Israel Again Requiring People to Wear Masks Indoors as COVID Delta Variant Spreads

Israel again is requiring people to wear masks indoors as the COVID-19 Delta variant spreads and the country reached its highest number of infections in three months, the Associated Press reported.

The Health Ministry reported 307 new cases on Wednesday, the highest it has been in nearly three months and higher than Tuesday's 293 cases. The ministry expects the numbers to keep increasing, raising concerns that Israel will plunge back into a crisis.

Israel had 85 percent of its adult population vaccinated and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Tuesday a drive to vaccinate thousands of children by mid-July.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Israel Prime Minister Speaks on COVID-19
Israel again is requiring people to wear masks indoors as the COVID-19 Delta variant spreads and the country reached its highest number of infections in three months. Above, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during a visit to a Maccabi healthcare maintenance organization outlet offering COVID-19 vaccinations in Holon near Tel Aviv on June 29, 2021. Amir Cohen/Getty Images

Authorities are racing to vaccinate children and are considering tighter travel restrictions at the country's main airport.

Though worrying, the trend still shows little uptick when it comes to deaths from the virus. In the past two weeks, the ministry recorded only one. In Israel, 5.1 million people, among its population of 9.3 million, have received the required double dose of vaccinations. Another 400,000 have received at least one dose.

Israel recorded its highest number of vaccinations of children this week and has re-imposed a rule requiring people to wear masks indoors. Bennett for the first time appointed a coronavirus commissioner to manage arrivals at the main gateway into Israel, Ben Gurion International Airport, which he called "a huge national vulnerability."

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked on Wednesday said officials are prepared to close the airport if the trend worsens.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that officials are considering bringing back the "Green Pass" system that differentiates between vaccinated and non-vaccinated citizens in access to certain venues and activities.

Israel's government last week postponed the planned reopening of the country to vaccinated tourists over concerns about the spread of the Delta variant.

Israel was initially set to reopen its borders to vaccinated visitors on Thursday, after having largely closed the country during the pandemic. It had already started allowing groups of vaccinated tourists to enter in May.

But after a rise in infections over the past 10 days, the government pushed that date to August 1.

Israel to Tighten COVID-19 Restrictions
Israel again is requiring people to wear masks indoors as the COVID-19 Delta variant spreads and the country reached its highest number of infections in three months. Above, medical personnel test Israeli children for the COVID-19 at a basketball court turned into a coronavirus testing center in Binyamina, Israel, on June 29, 2021. Ariel Schalit/Associated Press