If you are going to a mall here in Israel, bring your calculator.
Indoor shopping centers – which were on the table for a Green Passport then off again after public outcry two weeks ago – are now back on, but with a complicated numbering system of how many shoppers can occupy a certain space and who is privileged to buy takeaway from food kiosks.
With the number of positive COVID and serious cases in the hospital on the rise in Israel in the shadow of the Omicron variant, the Corona Cabinet voted on Friday afternoon to implement more drastic measures with the hopes of curbing the spread of infection.
The decision was passed through as the country was settling into Shabbat and Christmas Eve. These restrictions will go into effect on Monday after approval today by the full Knesset.
The news came as a shock on Saturday night to many Israelis who had been observing Shabbat or Christmas.
“Malls will operate in accordance with the Purple Badge, according to the occupancy rate of 15:1 (one person per 15 square meters),” read a Cabinet communique issued on Friday. “Entry to malls that are bigger than 100 square meters will be subject to the Green Pass, in both open facilities and in malls and enclosed facilities. Employees of such stores will also be subject to the Green Pass.”
The “Purple Badge” system allows for a more loose entry to specific public venues without needing to show proof of vaccination or recovery, known as the Green Passport. Up until now, the Purple Badge was required for places such as malls while a Green Passport has been needed in restaurants, gyms and cultural outlets since this summer.
This is the first time since the pandemic began that malls in Israel will fall under the Green Passport system. Now even employees will be required to show proof of vaccination or recovery in order to keep their jobs within the mall.
Rather than requiring the vaccine passport at the mall entrance itself – a suggestion that was met with opposition from mall owners and security guards who regulate entry – the Green Passport will instead be required to enter individual stores and even to purchase food at mall kiosks, which have now been rendered takeaway only. Customers without a Green Passport will not be allowed to buy in most stores or purchase food at mall kiosks.
The system will likely present a challenge to employees who must limit the number of Green Passport customers within their stores at any given time.
Here are some of the specifics:
Food stalls in malls will provide take-away service only to customers upon presentation of a Green Pass. There will be no seating.
Entry to restaurants inside malls will be subject to presentation of a Green Pass as is currently done in restaurants.
The Green Pass in malls and commercial facilities will not apply to places that provide essential services as follows: Stores that sell hygiene products, opticians, stores that sell medical assistance devices, mini-markets, groceries and supermarkets. Such places will continue on their current formats (Purple Badge according to a 1:7 occupancy rate).
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS