Israel proposes new restrictions to combat Covid surge

The measures are being put to Parliament to limit the spread of the Delta variant

epa08358267 Orthodox Jews pray and keep distance from each other while wearing a protective face mask as they recite the Priestly Blessing on the high holiday of Passover on a rooftop in front of the Western Wall, in Jerusalem, Israel, 12 April 2020. Media reports state, that according to government decision, Israeli police have approved a small prayer while enforcing lockdown on several cities and ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods across the country in order to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus during the holidays season.  EPA/ABIR SULTAN

Israel is planning tougher health restrictions to combat rising cases of Covid-19 as the Delta variant spreads, the office of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Thursday.

If the new plans are approved by Parliament, only those vaccinated or who have recovered from coronavirus will be allowed to take part in indoor events of more than 100 people.

They will also have to wear masks, except while eating and drinking.

The proposal is a joint plan drawn up by Mr Bennett's office and the health and economy ministries.

The Health Ministry has said it would cut quarantine time for those in contact with infected people and for returning non-vaccinated residents from 10 days to seven after a negative test result.

Israel became a pioneer in Covid-19 inoculations after it obtained millions of doses from Pfizer and BioNTech in exchange for sharing extensive health data on their effects.

Its initial distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was among the world's fastest, delivering two doses to more than 55 per cent of the population, including about 85 per cent of adults.

Case numbers dropped dramatically and Israel eased many restrictions in early June.

But soon after, as cases rose, the Health Ministry reimposed a requirement for masks to be worn in enclosed public places.

In the past 24 hours, more than 600 cases have been reported, up from about 200 a day on average a week ago.

Mr Bennett on Wednesday called on Israelis to wear masks in closed public places and to avoid travel.

"The vaccine is not sufficient to fight against the Delta variant. We need the co-operation of citizens to defeat the coronavirus without having to impose a new lockdown," he said.

Mr Bennett also called on children aged between 12 and 16 to get vaccinated.

Updated: July 15th 2021, 9:19 PM