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As Omicron wave keeps receding, Bennett said to mull lifting most restrictions

Health Ministry data shows daily caseload, serious cases dropping; PM reportedly set to further open borders to tourists, roll back Green Pass rules

The coronavirus ward of Ziv Medical Center in the northern Israeli city of Safed on February 15, 2022. (David Cohen/Flash90)
The coronavirus ward of Ziv Medical Center in the northern Israeli city of Safed on February 15, 2022. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Health Ministry figures released Wednesday showed the COVID-19 infection wave driven by the Omicron variant was continuing to recede, with the number of patients in serious condition tumbling to 927, a drop of 50 from the day before.

The number of daily infections also kept trending downward, with 20,340 new cases diagnosed on Tuesday. At the height of the outbreak in January, there were a record 85,185 infections in a day.

Of the 108,571 virus tests carried out on Tuesday, 18.73% were positive, the lowest rate in over a month.

There were 169,436 active patients and five new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 9,651.

In light of the encouraging picture, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is considering canceling most remaining coronavirus restrictions by March 1, Channel 12 reported.

Bennett has adopted an opinion that the public should be given as much freedom as possible while at the same time authorities prepare for the possibility of another wave.

The prime minister’s approach is reportedly based on lessons learned from other countries where public adherence to virus restrictions was seen to erode the longer the rules were in place with no clear need for them, the station said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on February 13, 2022. (Amit Shabi)

On Thursday there will be a meeting to discuss the matter and Bennett intends to present a position in favor of gradually lifting all restrictions.

A first move could come next week with the opening of Israel’s borders to unvaccinated children, enabling families to visit who have been shut out since the Omicron variant was detected late last year.

A later development will see the Green Pass system canceled for all events and gatherings. The Green Pass certificate grants access to certain public venues and events only for those who are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19, or recently tested negative for the virus. Some Green Pass rules were already eased earlier this month.

Existing rules for the education system and the need to wear masks in public enclosed spaces will remain but will be reconsidered in about a week, the report said.

In preparation for the threat of another wave of virus infections, Bennett plans to hold an assessment of how the Omicron wave was handled, and the effectiveness of various decisions authorities made to curb it. In addition, virus-specific systems and authorities that were established will continue to operate in a limited way in case they are needed in the future, Channel 12 News said.

Bennett’s reported attitude appeared to counter that of national coronavirus czar Salman Zarka, who said Sunday that despite the steady drop in morbidity it was too early to declare the current outbreak over and that no decisions were ready to be made on further rolling back COVID restrictions.

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