Israel will reinstate its indoor mask mandate starting next week, the head of the country's pandemic task force said on Thursday, as coronavirus cases ticked up again nationwide.
Prof. Nachman Ash also called on the public to mask up again in indoor settings before the rule is put back into place on Sunday.
Following two major virus outbreaks that were detected in Binyamina and Modi'in last week, he said that additional infection centers cropped up across the country in recent days, including in Kfar Saba, Ramla and Herzliya among other places.
"Our shared mission is to rein in the outbreak and reduce morbidity to a bare minimum," Prof. Ash said. "I call on whoever should — to come and get tested. Whoever came into contact with a confirmed [coronavirus patient], it is important to get tested, regardless if your vaccinated or not."
Prof. Ash also urged Israelis returning from abroad to self-isolate upon their arrival and reconsider non-essential travel outside of the country's border in order to prevent the spread of new coronavirus variants in the population.
"Adhering to isolation protocol is our Achilles' heel. Those who breach isolation are everybody's problem. This is how the disease is spreading now and how variants get into the country. The isolation rule must be on all our minds," he said. "If a child stayed abroad and goes to school tomorrow, that is wrong, and everybody should tell him and his parents that."
Prof. Ash's remarks came just hours after Health Ministry Public Health Director Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis told Ynet the ministry was likely to recommend reinstating the mandate next week.
She noted, however, that the final call whether to reinstate the order was in the hands of the government.
The Health Ministry said on Thursday that daily coronavirus cases have exceeded 100 for the third day in a row following last week's mass outbreaks in schools in Binyamina and Modi'in.