Israel introduces new COVID restrictions

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Last week saw an uptick in the number of COVID positives resulting in a reestablishment of the “Corona Cabinet” – the governing body which is empowered to make sweeping restrictions on citizens’ activities without legislative approval. It’s first decree was to re-impose a mandatory mask requirement in all indoor locations throughout the country starting at noon last Friday.

This dramatic return to mask mandates was triggered after the daily new “cases” grew to 228 over the past several days. Government experts are pointing to the new Delta variant as a contributing factor for the new increase. In addition to the mask mandate, the Ministry of Health has closed a school in Pardes Chana, redesignated the town of Binyamina as “red”, while the two coastal cities of Herzliya and Kfar Saba received a “yellow” designation. All this despite Israel’s high vaccination rate and stable hospital occupancy situation.

The mask mandate applies to all indoor spaces except one’s own home, or if a work space is shared with only one other person. All persons are required to cover their nose and mouth at all times while indoors. Other exceptions are made for children under seven years of age, engaging in physical activity, or for those who experience significant difficulties with wearing a mask. This lesser-known exception was also in place during the previous mask mandate, but is now being promoted in social media. Israelis are informing each other of the exemption and reminding each other that one cannot be prohibited from entering a public place based on their inability to wear a mask. 

The mask mandate reintroduction is particularly concerning considering the study by the CDC that found that the overwhelming majority of people who contracted COVID wore masks and still got infected. This, in addition to the over 35 scientific articles showing that masks do not affect viral transmission, as well as numerous real-world instances, including Israel, that show mask mandates had no effect on COVID transmission.

Chart source: Rational Ground; actual sources listed at bottom of webpage

Newly-appointed Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who is also the leader of the Left-leaning Meretz party, on his first day in office praised the Health Ministry for its aggressive actions in its “fight against corona”. The Leftist leader applauded the public health system for its socialistic ideals, crediting those ideals for its success against COVID.

Now he is calling for more children to get vaccinated to reduce the spread of the latest outbreak – this, despite last week’s acknowledgement by the FDA of the risks to young people. The inventor of the mRNA vaccine also urged caution last week, saying in an eye-opening statement: “I don’t think the benefits outweigh the risks in that cohort.” This follows the strong recommendation, made in May, by the council of Israeli experts on the COVID crisis against vaccinating people under age 30.

Saturday night saw dozens of protesters outside Horowitz’s residence protesting the new mask mandate and the child vaccination campaign.

Education Minister and senior New Hope Party member Yifat Shasha-Biton was reported to have criticized the her own government’s actions even before the new mask mandate, saying “there are officials in the Health Ministry who are deliberately stirring hysteria, in order to push vaccines for children.”

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