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Government said reluctant to finance rapid virus tests for vaccine refusers

Quick tests could soon be used by those without a COVID-19 Green Pass; Health Ministry official: ‘Whoever doesn’t want to get vaccinated will have to pay for the tests themselves’

Israeli Green Pass holders enjoy singer Ivri Lieder at a concert organized by the Tel Aviv municipality, at Bloomfield Stadium, March 5, 2021. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Israeli Green Pass holders enjoy singer Ivri Lieder at a concert organized by the Tel Aviv municipality, at Bloomfield Stadium, March 5, 2021. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

As Israel sees its third national coronavirus lockdown eased, most businesses and activities are now being made available to the vaccinated and the recovered under the Green Pass program, but the question of which activities will be open to those who do not fall into either category is still being debated.

There has been talk of allowing non-Green Pass holders to access some activities by presenting negative coronavirus tests from the last 48 hours. The cabinet’s latest new rules issued Saturday allow up to five percent of attendants at event venues to be people with negative tests.

According to Channel 12, the government is also looking at enabling rapid coronavirus testing at the entrance to various businesses that will provide results within minutes and allow people without Green Passes to enter.

But it is not yet clear who will pay for these tests, and a senior Health Ministry figure told Channel 12 News Sunday that “the government supplies vaccines for free to all of its citizens, and so there’s no reason to also finance [these] tests.”

The unnamed person added that financing the quick tests may give legitimacy to the anti-vaccine stance, which the government is reluctant to do, adding: “Whoever doesn’t want to get vaccinated and does want to enter cultural events will have to finance the tests themselves – in [government-backed] venues and in independent ones.

“We will examine the option of helping [pay for] tests for children and for populations that cannot get vaccinated,” he added.

“The topic of rapid tests itself is under discussion right now, and the issue of subsidies will be discussed later on. The millions of shekels the government will have to pay for the tests are needed more for the development of culture in peripheral towns or in subsidizing shows for veteran artists who haven’t worked in a whole year.”

Israeli Green Pass holders enjoy singer Ivri Lieder at a concert organized by the Tel Aviv municipality at Bloomfield Stadium, March 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

As part of the new COVID-19 regulations, restaurants can seat Green Pass holders indoors with up to 75% capacity, and up to 100 people. Outdoor seating does not require a Green Pass, with a limitation of up to 100 people.

Sporting and other cultural events can be held for Green Pass holders in auditoriums or stadiums of 10,000 seats with 1,000 people in attendance in a closed space, or 1,500 in an open space.

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