The high-level coronavirus cabinet on Wednesday reportedly lifted the requirement of having a Green Pass to access open-air attractions, outdoor dining, and swimming pools, starting next week.
Effective Monday, the Green Pass — a document that grants access to public venues for those who are either inoculated against COVID-19, or have recovered from it, or have recently tested negative — won’t be needed to gain entry to open-air attractions and swimming pools, including indoor ones, nor for sitting at outdoor restaurant tables. The pass will continue to be required at gyms.
The information, reported by Hebrew media, was not immediately confirmed by the authorities.
The Health Ministry is also expected to further delay the launch of new rules to gain access to public venues amid the coronavirus pandemic, putting off the start of the updated Green Pass system by 10 days, Hebrew media reported Wednesday.
New Green Passes were supposed to start at midnight Saturday with the revoking of existing passes held by some 2 million Israelis. But a rush of Israelis trying to download the fresh permits the next day crashed systems, prompting the ministry to say old passes would still be valid till Thursday.
With technical issues still hampering the system, that deadline will also be pushed back until October 17, according to reports that cited senior Health Ministry officials.
As of 11 p.m. Wednesday, there had been no formal announcement from the Health Ministry of a delay, however.
The developments came as Israel continued to see a slide in COVID-19 infections that officials hope indicates the country’s fourth wave of coronavirus cases is waning. Health Ministry figures published Wednesday showed there were 2,514 new cases diagnosed the day before. Three weeks ago, the daily numbers were consistently around 10,000 cases. The number of serious cases, seen as a key indicator of the virus outbreak, was at 472 on Wednesday, after stubbornly remaining at over 650 for several weeks until the beginning of the month.
The death toll from the virus since the start of the pandemic continued to tick upward, however, hitting 7,863 on Wednesday, 19 more than the day before.
Despite the waning infection rate, Health Ministry officials balked when Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday that he wants schoolkids in cities with low rates of infection to be exempt from quarantine after coming in contact with confirmed virus cases, and instead to conduct testing inside schools.
This arrangement is currently being tested in hundreds of classrooms across the country and ministry sources told media they prefer to wait until the pilot ends in 10 days before making any changes to the national policy.
A senior Health Ministry source told Channel 12 news that “in order for there to be a justification to change the quarantine policy there is a need to wait until the results of the pilot in the education system.”
Earlier, at a meeting with a team of experts involved in advising government COVID-19 policy, Bennett said that with the government’s “rethinking, and with our navigation of the fourth wave,” the move should begin by next week.
Under the new rules, Green Passes will only be issued to those who have had either the first two or all three vaccine shots, and will only be valid for six months, starting a week after the last dose. In addition, those who have recovered from COVID-19 can get a Green Pass valid for six months after their recovery date, or for six months after receiving a single follow-up vaccine dose.
A temporary Green Pass can also be obtained through a negative virus test, which must be paid for unless the individual is not eligible for vaccination. It is only valid for a few days at most.
Vaccination, with the recommended regimen being three doses, is a central plank of the government’s response to the coronavirus wave.
Israel — the first country to officially offer a third dose — began its COVID-19 booster campaign on August 1, initially rolling it out to those over the age of 60. It then gradually dropped the eligibility age, eventually expanding it to everyone aged 12 and up who received the second shot at least five months ago.