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First Time in More than a Year, Israel Goes a Week Without COVID-19 Deaths

Medical personnel test travelers for COVID-19 as they arrive from abroad at the Ben-Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, March 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Medical personnel test travelers for COVID-19 as they arrive from abroad at the Ben-Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, March 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Israel did not register any deaths in a week. But the good news is tempered by the decision to increase monitoring of restrictions for travelers after a rise in new cases.

At the height of the pandemic in January, dozens of people were dying daily due to COVID, but since the beginning of June there were six deaths and 24 in the first three weeks of May, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Despite the good news, some are wondering if Israel is one the verge of a new outbreak as new cases in the country rose.

The new cases are being attributed to the spread of the Delta variant around the world and Israeli visits to those countries. According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s office, Israelis returning from certain countries are not adhering to the isolation/quarantine guidelines.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz met on Sunday evening and agreed to appoint 250 police officers to the task of enforcing isolation/quarantine requirements for Israelis returning from abroad, establish a testing complex at Ben Gurion airport and increase the number of checkpoints at the airport.

Israelis currently are not allowed to travel to Argentina, Russia, India, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil, without special permission, and must a sign an affidavit saying they won’t travel to those countries once they are outside of Israel.

Israel has been the country to vaccinate a majority of its population fastest.

According to media reports, the government has also decided to formally recommend that children aged 12-15 are vaccinated.

This comes as a number of schools in various parts of the country have had outbreaks in the last week, including among vaccinated teachers. Students will now have to go back to wearing masks on campus.

Nevertheless, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, announced on Sunday that foreign nationals who are vaccinated as well as their children up to age six that are not vaccinated will be allowed into the country starting July 1.

Israel opened up to a limited number of vaccinated tourists in groups at the end of May, without any adverse effects and invited another 1000 tourists in groups to visit before the end of June.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority rejected a deal, it initially accepted, to receive more than a million soon-to-expire vaccines from Israel immediately in exchange for its own shipment that is set to arrive in several months.

The PA Health Minister said the doses “fall short of meeting the technical criteria.”  But talks are supposed to continue between the PA and Israel to renegotiate the deal.

On Monday, Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz said it was in the "prime medical, political and security interest" of Israel for the Palestinians to be vaccinated. 

"I welcome the Palestinian Authority’s announcement that we will get back to talking about actualizing the agreement between the PA and Pfizer as far as vaccine supply from Israel is concerned. I would like to stress that we are committed to the health of our neighbors, and I am confident that we will find a solution to all-around benefit," Gantz said during a meeting with his Blue and White faction.

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