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After outcry, government walks back demand for vaccine bracelets at malls

New plan would have allowed only vaccinated shoppers into non-essential stores; business owners vowed to rebel, saying it would severely curtail revenue

Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem, July 19, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem, July 19, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Health Ministry said Wednesday it will cancel a plan to only allow shoppers protected against COVID-19 to enter most mall shops after an outcry from store owners and widespread promises to rebel against the directive. Some had planned to petition the High Court of Justice against it.

The original plan was to tighten virus restrictions in commerce by handing out bracelets at mall entrances to those who are considered fully vaccinated or recently recovered from infection. Those without bracelets would only receive service at essential shops like supermarkets and pharmacies.

The ministry on Wednesday said there will be no such differentiation in malls. The alternative was not yet clear. Channel 12 reported that the Health Ministry was discussing other approaches to virus control at malls and was expected to announce new guidelines.

The program was supposed to go into effect on Friday — deemed especially problematic by store owners because it is the busiest shopping day of the week. Business operators also feared checking passes at the entrance would cause long lines and discourage shoppers.

An Israeli receives a dose of the COVID vaccine n Katzrin, Golan Heights, on December 12, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

“We will not label customers. If the State of Israel wants us to stand at the entrance to the mall, it should send police. Mall employees won’t make this differentiation,” a group of shop owners were quoted as saying by Channel 13 news.

Yisrael Beytenu Minister Eli Avidar had also signaled he would oppose the measure. “This is a hasty move without any epidemiological logic nor connection to reality. This is a blow to business owners and a blow to citizens,” he tweeted.

The government has moved to tighten virus restrictions amid fears over the Omicron variant, including barring foreign tourists and requiring at least three days of quarantine for all arriving travelers, regardless of immunization status.

The Health Ministry has also begun updating the list of “red” countries daily, a move that could reduce flights abroad by making it difficult to plan trips in advance.

The ministry announced today that France, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Norway, Finland and Sweden. The decision will take effect next Sunday evening. The “red” list already includes most of Africa as well as the UK and Denmark.

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