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Government set to lift cap on outdoor gatherings as COVID ebbs

Ministers to vote Wednesday to remove 5,000-person limit outside — though access to events will still be limited to Green Pass holders

Illustrative image: A live concert by Israeli rock band T-Slam during the annual arts and crafts festival held at Jerusalem's Hutzot Hayotzer Artists' Colony near the Old City walls in Jerusalem, August 10, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative image: A live concert by Israeli rock band T-Slam during the annual arts and crafts festival held at Jerusalem's Hutzot Hayotzer Artists' Colony near the Old City walls in Jerusalem, August 10, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz have decided to drop the requirement to cap mass outdoor gatherings at 5,000 participants, following a steep decline in COVID-19 morbidity in the country, according to a government statement Wednesday.

Entry to such events will still be limited to holders of the so-called Green Pass — namely those fully vaccinated, those who’ve recovered from the virus, or those with a recent negative test.

Bennett and Horowitz will bring the decision to a cabinet vote late Wednesday, with the new rules set to go into effect on Friday.

The softening of the rules comes as daily virus cases have slipped into the hundreds, and the number of serious cases has declined.

According to the Health Ministry on Wednesday, 727 new cases were diagnosed on Tuesday, bringing the number of active cases to 10,275. Less than 1 percent of tests returned positive. According to the ministry, 234 people were in serious condition, including 139 on ventilators. The death toll stood at 8,073.

The number of daily cases has dropped steadily after Israel rolled out booster vaccines.

A woman receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit health care center in Jerusalem, October 3, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In addition to applying some restrictions on public life and venue attendance, the government made vaccination a central plank in its strategy to curb the fourth wave, which began in July.

Israel in August became the first country to offer a third vaccine shot to its general population as a booster to the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech inoculations it is using.

So far, 6,225,127  people have at least the first vaccine dose, of whom 5,720,734 have had both shots, and 3,924,715 the booster as well.

While only those aged 12 or above are currently eligible for vaccination, the country is poised to begin giving shots to young children after US regulators approves it for the ages 5-11.

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