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Tests sought for unvaccinated at events of 100-plus people

Health Ministry said set to recommend reducing quarantine period to 7 days

Proposal follows calls for isolation period to be shortened to encourage people to keep it, as well as to reduce burden on parents of unvaccinated young children

Healthcare worker takes a COVID-19 test sample in Netanya, on April 13, 2021 (Chen Leopold/Flash90)
Healthcare worker takes a COVID-19 test sample in Netanya, on April 13, 2021 (Chen Leopold/Flash90)

The Health Ministry will recommend to ministers that the coronavirus quarantine period be cut from 14 days to seven, Hebrew media outlets reported Tuesday.

The proposal was made by the ministry and is set to be presented to the coronavirus cabinet after a meeting between senior health officials and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz.

The quarantine period currently stands at 10 days with two negative tests or 14 days without testing. Those who have not been vaccinated or have not recovered from COVID-19 are required to quarantine after exposure to virus carriers or international travel. The vaccinated and recovered are not required to enter isolation unless they are confirmed to have the virus.

According to Channel 12 news, if agreed to by ministers, the quarantine period would only be reduced for those exposed to the virus and not those who are found to have been infected.

The reports did not clarify if the potential cutting of the isolation period would apply to both virus exposure and international travel.

There had been growing calls from ministers for changes to the quarantine system under the belief that if it were shorter, people were more likely to keep it.

It was additionally hoped that shortening the isolation period would reduce the burden on the parents of unvaccinated young children forced to stay home from school or kindergarten due to virus exposure.

Israeli students at the Orot Etzion school in Efrat wear protective face masks, as they return to school on May 3, 2020. (Gershon Elinon/Flash90)

The proposal was to be presented at a Tuesday evening meeting of the coronavirus cabinet, set to be held amid surging virus cases.

The Health Ministry said that 730 new cases of the coronavirus had been diagnosed on Monday, the highest level seen since March 25. The number of patients in serious condition remained relatively steady at 45, including 10 on ventilators.

With one new fatality, the death toll rose to 6,439. Eight deaths have been confirmed in the past week following almost two weeks of no fatalities.

There were over 55,000 tests performed on Monday and the positivity rate was 1.33%, an increase after a temporary glitch in recent weeks has been skewing the number of negative COVID tests reported at Ben Gurion Airport.

People, some with face masks, walk in Jerusalem on July 12, 2021 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Also at the cabinet meeting, senior health officials were set to make recommendations for limited restrictions to be brought back for large events.

According to Channel 12 news, the experts are expected to recommend a return to a “softened” version of the Green Pass system, with events such as weddings, cultural and sporting events to require unvaccinated participants to take a virus test at the entrance.

The Kan public broadcaster reported that under the proposal, the testing would be a requirement at events for over 100 participants.

Israeli Green Pass holders enjoy singer Ivri Lieder at a concert organized by the Tel Aviv municipality at Bloomfield Stadium, March 5, 2021 (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The cabinet was also reportedly set to discuss funding for doctors after hospitals warned that they do not have the staff required for a renewed outbreak requiring the mass hospitalization of those infected.

Funding hasn’t been renewed for the 600 additional doctors hired during the pandemic, and financial assistance to the hospitals for the extra staff expired on June 30.

Meanwhile, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the Knesset approved regulations giving the government expanded powers to deal with the pandemic via restrictions on the airport and flights. The extension of the current regulations will be in place until July 26.

The government has been repeatedly criticized over its handling of testing at the airport. Last month, thousands of passengers were allowed to enter the country without being tested when the airport’s facilities were overwhelmed by incoming travelers. The opening of the airport has been blamed for Israel’s renewed outbreak.

Amy Spiro contributed to this report.

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