No restrictions planned, despite case spike -- COVID czar

Facing COVID spike, Health Ministry recommends third vaccine dose for kids 5-11

Health clinics told to ready to open up shots for youngsters as daily caseload passes 7,000; so far, just 20% in that age group have had even a single shot

A young girl receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Jerusalem on December 30, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
A young girl receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Jerusalem on December 30, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Health Ministry recommended Tuesday giving a COVID-19 vaccine booster to children aged 5-11 as the daily caseload for coronavirus infections continued to climb, raising concerns that the country is entering a sixth virus wave.

Officials instructed health management organizations to prepare to make the shots available for children in that age bracket.

The third dose can also be given to children who recovered from the coronavirus more than three months ago.

Israel began vaccinating children aged 5-11 in November last year, but Health Ministry figures released Tuesday showed that so far 76.5 percent of children in that age group have not been vaccinated.

Data also showed that over the past month, 1,261 unvaccinated children aged 5-11 who had recovered from the virus had caught it again, as well as 295 who had been given at least one dose of the vaccine.

Separately on Tuesday, Israel’s coronavirus czar Salman Zarka told reporters in a briefing that while COVID-19 cases appear to be rising, COVID tests at the airport are unlikely to return anytime soon.

“We don’t see a reason to check people at border crossings,” Zarka said. “We will test people at Ben Gurion Airport if there are concerns about new variants in the world.”

Zarka added that there are no current plans by health officials to bring back any COVID restrictions. The requirement to be tested upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport was lifted as of May 21.

On Monday there were 7,330 new virus cases diagnosed, the highest number since April 6, according to the ministry’s official figures.

The virus reproduction number, R, was given as 1.51, the same as the day before. The figure, which represents the situation 10 days earlier, measures how many people each coronavirus carrier infects on average, with any number above 1 meaning the spread of COVID-19 is increasing. It first began to rise above 1 in mid-May, having stayed below that threshold for nearly two months.

Of the 30,090 active patients, there are 103 in serious condition.

Israel made vaccination a key strategy in facing the coronavirus pandemic and so far, of its 9.5 million population, 6,710,522 have had at least one dose, of whom 6,142,332 have had two and 4,496,066 have had three. There are also 816,370 who have had a fourth shot.

On Monday the Health Ministry recommended that people resume using face masks in enclosed spaces.

In a statement, the ministry noted the “sharp” jump in infection numbers in recent days, “along with a rise in the number of serious cases.”

There was no indication that the ministry would seek to have the recommendation enforced, but it could point to government restrictions coming back, if infection figures continue to rise.

“This is not a requirement, but an act of solidarity and caring for your fellow man,” the statement said.

Israel scrapped its indoor mask requirement in April, as infection numbers dropped off sharply. Outdoor masks have not been required since April of last year.

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