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Who needs a lockdown? Some business owners say Israel’s new COVID restrictions are having a similar negative impact

New rules bring long lines at rapid testing sites during the waning days of summer vacation

Magen David medical worker performs a COVID-19 rapid antigen test on children at a test complex in Jerusalem, August 18, 2021. (Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

New restrictions that went into effect on Sunday requiring anybody age 3 and up to present a green passport or a negative COVID test for entry into several different establishments have rendered pools, zoos, restaurants and other businesses relatively empty during these last days of summer.

The new rules have been met with long lines, mostly to test children before entering a facility – and several disgruntled customers. Some parents said they waited three hours on a line to get their kids tested before entering zoos and museums.

"We were planning to have a fun day out, but it seems this will be our fun day out — standing in line," Amit told Ynet while waiting with his daughter to enter the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem.

Even patrons wanting to dine outdoors were asked for their papers, a major change from the last round of the Green Badge system which permitted outdoor dining for the unvaccinated and those not recovered from COVID until it was temporarily suspended on June 1.

According to the chairman of the Israel Attractions Association, visitor attendance to attractions dropped by 50% on Wednesday.

“If we have to choose between bringing home the bread and cooperating with the government – that’s a difficult question,” Ofir Miller said.

Several restaurant owners said the situation has resulted in a downturn for their business as well and parents have said that the need to get their children tested has influenced their decision to stay home instead.

Under the new rules, a negative COVID test for anyone without proof of vaccination or recovery (a Green Passport) is required for most venues including restaurants, bars, cafes, dining rooms, hotels, gyms, movie theaters, pools, sporting and culture events, conferences, exhibitions, event halls, festivals, museums, libraries, tourist attractions and universities and colleges.

The tests – free for children under 12, but at the expense of anyone who does not have a Green Passport – are only valid for 24 hours.

That, combined with a no-fly list of red countries and a longer list of countries requiring a seven-day quarantine for anyone returning from abroad, has seriously stunted Israelis’ vacation plans leading up to the Sept. 1 start of the school year.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the new rules are being vigorously enforced in order to avoid a lockdown.

“A lockdown would be the easiest step for the government. Many people are saying, ‘Push the lockdown button,’” he said in a news conference. “The lockdown is the last line of defense, only when all other possibilities have been exhausted.”

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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