are low, especially compared to Israel’s peak of over 10,000 cases a day in January, the new outbreaks have clustered in children and in people who have already been vaccinated, prompting a renewed vaccination drive in children and the renewed prospect of quarantines for anybody exposed to the disease, even if they have been immunized.
As many as 50% of Israel’s new cases are among vaccinated people, officials said, though there is not yet enough data to draw any conclusions on how effective the vaccines are against the Delta variant, Alroy-Preis said.
Israel is one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, immunizing 57% of the population with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Israel was one the first countries to almost fully return to pre-pandemic life, dropping most domestic restrictions as new cases dropped to single digit figures. Its rapid and successful vaccine campaign, achieved partly by making clever data sharing deals with manufacturers, has been considered an exemplar around the world, especially as many other highly vaccinated countries are also experiencing some of the worst outbreaks. Other countries are also struggling to contain new outbreaks driven by the Delta variant, which was first identified in India, which is already threatening another wave in Europe. The U.K. delayed lifting pandemic restrictions and Portugal put the Lisbon region under lockdown in order to contain outbreaks of the variant, which account for nearly all cases in the U.K.
What To Watch For
In the U.S. just four states have not fully reopened amid declining cases and death rates. However, the country’s vaccination rate—45% of the population is fully vaccinated—is well below Israel’s and five states have still not managed to give 40% of their population at least one shot. The CDC says the Delta variant is likely to become the dominant strain in the U.S. in the near future and already accounts for around 10% of cases, so new restrictions might be needed if the sluggish pace of vaccination does not pick up.
CDC Head Says Dangerous Delta Variant Likely To Be Dominant Covid Strain. Here’s Where It’s Spreading Fastest. (Forbes)
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