As the most dramatic rollback of restrictions since March 2020 goes into effect today, Israelis are very close to having returned to pre-pandemic life.
Now with the lifting of the Green Passport requirement, an entire family can enter any facility – from restaurants to theaters to sporting arenas – places that were previously only accessible to those with proof of vaccination or recovery from COVID.
This meant that most children – still too young for the COVID shot – were prohibited from dining indoors at restaurants and staying at hotels unless they came with a negative COVID test.
The lifting of these regulations today also meant that unvaccinated employees banned from their workplaces could go back to their jobs. ALL ISRAEL NEWS spoke with one such person on his way to work for the first time in a few weeks. Under the “Green Pass” restrictions, companies were able to ban employees from coming to work – and the courts ruled they could withhold pay – if they did not prove they were vaccinated or COVID recovered, as is proven with a Green Passport.
The caps on gatherings were also lifted and now there are no limits.
“The abolition of the green and purple ribbons does not mark the end of the coronavirus pandemic, and there are still restrictions that are needed to reduce the possibility of new outbreaks and keep infection levels low in Israel,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement on Tuesday.
However, the government has extended its Special Powers law which gives them the immediate power to resurrect any restriction it sees fit during the pandemic until March 2022.
How does this affect tourism? So far, not much. Tourism is still restricted to a pilot program of vaccinated-only tour groups. Individual visitors must obtain special permission to get into Israel and likely must be directly related to an Israeli citizen in order to qualify.
The Ministry of Health reported just 15 new coronavirus cases in Israel in the past day out of 29,512 tested. The number of serous and active cases continues to drop with 48 patients in serious condition. The death toll for COVID in Israel is 6,412.
Most of the recent outbreaks have been at schools, Tomer Lotan, executive director at the National Coronavirus Task Force, said. Classes are still required to go into quarantine if a student returns a positive test.
The remarkable and sharp drop has been credited to Israel’s massive vaccination campaign which began in late December and in just four short months saw more than 5 million people getting the injection. This out of a 9.3 million population of which 2.4 are children 15 and under and have been ineligible for the shot.
The vaccination campaign here was met with popular enthusiasm and, in some cases, compliance as people hesitant to vaccinate chose to do so in order to maintain their jobs or to enjoy such privileges as dining inside a restaurant or going to a gym. Eventually all of these requirements were dropped.
Israel signed a contract with Pfizer to exclusively use the company's injection in exchange for providing medical data from the vaccine drive.
Despite the low numbers, Israel is still considering beginning to administer the shot to 12 to 15 year olds as early as next week.
Next week, the Health Ministry will consider whether to drop the requirement to wear a mask indoors.
Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.