Israel Postpones New COVID Restrictions on Shopping Malls Amid Criticism, Disagreements

Israel won't begin requiring shoppers at indoor malls to present proof of full vaccination this weekend

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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People at Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center shopping mall, this week.
People at Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center shopping mall, this week. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

A regulation allowing only those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter indoor shopping centers will not go into effect on Friday as had been planned, following criticism of the government's plan and disagreements within the government itself over the plan.

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The government has now begun working on a different plan to keep such locations from being epicenters of infection, amid concern over the omicron variant of COVID-19.

According to one source, officials agreed to postpone implementation of the plan in order to give malls time to prepare and because it should be approved by the Knesset and the cabinet.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced Israel would not be requiring shopping malls to mark vaccinated people with bracelets. The backtracking came a day after the announcement of the plan, which has since been widely criticized, including by mall owners.

According to the original plan, bracelets were to be distributed to vaccinated people at shopping centers, allowing them to move freely within the complex. The Health Ministry did not withdraw the vaccination requirement for entering indoor shopping spaces, but it is now unclear when and which regulations will go into effect.

One of the country’s largest commercial real estate firms demanded that the government cancel its planned rollout of the restrictions. In a letter to Bennett, Horowitz and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, the Azrieli Group —which operates dozens of malls and office buildings— deemed the rule that had been slated to go into effect on Friday “an unconstitutional, discriminatory, unjustified act” that cannot be expected to succeed in “preventing the spread of the disease among the population or encouraging immunization.”

Last week, Bennett, expressed concern during two discussions with senior health officials that three million Israelis are not fully vaccinated and therefore may get infected by the omicron variant, and said the rate of vaccination with booster shots was "pathetic."

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