Israel Deals With New Coronavirus Outbreak Which Some Believe Was Caused by Delta Variant

Israelis showing the green passport before entering a concert in Tel Aviv in March. Because of the Delta variant, Israel is bringing back the indoor mask mandate. (Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times)

Israel has been a trailblazer in the post-pandemic world, largely returning to normal in May following one of the world’s fastest vaccination drives.

But dozens of new cases recently emerged at schools in two cities, Modiin and Binyamina, leading to hundreds of people being quarantined. Israel has made 12- to 15-year-olds eligible for vaccination, but many have yet to get shots.

The containment effort has struggled to have an impact. The virus spread through several cities, infecting more than 700 people. Many had been vaccinated against Covid, according to the director general of the Health Ministry, Prof. Chezy Levy, though he did not specify if they had had one or two doses.

The Delta variant is unlikely to pose much risk to people who have been fully vaccinated, experts have said. The country has relied on the two-dose mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Despite the new outbreak, the country’s current death rate remains close to zero, and only 26 of 729 active coronavirus patients were hospitalized, according to data released by the Health Ministry. And the overall daily caseload remains far from the country’s peak in mid-January, when the average hit more than 8,000 daily cases.

Some Israeli officials and health experts have attributed the outbreaks to the Delta variant, and point to international travelers as a potential source of the outbreaks.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Patrick Kingsley