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.