Israel resumes indoor mask requirement amid virus spike

Photo: AP Israel has vaccinated around 85% of its adult population, allowing schools and businesses to fully reopen.

The Israeli health ministry reimposed a requirement Friday for masks to be worn in enclosed public places following a surge in Covid cases since it was dropped 10 days ago, AFP reports.

The spike in new infections is a blow for a country which has prided itself on one of the world's most successful vaccine rollouts.

The head of Israel's pandemic response taskforce, Nachman Ash, told public radio the requirement came after four days of more than 100 new cases a day, with 227 cases confirmed Thursday.

"We are seeing a doubling every few days," Ash said. "Another thing that's worrying is that the infections are spreading. If we had two cities where most of the infections were, we have more cities where the numbers are rising and communities where the cases are going up."

Ash said the rise in cases was likely due to the highly contagious Delta variant first seen in India.

Reimposing the mask requirement is a setback for Israel, coming so soon after it was lifted on June 15 on the back of a successful vaccination campaign.

Some 5.2 million people have received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, after Israel obtained millions of doses.

Ash said despite the increased number of positive cases, he did not yet see a parallel rise in hospitalisations or deaths.

"It's clear it's a factor of time, that not enough time has passed," Ash said. "But we hope the vaccines will protect us from a rise in hospitalisation and difficult cases."

The health ministry urged Israelis to wear masks in crowded outdoor spaces too, including at pride events scheduled for this weekend.

A pride march scheduled for Friday afternoon in Tel Aviv is expected to draw tens of thousands of people. The event is resuming after it was suspended last year due to the virus.

On Wednesday, Israel already delayed plans to allow the renewed entry of individual tourists and said it could take other steps to counter the spread of the Delta variant.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned Tuesday of a "new outbreak" of coronavirus in Israel after a rise in infections he said was likely due to returning travellers carrying the variant.

Similar articles

  • Tunisia Islamist party counters president

    Tunisia Islamist party counters president

    The leader of Tunisia’s Islamist party and speaker of parliament that his party is working to form a “national front” to counter President Kais Saied’s decision to suspend the legislature, fire top government officials and take control of the fragile democracy amid the country’s multi-layered crisis.

    30
  • Lebanon names billionaire businessman as PM-designate

    Lebanon names billionaire businessman as PM-designate

    Leading Lebanese businessman Najib Mikati secured enough votes in parliamentary consultations on Monday to be designated the next prime minister, raising hopes for an urgently needed viable government to tackle a crippling financial crisis, news wires reported. Mikati said he would work to form a government and implement a French plan to save the country from its crippling financial crisis.

    36
  • Tunisia's president suspends parliament, fires PM, tensions rise

    Tunisia's president suspends parliament, fires PM, tensions rise

    Tunisia's President Kais Saied dismissed the government and suspended parliament on Sunday, following violent nationwide protests over the country’s economic troubles and virus crisis, news wires reported. Saied said he would assume executive authority with the assistance of a new prime minister, in the biggest challenge yet to a 2014 democratic constitution that split powers between president, prime minister and parliament.

    Thousands of people defied virus restrictions and scorching heat to demonstrate Sunday in the capital, Tunis, and other cities. The largely young crowds shouted “Get out!” and slogans calling for the dissolution of parliament and early elections. Clashes erupted in many places.

    43