Israel's coronavirus czar on Monday warned that traveling abroad with children is "irresponsible" as the country has seen a small resurgence of coronavirus caused by the Indian strain of the pathogen.
Prof. Nachman Ash's warning came after the Health Ministry revealed that Israel’s daily COVID contagion rate spiked from a rolling one-month average of 0.1% to 0.3% on Saturday and 0.6% on Monday, due to outbreaks in schools around the country, as well as the entry of the Indian variant into Israel via Ben Gurion Airport.
"It's a matter of personal responsibility and common sense," Ash said. "I think that this summer, with the disease and the variants, traveling abroad with unvaccinated children is irresponsible.”
He said it is the responsibility of both the citizens and the authorities to prevent the spread of the pathogen in Israel, where nearly 85% of adult population has been vaccinated.
“I know it is not that simple. It is the second year of the pandemic and people are eager to travel abroad. But we need to hold on a little longer and last until winter. Travel abroad only if you must,” added the health official.
According to Ash, while the recent spike in coronavirus cases could potentially herald another mass infection wave in Israel, all recent COVID outbreaks have been contained locally.
"Efforts are being made to control them. I hope it does not escalate further.”
Ash also bemoaned the lack of enforcement at Ben Gurion Airport, where thousands of travelers arrived over the past month from high-risk countries. As a result, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett promised to increase the enforcement efforts at Israel's main port of entry.
“This breach will be closed,” said Ash. “It's a matter of enforcement. And while it can never be hermetic, there is definitely a place for better enforcement. I hope the prime minister realizes this.”
Ash added that anyone returning from Ukraine, Ethiopia, Brazil, South Africa, India, Mexico and Turkey must be obliged to enter isolation even if they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID.
"Regulations are there, the problem is in the way they are being enforced," Ash said. “People need to know not to travel [to these countries].When it comes to COVID, personal responsibility is needed."
Ash further said that the draft to allow vaccinated tourists into Israel as early as July 1 is still being formulated and depends on agreements with certain countries, as well as Israel’s contagion rate.
"As of now, it's happening. do not know if it's still going to happen a week and a half from now, but right now it's happening. We will need to see how we are doing in a few days as far as our infection rate is concerned.”
He also backed the decision to reinstate the mask mandate in the cities of Binyamina and Modiin, where outbreaks were detected.
“We will see if we can take control of [the outbreaks] and put out these fires… Right now we are seeing growing infection numbers in Binyamina, Modiin and the surrounding areas. It worries us,” said Ash.
Ash added that he hopes the Health Ministry will issue a recommendation in the coming days to vaccinate all teens aged 12 to 15 against coronavirus: “The picture is changing, I expect a decision on the issue to be made very soon,” added Ash.