Israel’s Health Ministry rolled out its “green passport” program requiring that citizens show their green badge in order to enter places such as registered gyms, swimming pools, hotels, theaters, places of worship and concerts. Restaurants and bars are expected to join the program in March.
Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein presented the green passport program as a dramatic return to life prior to the pandemic.
“We are giving a huge line to vaccinators. This is the first step back to an almost normal life,” said Edelstein last Thursday during an extensive briefing on the new green passport program.
Only individuals who are at least a week past their second vaccination or have recovered from COVID-19 will be eligible for the program. This includes around 740,000 people who have recovered from the virus and are currently not eligible for the vaccination.
Eligible individuals can download their green passport via the Health Ministry’s traffic light website or through a smartphone application. The passport will be valid for six months from the first week after the second vaccination. Stores or other places of business connected to the green program will ask a visitor to present his or her green passport for scanning and ID card before entering the venue.
In another move toward normalcy, the Israeli airline company Israir announced on Sunday that it is relaunching domestic flights between Ben-Gurion Airport and Eilat for green passport holders starting on Feb. 23. This pilot program will also be available for people who have recovered from the coronavirus.
In parallel with rolling out new green passport system, Israel’s world-leading vaccination campaign continues at a breakneck pace. On Tuesday, Israel’s Health Ministry announced that more than 70% of Israelis above the age of 16 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. More than 3 million Israelis have already received both doses of the vaccine. Overall, some 4.45 million Israelis have received at least one vaccination dose, roughly constituting 50% of Israel’s approximately 9 million citizens. Israeli data reportedly shows a very low infection rate among people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Only 0.04% caught the virus after receiving their second dose of the vaccine.
While the green passport program has been hailed by many as an important step toward normal life in a safeguarded environment, critics argue that the program risks dividing the society between people the vaccinated and the non-vaccinated.
Edelstein stressed last week that vaccination will not be made mandatory in Israel.
“Whoever chooses not to be vaccinated has his right. There will also be no personal sanctions against someone who is not vaccinated,” stated Edelstein.
However, with businesses threatening to fire employees, synagogues banning worshippers from services and a new law being considered to reveal vaccination records to municipalities and schools plus a wave pf public shaming against the unvaccinated, vaccines are swiftly becoming the only way to stay connected to life in Israel.
Israeli health officials have said that individuals who seek to forge green passports risk facing jail time.
"Whoever thinks this is a child's play and get himself a certificate despite not getting vaccinated will be caught and will end up in jail," said Edelstein.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.