Israel imposes Covid restrictions after highest daily increase in Covid cases since January

New Covid restrictions requiring a health pass to access public spaces came into effect across Israel on Wednesday, amid a spike in cases that saw the country report its highest daily increase in infections since January.

From Wednesday, Israeli citizens will be required to present a Covid health pass showing proof of vaccination or a negative test result before being permitted to enter a number of public areas, including bars and restaurants, cultural and sports venues or hotels and gyms, according to the health ministry.

The measures, which were announced on Sunday, will also extend to places of worship, if they have more than 50 people attending services. Shopping centers and industrial areas will only be permitted to have one person per seven square meters. 

The Israeli government was initially praised for a successful and rapid rollout of Covid vaccines, with more than 5.4 million people having received two doses and 1.16 million even getting a booster jab. However, around one million Israelis who are eligible to be vaccinated haven’t yet done so. 

Speaking ahead of the start of the new restrictions, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called on citizens to ensure they are double-jabbed to prevent the need for a lockdown that could disrupt the Jewish high holidays in September. 

The Israeli government’s decision to extend restrictions came as the Delta variant fueled an increase in Covid-19 cases, which saw 7,870 new daily cases recorded on Tuesday, the highest since January. Covid restrictions had initially been lifted in June, but were reintroduced shortly afterwards in July.