Israel's coronavirus cabinet decided to abolish its so-called green passport program for most places of entertainment, including hotels, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters, effectively removing barriers to entry for the unvaccinated.
The new policy will come into effect on Sunday, and will leave the proof of vaccination in place for events “with significantly greater risk of infection,” such as weddings and parties.
The cabinet also decided to scrap the requirement to present a PCR test upon exiting the country. Arriving passengers, however, would still need to present a negative test.
Following recommendations of the Health Ministry, the cabinet further scrapped the expiration date on green passports for anyone who has received a third or fourth dose of the vaccine, meaning those passes would be valid indefinitely.
But for people who have only had two doses, or who recovered from the virus but aren’t vaccinated, the pass will be valid for only four months from the date of the second dose or the recovery.
Those who are not fully vaccinated and employed in the education, health and welfare sectors will still be required to undergo biweekly tests.
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The decisions come in the midst of Israel's omicron wave, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett saying that he predicts “one-and-a-half to two hard weeks ahead of us.”
As of Tuesday morning, 1,084 COVID patients are in serious condition across the country, a slight drop from 1,154 patients the day before. The rolling average of serious cases, however, remains on an upward trajectory.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry reported that the R number – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – further declined on Tuesday to 0.92. Any number under 1 indicates that the pandemic is shrinking. The figure is calculated according to data from the previous 10 days.
Overall, Israel recorded 67,580 new infections, marking a slight decline from Monday's figure as the moving average continues its downward trend.
Out of the seriously ill patients, 274 are on ventilators and 19 are on ECMO machines. The number of seriously ill patients has been on the rise over the past week, to 1,154 Monday from 809 a week earlier.
Earlier this week, the government agreed to extend Israel's green passport scheme, which obliges people to provide proof of vaccination or recovery in order to enter certain venues. The regulation will remain in force for most venues through next Sunday, at schools until February 27 and healthcare facilities until March 1.
Following the initial extension, ministers were adamant they would not approve a second extension. Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted: “I've said it before and I'll say it again: We will not extend the Green Pass past February 6, not even by one second.”
Ministers argued that there is no epidemiological justification for extending the program, which has also proven ineffective in encouraging holdouts to get vaccinated.