Green Passes are now being required of Israelis and residents of Israel to enter restaurants, public pools, museums, or any other public place besides parks. The pass is issued to people who have received two vaccine doses or who have recovered from coronavirus. But unlike in the past, children who are not eligible to get vaccinated must have the pass, too.
This requirement is the latest and strictest move in the Israeli government’s battle against the Delta variant, which has hit Israel hard. The fast spread of the variant caught Israelis by surprise.
Israel was one of the first countries to vaccinate the majority of its population and by March most Israelis were already putting COVID-19 behind them.
By June, the mandatory mask requirement was completely dropped and the only restrictions that remained concerned the entry and exit from the country. Now the rate of infection has risen to 5.4% and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said he will take every action possible to lower the rate and avoid going to a fourth lockdown.
Health experts say there are two main reasons the Delta variant hit Israel so hard. For one, Israelis were flouting the mask requirements, which were re-imposed at the end of June. Now police are handing out fines to those who do not wear a face covering.
The other reason given for the high rate of infection is that most Israelis were vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, which data shows are less effective than the Moderna jab against the virus.
“It’s true that Moderna has better-protected people from infection, but the two vaccines are almost equivalent ineffectiveness against severe disease,” said Professor Cyril Cohen, vice dean of life sciences at Bar Ilan University and a member of the health ministry’s coronavirus vaccine advisory board.
“This is important so that our hospitals won’t be overwhelmed.”
In addition to requiring testing for children and anyone not fully vaccinated, Israel will require all teachers to have a Green Pass to work. Israel has also imposed stricter guidelines regarding entry into the country.
Foreigners are not allowed to enter without receiving a special permit and taking numerous tests. Israelis are not allowed to fly to “red zone countries”, such as Spain, Brazil, and Mexico without a permit from a special committee. Those already in red countries, as well as Israelis in “orange” countries, such as the US, France, and Germany, must go into quarantine upon return to Israel, even if they were vaccinated.
Moreover, the country began offering a booster vaccine for residents aged 60 and above – even before the government approved it. Since then, Israel has approved giving the booster to everyone aged 40 and above.
According to Professor Cohen, daily recorded cases have gone from 100 cases a day two months ago, to 8,000 cases a day which is why he fully recommends the booster shots.
“If you were to ask me two months ago when we had only 100 cases a day, I would have said we don’t need to go with a booster,” said Professor Cohen.
“But in the meantime, we moved from 100 cases a day to 8,000 cases a day and I won’t be surprised if in a couple more days we see more than 10,000. We had no choice but to give a booster shot. I would have preferred more data, but I think we made the right call.”
More than 1.3 million Israelis out of a population of 9.3 million have received three doses of Pfizer so far, but there have been “breakthroughs”: some people have become infected with coronavirus despite having received three shots.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, has urged rich countries, including Israel, to send the doses to poor countries that cannot provide even a first vaccine to their citizens. In neighbouring occupied Palestine, only 9.2 % of the population has been fully vaccinated, while in Israel 60.1 % has received at least two jabs.
Meanwhile, about one million eligible Israelis aged 12 and above have not been vaccinated even once.