COVID-19 isolation to be shortened to five days

Some 27,167 people tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, and serious cases rose from 387 to 436.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the cabinet meeting, December 19, 2021. (photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/HAARETZ)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the cabinet meeting, December 19, 2021.
(photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/HAARETZ)

The Health Ministry is expected to cut the amount of time of isolation to five days, following discussions on the matter throughout Sunday and more deliberations will take place on Monday before a decision is reached on the matter.

Calls are growing from officials in the healthcare sector to curtail the isolation period for medical staff who test positive for the coronavirus because of the added strain it is imposing.

As of Sunday afternoon, 7,716 workers from the healthcare sector were either in isolation or had tested positive for COVID-19.

Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash addressed the isolation period issue on Sunday morning during a visit to the Rabin Medical Center Beilinson Campus where director Dr. Eran Rotman stressed to Ash the difficulty and the strain that quarantine is putting on essential services.

“It is important that the decision to shorten the isolation period is made as soon as possible,” he said. “This is what will keep us from discontinuing elective operations and from closing non-critical services.

“Until now we have maintained most of these operations, but as the number of workers testing positive increases, this will be more difficult.”

Ash reassured Rotman that the Health Ministry was continuing to examine this possibility and was ensuring that if implemented, it will be done in a safe and responsible manner.

During his visit, Ash was shown the hospital’s preparations for managing the fifth wave, including a second coronavirus ward, which was opened earlier on Sunday.

Over half a million Israelis have already been vaccinated with a fourth shot, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday morning at the start of the cabinet meeting, announcing that by the end of the week, another shipment of Pfizer’s antiviral pill will arrive.

“We are protecting workplaces in the most stringent way possible,” Bennett continued, adding that millions of additional antigen tests will soon be arriving soon.

“We are ensuring that those in quarantine are not paying the financial cost of their isolation and are looking out for those directly affected by the situation. I know that these are difficult times, we will overcome them together, exactly like we overcame the Delta variant, this will not last forever.”

Regarding Omicron, Bennett said, Israel is now “entering the eye of the storm,” and is facing “the most complex days” of the current outbreak, which saw almost 40,000 new cases recorded on Friday alone.

“The Omicron variant has already reached almost every home, and many of us, including government ministers, have already tested positive,” he said, referencing the outbreak currently affecting the government.

Some 27,167 people tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, the Health Ministry reported on Sunday afternoon, a number significantly lower than the day before, when 39,015 positive cases were registered, although this is normal as reported cases are often lower over the weekend.

The number of serious cases, however, continues to rise sharply, increasing from 387 on Friday, to 436 on Saturday. An additional three people are on ventilators, bringing the total to 96.

Bennett’s cabinet has not escaped the record-breaking wave of infections either, with several ministers and deputy ministers having been infected over the last week, including Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev, and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Labor MK Naama Lazimi also announced that she had tested positive on Sunday afternoon, adding that she feels well and hopes to soon return to her regular routine.