Masks back on as Delta makes Israel change course

Four weeks ago, Israel was celebrating a return to normal life.

Then along came the more infections Delta variant of COVID-19. A surge in cases meant a change of course.

Israelis had stopped wearing masks and abandoned social distancing after one of the world's fastest vaccination drives.

Now it has reinstated the mandatory wearing of face masks indoors and quarantine for all people arriving in Israel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett calls the policy "soft suppression".

His government wants Israelis to learn to live with the virus and to develop 'herd immunity'; it plans to impose the fewest possible restrictions and avoid a fourth national lockdown that could further batter the economy.

That strategy is drawing parallels with Britain as it lifts all restrictions.

Doctors like Gadi Segal, who heads a coronavirus ward, remain concerned.

"We must find the right moment to limit the entry of new mutations from abroad and the government must find a way to limit further spreading of the virus in the community. Because the virus won't stop. It is evolving, it's its nature. But our nature is to survive."

Daily infections are running at about 450, with the Delta variant making up some 90% of cases. About 45 people are in hospital with severe COVID.

Around 60% of Israelis have received at least one shot of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine.

And on Sunday (July 11), the government began offering a third shot for those with compromised immunity.

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