Israel, a world leader in vaccinations, is once again requiring people to wear masks in indoor public spaces amid a coronavirus outbreak driven by the arrival of a new variant. Israel rolled out one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world, inoculating some 85% of its adult population. In recent months, nearly all restrictions were lifted as the number of active cases plummeted.
But there has been a spike in recent days after weeks in which the number of new daily cases was in the single or low double digits. Dr. Nachman Ash, who is leading the coronavirus response, said 227 new cases were confirmed on Thursday, according to Israeli media. The Health Ministry said masks must be worn indoors in public places starting midday Friday.
The outbreak appears to be driven by the arrival of the highly contagious delta variant, which spreads rapidly among unvaccinated individuals, including children. Vaccinated Israelis have reportedly been infected, but generally appear to have only minor symptoms. Earlier this week, the government postponed the planned reopening of the country to vaccinated tourists until the beginning of August. It was originally set for July 1, and vaccinated tour groups have been permitted since May.
Israel has reported 6,429 deaths since the start of the pandemic, in a population of 9.3 million.