The Health Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday, advising Israelis who are considered at-risk from COVID-19 to wear masks in crowded indoor spaces, ahead of the Jewish holidays that begin on September 15 and last for about a month. The statement also recommended wearing masks when meeting with people in high-risk groups, such as the elderly, immunocompromised, or those with chronic diseases.
The ministry said it is closely monitoring the continued rise in COVID-19 cases and the various strains of the coronavirus found in Israel and around the world. “At the moment, there’s a moderate increase in the number of hospitalized patients in the country. There are several variants that contribute to remerging illness both in Israel and around the world,” the statement read.
According to the ministry, there were 1,063 active COVID-19 cases in Israel as of Tuesday, with 62 patients in serious condition and 16 on ventilators. The death toll stood at 6,495. The ministry reported that over 5.9 million Israelis have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and over 5.5 million have received both doses.
Updated vaccines and flu shots to be available soon
The ministry said that following the FDA’s approval of updated vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, it will also provide specific booster vaccines in the near future to protect against new subvariants of the coronavirus. The updated vaccines are designed to target the current dominant COVID-19 strains in the world, such as the Delta variant, which is more contagious and may cause more severe illness.
The ministry also announced that an ongoing flu vaccination campaign is underway by various health maintenance organizations (HMOs) in Israel. The ministry’s original guidelines were to receive both flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same visit, each in a different arm. However, as flu vaccines are already available and the updated COVID-19 vaccines are still making their way to the country, the recommendation for the general public is to receive a flu shot in order to prevent a severe illness.
The ministry urged the public to adhere to the basic rules of hygiene, such as washing hands, covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and staying home when feeling sick. It also advised the public to avoid unnecessary travel abroad and to follow the travel guidelines issued by the ministry.
Preparing for the High Holidays amid the pandemic
The Health Ministry’s statement comes as Israel prepares for the High Holidays, which include Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah. These holidays are usually marked by large family gatherings, synagogue prayers, and festive meals. However, due to the pandemic, some of these traditions may have to be modified or limited.
The ministry said that it will issue specific guidelines for the High Holidays in the coming days, taking into account the current epidemiological situation and the recommendations of the experts. The ministry said that it will try to balance the need to protect public health and the desire to preserve the religious and cultural values of the holidays.
The ministry also called on the public to show responsibility and solidarity, and to respect the guidelines and the decisions of the authorities. It said that by doing so, the public can help prevent a further spread of the virus and ensure a safe and healthy holiday season for everyone.