“In order to maintain our routine in Israel, we have to closely monitor entrances,” Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at Ben-Gurion Airport on Coronavirus developments, June 22. (photo credit: HAIM TZACH)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at Ben-Gurion Airport on Coronavirus developments, June 22.
(photo credit: HAIM TZACH)

The government is treating the increase in coronavirus cases as a new outbreak and taking measures to counter the disease, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday.

He made his remarks after visiting Ben-Gurion Airport with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli (Labor).

Most of the vaccines Israel currently has will expire by the end of July, and to get children fully vaccinated, they need to receive the first shot not later than the beginning of next month, Bennett told reporters.

“The Delta variant, sometimes called the Indian variant, is currently spreading rapidly around the world with a much higher infection rate than we were familiar with,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are seeing the beginning of a virus spread within the State of Israel, and we do not always know how to locate its source.”

Several coronavirus outbreaks in schools throughout the country were mostly caused by breaches of quarantine by people returning from abroad, Horowitz has said. The relevant ministers have vowed to fix the situation by expanding testing capabilities, stepping up enforcement and closing problematic loopholes in regulations. The coronavirus cabinet intends to resume its activities.

“I want to ask everyone, anyone who is not compelled to go abroad, that they not go abroad,” Bennett said, adding that in the coming days, policies regarding entrance and exit from the country might change.

People should start wearing masks again indoors, and that might become mandatory depending on how the situation develops, he said. People will be required to wear masks at Ben-Gurion Airport.

Bennett called on the public to observe the quarantine regulations. The police will step up enforcement, and a gap in legislation, by which parents have not been held responsible until now if their children break isolation, will be resolved, he said.

“As a father of children in the right age group, I say that I’m going to have my children vaccinated,” Bennett said, calling on all parents to do the same. “Most of the vaccines we have will expire by the end of July. We have enough for everyone, but to complete both doses, they have to get the first shot by July 9.”

Earlier in the day, the Health and Defense ministries said they were going to work together to build a new testing complex at Ben-Gurion Airport.

“To maintain our routine in Israel, we have to closely monitor entry points,” Horowitz said. “The Health Ministry will significantly increase the number of tests at Ben-Gurion Airport, and now, in preparation for the expected flight load in the summer months, we will soon build another test complex to prevent the formation of long lines.”

“The defense establishment will continue to assist the health system in any national mission that may be required of it,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.

On Sunday, some 125 new cases of coronavirus were identified, the highest number in about two months, the Health Ministry reported. Most of the cases were due to outbreaks in several schools.

Some 200 students and 20 teachers currently have the virus, and about 5,000 have entered quarantine. As a result of the outbreaks, some municipalities have required that masks be worn in their schools.

About 50,000 tests were performed on Monday, up from the 25,000-30,000 that have been carried out during weekdays in previous weeks.

The number of active cases has also increased, reaching 477 after dropping below 200 in recent weeks.

However, while the numbers mark an increase in morbidity, they remain significantly lower than at the peak of the pandemic, when thousands of people tested positive for the virus and dozens died from it every day.

Six people have succumbed to the virus since the beginning of June and none in more than a week.

The number of serious patients currently stands at 26, compared with 21 on Saturday. In January, at the peak of the pandemic, there were more than 1,200.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post