TEL AVIV—After becoming one of the first countries to open up thanks to a widespread Covid-19 vaccination campaign, Israel is again on guard, this time against the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Mask mandates are back, including requirements to mask up for large outdoor gatherings. Many venues require people to show proof of vaccination, a negative Covid-19 test or proof of recovery from the virus. People returning from most countries have to quarantine for at least a week, even if they are fully vaccinated. Over-60s are being offered a third, booster shot of Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine, and the government is planning to offer it to younger recipients with the hopes it can suppress the rise of cases of severe illness.
Health officials are warning that Israel could face a fourth lockdown during the Jewish holiday season in September if the country doesn’t deliver more booster shots and improve on its wider vaccination rate; 60% of the total population are fully vaccinated, making up around 80% of adults.
A little over a month ago, day-to-day life in Israel was quickly getting back to normal. People were dining indoors or attending concerts without needing the so-called green pass, a digital certificate stored on phones to show the holder is fully vaccinated. But the more contagious Delta variant is forcing a change in tack, in a test case for what could happen elsewhere, including countries with high vaccination rates.
“That window when we weren’t concerned about things was so brief,” said Rena Magun, 61 years old, who co-runs a tourism and Jewish events-planning business with her husband in Jerusalem.