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green passport

How did Israel, which bragged about stamping out the coronavirus, just find itself back under severe restrictions?

Making sense of Israel’s new – and revived – COVID restrictions as Israel purposely creates ‘a distinction’ between vaccinated, unvaccinated

A green pass sign at the entrance to a shop in Jerusalem on Aug. 4, 2021. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As Israel moves to clamp down on activities that the government blames for the current outbreak of the coronavirus, the latest series of restrictions are intended to distinguish between vaccinated and non-vaccinated citizens.

“The distinction between people who have and who have not been vaccinated was made in light of the recommendation of the Health Ministry and outside experts, according to which applying the Green Badge is likely to improve the morbidity situation,” according to a statement released by the Government Press Office on July 22. 

“It was also decided that it is important to give incentives to unvaccinated citizens of Israel who can be vaccinated and create a distinction between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated population vis-à-vis daily routines.”

And now with a new slate of more stringent restrictions approved by the Corona Cabinet just yesterday, they do just that. 

The green passport will come back into full effect on Sunday. It was renewed late last month, applying only to events with 100 people or more. The difference now is that the green passport system, also known as the Green Badge, applies to all events, regardless of number of participants.

The green passport is proof of vaccination or COVID recovery for entry into sports and cultural events, hotels, gyms, restaurants and houses of worship.

But another main difference in Tuesday's regulations affects vaccinated citizens as well. Included is a quarantine requirement for all people – not just unvaccinated – returning from specific countries deemed hot zones for COVID, and also for vaccinated parents whose children have to enter quarantine. The parents must enter quarantine with their children and lose time from their jobs.

Up until now, Israelis have widely embraced the system as a means to beat the surges of positive virus rates, which have held steady at more than 3,000 a day for the past two days. But some citizens are pushing back including some popular artists who cancelled their shows and a council of doctors and researchers who say it is unethical to force medical treatment in exchange for social benefits.

“The green passport reflects a paternalistic, archaic policy that is inconsistent with democratic and civic principles in an enlightened state,” wrote Prof. Asa Kasher and Dr. Aviv Segev in an article that appeared in Globes, an Israeli business news outlet. “The green passport is a slippery slope to more governmental control over the population. Society in Israel is divided enough, torn by many years of political struggles. The corona crisis is another social upheaval that threatens our integrity as one society, and the green passport is an abyss, which will further deepen the rift in Israeli society.”

The Corona Cabinet, in a statement releasing the newly approved restrictions on Tuesday, exhorted Israelis to “avoid gatherings, and go get vaccinated – now. Otherwise, there will be no alternative to imposing sharper restrictions, including lockdowns.”

The new restrictions go into effect on Aug. 8, just a little over two months since the green passport restrictions were lifted on June 1 in one of the world’s most highly vaccinated countries.

These new restrictions will be rolled out as Israel gallops toward another – fourth – lockdown, which many health experts say is unavoidable:

1. Expansion of the 'Green Badge' plan to places in which there are gatherings of less than 100 people of all ages (including under 12, effective Friday, 20 August, in order to complete the rapid testing network),

2. It will be required to wear masks also in open spaces in which there are gatherings of more than 100 people.

3. Government ministries (and the entire public sector, to the extent possible) will shift to a work footing of 50% presence in the ministry. Ministry Director Generals will be authorized to enact changes in exceptional circumstances.

4. It is recommended that the private sector shift to a work-at-home footing.

5. Vaccinated adults who care for minors under 12 or people who are unable to care for themselves, who are discovered to be verified cases, will be required to quarantine.

6. Enforcement will be stepped up regarding people violating quarantine or the requirement to wear masks.

7. Entering and exiting the country:

* Red countries – There will be a sweeping flight ban apart from special cases approved by the exceptions committee.

* Orange countries – The list of countries will be expanded to include most countries of the world; returnees (including those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered) from these countries will be required to quarantine.

* Green countries – A very reduced list of green countries will be defined, the return from which will require quarantine until negative test results are received.

8. The public is called on to understand the situation and, therefore, to stop shaking hands, embracing and kissing, and to avoid non-essential gatherings in closed spaces.

9. People over 60 are specially called upon to avoid gatherings and all meetings with unvaccinated people in closed spaces.

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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