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Israel considering new sweeping restrictions – possibly barring unvaccinated from supermarkets

Green passport to become dependent on the third shot for those eligible

According to Hebrew news reports, Israeli health officials are considering sweeping new restrictions to battle the high rate of COVID infections including barring the unvaccinated from supermarkets and the few indoor spaces that remain open at the moment.

The Cabinet will also debate whether to shorten the validity of the green passport and invalidate it for those eligible for a third dose who do not get one.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who has said in the past that the green passport was never meant to lower infections but to force people to get vaccinated, advocated for canceling the pass altogether for those who refused a booster.

"I believe that as soon as they open the third vaccine for everyone the green passport will be taken from those who have been vaccinated twice," she said, according to Walla.

The media is not asking how COVID could be so out of control in Israel with such high vaccination rates. On the contrary, the government and Israeli media blame the unvaccinated for the rampant infections.

The numbers, or the rhetoric, can be confusing. For instance, last week Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that 103 of 105 of the people who died were not vaccinated. But later a newscaster – when referring to the same figure – noted that the 103 were not vaccinated with the full regimen recommended for their age group. In other words, they had possibly received one or two shots, not that they were completely unvaccinated.

Another cause for confusion stems from the news reports themselves. On one channel, an interviewer spoke with a hospital director saying that 90% of hospitalized patients are vaccinated, but a second station aired an interview with two nurses who implied that all their COVID patients were not vaccinated and made an emotional appeal to viewers that their patients' dying words were, "I should have taken the vaccine."

The third shot – still not recommended anywhere else in the world – is offered in Israel for people 40 years and up. The eligible age will likely be lowered to age 30, possibly as early as this week, health officials said.

Under the green passport rules, only the vaccinated and those recovered from coronavirus can enter most indoor places and even many outdoor venues. All others, from age 3, must bring a negative COVID test.

The scramble to increase the restrictions comes as Israel's borders remain closed to foreigners and the Jewish state enjoys one of the world's highest vaccination rates. Almost 6 million Israelis have taken the full two-shot dose of the Pfizer injection and 1.5 million have received three shots.

Nevertheless, the Ministry of Health said that Israel has now surpassed the 1-million mark of COVID cases since the pandemic began. Cases began to tick up slowly in June and July. That's when Israel decided to offer a booster shot for the elderly in order to curb infections.

Currently, Israel has 664 patients in serious condition including 117 on ventilators, and 6,856 people have died.

Just on Sunday, 29 new deaths marked the highest daily toll since February when the virus was still rampaging around the country. The positivity rate of 6.3% yesterday was also the highest since February.

Israel had enjoyed a sharp drop in infections and a rollback of many restrictions from the green passport to indoor mask mandates in May and June. However, with the current surge, all restrictions are back and more severe appear to be on the table.

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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