Israel's booster shot drive has passed the milestone of four million shots, the Health Ministry announced Tuesday, as the country is set to further loosen COVID-related restrictions.
As of Tuesday evening, 4,000,333 Israelis received their third shot of the coronavirus vaccine, which is now a requirement to get the Green Pass, Israel's proof of vaccination certificate. They represent more than two thirds of the population.
About 8,000 booster shots were administered over the past week.
Meanwhile, according to an agreement reached between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, there will no longer be restrictions on gatherings in open spaces nor a mask mandate in events with over 100 people. The new rules need to be approved by the coronavirus cabinet and are expected to come into effect on Thursday.
Additionally, outdoor cultural, sporting and religious events in which up to 1,000 people are in attendance will not require a Green Pass, if attendees are meant to be seated. All other outdoor venues will not have restrictions. Indoor events will be capped at 100 people without a Green Pass requirement, also if they are seated. The capacity at indoor event halls will be raised from 400 to 600 people.
Horowitz said that the data shows that the fourth wave of COVID has ended. “The numbers continue to go down; we’ll soon lift the restrictions on gatherings in enclosed spaces.” However, Horowitz added that this was not the end of COVID altogether and said people should be prepared for more waves to come, which we would get through “with minimum interruption to daily routines.”
Horowitz urged the public to consider the decline of the fourth wave as a “kind of hiatus,” and that the strategy for living with COVID entails maintaining daily routines even when infections are high.
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“The testing infrastructure throughout the country will continue to operate. The command centers will continue to work. We won’t dismantle them. On the contrary, we will create more and more tools to deal with pandemics.”
With regard to the meeting to be held Wednesday that will decide whether to vaccinate children ages 5–11, Horowitz said: “In the United States, the FDA and the CDC recommend vaccinating children. If our experts decide to give approval as well, then there will be a vaccine for everyone who wants it. We will make all the information available to parents, and every parent will decide for their child.”
Horowitz said no one would be compelled to take the vaccine and no one is being compelled to do so. “We're explaining how good and important it is,” he added.
The meeting on Wednesday will be closed to the public because of what the Health Ministry described as “violent discourse" towards Health Ministry officials.
“We will not tolerate violence. We're coordinating all these issues with the Public Security Ministry and other agencies. There is no excuse for violence. There will be no compromises on this. We will see that justice is done with anyone who hurts health officials,” Horowitz said.