The head of Public Health Services at the Health Ministry on Wednesday railed against the government decision to allow Israelis returning from abroad to isolate at home, saying that with a nearly 6% positivity rate on coronavirus tests, Israel cannot allow itself the luxury of importing disease from abroad.
Dr. Sharon Elrai-Price was speaking as the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved the government's decision to allow people to quarantine at home after traveling abroad.
Speaking to the committee, Elrai-Price said the number of Israelis who have contracted COVID-19 has doubled, as has the number of people hospitalized in need of ventilators. She did not give a timeframe.
Elrai-Price cited the example of a plane that this week returned from Dubai carrying 14 passengers infected with coronavirus. According to the Health Ministry, the group that had been touring together was sent into quarantine immediately upon their arrival.
"Coronavirus tests at the airport show that 3% of all arrivals from abroad have been infected and that is a significant amount," she said. "But that does not mean that the remaining 97% were not exposed to the virus and will not become ill as well.
In her presentation to law makers Elrai-Price said the current morbidity rate justifies an extension of 60 days to emergency regulations in place to fight the pandemic after some members suggested they could be cut short after the Pfizer vaccine roll out appeared to be successful.
As of Wednesday morning, 650,000 Israelis, 30% of the most vulnerable in the population, had already received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine but according to Elrai-Price many, including children would not be receiving vaccines soon enough."
"The emergency regulations in place do not give us authority to decide on special measures without limitation," Elrai-Price told the committee.
"We submit our recommendations and the Knesset votes whether or not to accept them. With the pandemic still raging around the world we will have to maintain the mitigation measures that were decided on including a limit to the number of people allowed in one indoor location and so on," she said.
MK Eli Avidar of Yisrael Beyteinu asked the senior health officials why there were only 152,000 vaccines administered on Tuesday, according to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and not 300,000 as was promised earlier.
He said the Health Ministry was not doing enough to expedite vaccines with people being given appointments for several weeks' time and said the ministry must do more to encourage people to get vaccinated.
"You don't seem to know if those vaccinated can still spread the disease, so why should the public trust you?" he said.
"I am not trying to withhold information from the public about who are receiving the vaccine. We know it is 95% effective but are still not sure whether people who have received the shot can still spread the disease," Elrai-Price said.