JERUSALEM, Israel – The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is urging Americans to avoid traveling to Israel, Gaza and the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria – as the region battles a resurgence of coronavirus cases driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.
On Monday, the CDC said the risk of contracting COVID in these territories is at level 4 – its highest risk level – and is warning even fully vaccinated Americans against traveling there.
Israel recorded more than 5,000 new cases on Monday, the country’s highest tally since February. According to Health Ministry figures, there are currently more than 34,000 active cases and over 300 people in serious condition. Since the start of the pandemic, about 6,500 people have died in Israel.
Health authorities in the West Bank recorded 1,900 virus cases as of Sunday and just 100 cases in Gaza. Testing is severely limited in these areas.
Israeli Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said he is concerned about the rise in cases and the government will consider adding new restrictions to keep virus numbers down. Israel has reinstated its Green Pass system, restricting indoor and outdoor venues where more than 100 people are gathered to those who have recovered from the virus, been vaccinated, or present a recent negative COVID test.
Starting next week, most travelers entering Israel must quarantine period regardless if they are vaccinated or not. Israel is reportedly also considering banning travel to the United States over fears of new variants, according to Haaretz.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz wants to avoid another nationwide lockdown.
“A lockdown carries the most severe repercussions,” he told Israel’s Channel 13 news. “We’ve been in three and we saw the effect it had on society, the economy and health.”
“We’re weighing the possibility of implementing more limits. We want to prevent mass-attendance events and crowding as part of the new measures,” he added. “These curbs will influence the lowering of the morbidity rate.”
But he also said a fourth lockdown may be imposed if these measures don’t bring down virus cases.
Israel has launched an aggressive vaccination campaign and is already distributing third-dose booster shots to Israelis over the age of 60. The Health Ministry released a study last month suggesting that the Pfizer-BioTech vaccine is highly effective at preventing life-threatening COVID cases but is less effective at preventing infections caused by the Delta variant. Israeli scientists have cautioned that the study is much smaller than previous ones and results could be skewed by other factors. Medical experts in the US and UK pointed to larger studies that show the Pfizer vaccine is effective against the coronavirus variants.