A week after Knesset approved lifting restrictions from tourism hubs, the resort town of Eilat was supposed to start recovering from months-long coronavirus lockdowns, but hotel occupancy remains low and infections are on the rise.
Some 15 new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the past seven days and the number of active patients at Israel's southernmost point stood at 25, meaning four of every 10,000 residents was carrying the pathogen.
Health authorities conducted 8,730 coronavirus tests in Eilat in the past seven days, sporting one of the country's lowest infection rates at only 0.2%. Only Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beer Sheva - which all have substantially bigger populations – had more coronavirus tests in the past week.
Eilat, which only had five active COVID patients before it bolstered its testing apparatus, now has a growth rate of coronavirus by percentage which is high enough to make it a "yellow city" according to Israel's traffic light outline and may see COVID-19 curbs reintroduced.
The rate of positive tests remains very low and also the rate of active patients in relation to the size of the population. The relatively high number of tests will make it is easier to break any chains of infection effectively before the virus spreads.
Additionally, the testing checkpoints in Eilat only became active on Wednesday, meaning people entered and left the town without getting tested for almost a week despite the requirement to show a negative coronavirus test before entering.
Locals are expected to demonstrate Thursday afternoon in demand to exempt them from getting tested on the grounds of individual rights violations and ask for a coronavirus test only before entering a hotel or other resort areas or extend the exemption given to police officers and medical and welfare workers to them as well.
The Health Ministry said in a statement that tourists who were tested positive for coronavirus in Eilat are not included in the town's tally and do not affect its status.
Meanwhile, residents report that tourists are still in no hurry to come back and customer traffic at Eilta's stores, cafes and restaurants remains underwhelming despite laxer coronavirus restrictions.
The heavy rainfall besetting Israel may also lead to flooding in southern Israel, potentially jamming routes to the resort town.