In light of COVID outbreaks, Israel might classify some countries as red

Vaccine for children expected to be approved by Health Ministry by Sunday Night, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.

 A placard, which reads: "Mandatory use of masks in the whole area inside and outside the buildings", is seen in the University Hospital in Dresden, Germany, November 8, 2021.  (photo credit: REUTERS/MATTHIAS RIETSCHEL)
A placard, which reads: "Mandatory use of masks in the whole area inside and outside the buildings", is seen in the University Hospital in Dresden, Germany, November 8, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MATTHIAS RIETSCHEL)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that the Health Ministry was expected to approve the vaccines for children ages five to 11 by the end of the day, while the ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash said that in light of the surge in morbidity in many European countries some nations might be put under a travel ban.

“During the course of today, the vaccine for children in Israel will be approved,” Bennett said during the weekly cabinet meeting. “Of course, it is the choice of parents, but I call on parents to safeguard their children and have them vaccinated.”

He noted that his son, David, would get vaccinated as soon as possible and be brought to the complex by one of his parents.

Israel has ordered children’s Pfizer vaccines that are expected to arrive in the country sometime this week.

The Pfizer vaccines are the only ones that are currently authorized for the age group by a major international health authority – the US Food and Drug Administration. In the US over one million children have already received the first shot of the inoculation.

 Israeli cabinet meeting, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on November 14, 2021 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/POOL) Israeli cabinet meeting, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on November 14, 2021 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/POOL)

Last week, senior advisors to the Health Ministry recommended that the vaccine be given to children in Israel as soon as possible.

The ministry is therefore expected to issue a formal approval and a detailed policy on the matter.The healthcare providers – which have been in charge of administering the inoculation to their members - are already preparing the logistics of the campaign.

“We want to start as soon as possible,” Ash said in an interview to the Hebrew website Ynet.

Ash also said that while the ministry will allow vaccination stations in schools or other structures by local authorities, most of the campaign will take place at the healthcare providers so that parents can accompany their children. He expressed hope that parents’ response to the call to inoculate their children will be good and grow over time as people feel more confident.

Both Bennett and Ash also addressed the growing morbidity in Europe.

Bennett said that around the world, especially in Europe, COVID is raging and that there are countries that are reimplementing restrictions. In Israel, everything is open, he said, “but we must not rest on our laurels. We must keep our finger on the pulse.”

The prime minister added that Israel cannot go into “complacency because of the success it had in managing the fourth wave. It is impossible to know what awaits us around the corner.”

“As long as the disease is common in certain areas of the world - and we are not seeing that the outbreak in Europe is not minor, then the risk of bringing it to us exists,” Ash noted. “On the one hand we must manage this risk and prevent the entry of new variants, on the other hand allow life.”

There were only 220 new cases diagnosed in the country over the weekend, the Health Ministry said Sunday morning. There were 156 people in serious condition, including 100 who were intubated. The death toll stood at 8,140.

Asked whether the outbreaks in Europe will affect travel regulations, Ash said that the intention at the moment is to continue with the same policies.

“What might change depending on morbidity levels is that we may go back to classify some countries as red, and then it is going to be forbidden to travel to them,” he remarked.

Israeli citizens cannot travel to red countries unless they obtain permission from a special governmental Exception Committee. Those who come back from them are required to quarantine regardless of their vaccination status.

Regarding foreign nationals, since November 1 Israeli is open to all those who are considered protected according to the Health Ministry’s criteria - inoculated twice within the previous six months, vaccinated with a booster, recovered with one shot, or recovered within the past six months – as long as they have not visited a red country.

For the past few weeks, no country has been classified as red under the system. The ministry constantly monitors the situation and updates the list. A country is classified as red if a variant of concern is common there, if more than 2% of travelers entering Israel from that nation are infected (based on at least 5,000 travelers a month) or if the coronavirus doubling rate in that location stands at 2 or more.

“There is no intention to completely close off the arrival of tourists or ban travel abroad,” Ash said.