Health Ministry Director General Prof. Nachman Ash said on Sunday that travel abroad should be restricted as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on in Israel and the rest of the world, fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant.
"We will continue to tighten oversight over our flight policy in the coming weeks and look into ramping up our protection against the importation of [coronavirus] variants from abroad," Ash told a press briefing. "It is not the time to go abroad since the pandemic still rages on in many countries. Non-essential travel is unnecessary and could lead to unnecessary infections. It could also bring in new, and potentially more dangerous, viruses and variants.
He added that tourists who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be barred from entering the country in the near future, despite the country having set out to open its borders on August 1.
Prof. Ash also urged Israelis returning from abroad to adhere to isolation protocols to prevent further virus outbreaks. According to him, law enforcement will clamp down on offenders but was cautious to confirm any harsh restrictions on Israeli society as health officials pursued a policy of "living beside the pandemic."
Meanwhile, coronavirus infection rates continued to rise in Israel over the weekend as the country has confirmed over 1,000 daily new cases on Friday for the first time in months, accompanied by a steep climb in serious COVID-19 illnesses.
There were just 430 new diagnoses on Saturday, although only 30,000 tests were conducted due to Shabbat. The positivity rate, however, reached 1.47% despite the relatively low number of tests.
The virus appeared to be under control in Israel as the number of active cases dropped to several hundred last month, but has reemerged in recent weeks largely due to the Delta strain.
As of Sunday morning, there were 6,622 active cases of COVID-19 in Israel, with hundreds of infections reported in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Petah Tikva and Rishon Lezion.