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Israel tightens restrictions as Covid-19 cases surge

Official figures show infection rates have risen sevenfold since 1 August

Israel has imposed new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 after the country recorded its highest daily infection rate since January.

The new measures introduced by the health ministry require vaccination certificates or negative PCR tests to enter public spaces, including restaurants and bars, cultural and sports venues, hotels and gyms.

The same rules apply to worshippers entering synagogues, mosques or churches with more than 50 people in attendance.

After its launch last December, Israel’s vaccination drive helped to drastically bring down infections. According to the health ministry, 58% of Israel’s roughly 9.3 million residents have received two shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. However, infections are surging again, driven by the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of the virus.

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In recent weeks, the state has started administering booster shots to citizens aged 50 and over, while urging the vaccination of children as young as 12.

Although the population is largely vaccinated, roughly one million Israelis have not been vaccinated despite being eligible. 

Prime minister Naftali Bennett has been asking Israelis to get vaccinated, warning of a possible lockdown that could affect the Jewish high holidays next month unless inoculation numbers rise.

Coronavirus response coordinator Salman Zarka said the lead-up to the start of the Jewish New Year on 6 September would be critical and that if things don’t improve, another lockdown would have to be implemented.

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