COVID: PM announces NIS 10b. ‘safety net’ for future waves

Israel, UAE sign ‘green corridor’ agreement • Only 324 new COVID cases recorded since Saturday

 Travelers at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on September 6, 2021.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Travelers at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on September 6, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Israel is going to set an NIS 10 billion “safety net” to deal with future coronavirus waves, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced while opening the cabinet meeting on Sunday, as the country registered the lowest number of daily cases since July.

“In these days, we’re coming out of the Delta wave,” Bennett said. “We dropped to 300 serious patients this morning. In contrast, in Europe and in many countries of the world, winter is approaching and the numbers are skyrocketing in morbidity and, unfortunately, also in mortality.”

Bennett stressed that while Israel is doing well, preparation for what might come next remains crucial.

“We are creating an economic and medical safety net of NIS 10 billion for future corona waves that could happen in another month, another six months or not at all,” he announced. “Finance Minister Liberman and I have agreed on an outline for a one-time expansion of the budget in 2022.”

The prime minister also emphasized that even if morbidity is declining the current measures and especially the green pass is not going to be canceled any time soon, in order to protect the country from further outbreaks.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz speaks at the MDA vaccination center, August 8, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz speaks at the MDA vaccination center, August 8, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Also on Sunday, Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed an agreement for mutual recognition of their coronavirus vaccination certificates and green passes, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced.

“This morning, with my colleague the UAE health minister, I was happy to sign an agreement for a green corridor between the two countries,” Horowitz wrote on Twitter. “The agreement allows free movement between Israel and the Emirates and mutual recognition of vaccine certificates and green passes, without isolation and bureaucracy.”

The move comes just days after Bennett presented the plan to reopen Israel’s borders to vaccinated and recovered tourists after over a year and a half of closure.

In order to be eligible to enter, visitors will need to present proof of meeting the criteria to be considered protected from the virus set for Israelis: recovered or inoculated with two doses in the previous six months, recovered with an additional shot or vaccinated also with a booster. The recognition of health documents will be therefore important to facilitate the process.

“We have built the infrastructure to live alongside the coronavirus here in Israel, and to enable a full, normal life within Israel,” Horowitz said. “By signing the ‘Green Corridor Agreement,’ we are also building a bridge that will strengthen foreign trade, business and tourism ties between Israel and the Emirates, and we will soon expand the process to more and more countries.”

On Saturday, Israel registered the lowest number of new cases in over three months, with 324 new virus carriers identified. While on Saturdays the number of tests processed is significantly lower than on weekdays – this week around 35,000 compared to 90,000-100,000 – the number confirms all the downward trends that for the past few weeks have shown how the country is leaving the fourth wave behind.

As of Sunday, the positivity rate – which measures the percentage of people testing positive out of those who take the test – stood just under one at 0.98%, and there were around 13,000 active cases. At the peak of the wave in September, they were over 80,000.

In addition, the number of serious patients dropped to 307; four weeks earlier, there were 689.

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of Public Health Service at the Health Ministry, also acknowledged that the country is leaving the wave behind, but she also warned against complacency, especially regarding the issue of traveling.

“After a record of almost 10,000 cases per day, we are moving to an average of about 1,000,” she told the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee.

“Dozens of infected people return from abroad every day, most of them unvaccinated, some of them with a vaccine older than six months, some recently vaccinated with a booster or two vaccines received within the previous six months,” she said. “In many countries, there is a new increase in morbidity both from a lack of vaccines, because the vaccines lose efficacy or because of the risk that a variant will emerge against which the vaccine is not effective anymore.”