Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday that the mandatory quarantine period for Israelis infected with COVID-19 would be shortened from a week to five days.
The move also shortens the isolation period for people exposed to a confirmed coronavirus carrier, who currently must quarantine for at least a week if they are unvaccinated or did not recover from COVID (those with immunity are already exempt from quarantine if they test negative after being in close contact with an infected person).
Vaccinated people who are infected but asymptomatic will need two negative antigen tests, on the fourth and fifth day, to be released from quarantine. Unvaccinated asymptomatic people will need the test on the fifth day to be conducted at a recognized testing facility, and cannot rely on a home test.
Those still displaying symptoms are required to keep isolating for a total of 10 days.
According to the ministry, the new rules will take effect Wednesday.
“The goal is to enable the continued functioning of the economy and of [public] activity as much as possible, while continuing to maintain public health,” Bennett said in a statement.
The health minister added that the government is planning a mass handout of home test kits for public use.
Under rules that took effect last week, the isolation period for asymptomatic COVID patients was cut from 10 days to seven.
Several other countries have already cut quarantine for asymptomatic people to five days, including the United States and Britain.
The move to shorten quarantine comes as an increasing number of Israelis, including students and educators, have been required to self-isolate due to a surge in infections driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant.
During a cabinet meeting Sunday, several ministers called for the Health Ministry to shorten quarantine to five days.
“Children face eating disorders, a tsunami of mental health issues, abnormal sexual behaviors, and more, all because of unnecessary isolation,” Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton said, according to Hebrew-language media reports.