Health Ministry says vaccinated, recovered to get ‘green passport’ for 6 months

Officials say Israelis who test negative for the virus will also be able to get document for 72 hours, granting access to mass gatherings and other events

Illustrative: A man checks the temperature of a shopper at the entrance to the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem on June 18, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: A man checks the temperature of a shopper at the entrance to the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem on June 18, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Monday unveiled details of its proposed “green passport” for Israelis who have been inoculated against the coronavirus or recovered from COVID-19, which would grant holders of the document access to large gatherings and cultural venues.

Health officials said those who test negative for the virus could receive a temporary green passport for 72 hours, while passports granted to those who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 will be valid for six months.

“To achieve herd immunity in the State of Israel, we’re talking about 70 percent [of the population] vaccinated. The green passport is a means that we want to use to manage daily life as the number of recovered increases,” coronavirus czar Nachman Ash told the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee.

In a presentation to lawmakers, the Health Ministry said the passport is meant to encourage vaccination and allow for reopening sectors of the economy shuttered by the government’s virus restrictions.

Israelis sit at a cafe in Tel Aviv, on December 2, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The ministry said green passports could be used to enable access to cultural and sporting events, conferences, museums and other types of mass gatherings. It added they would likely be used at restaurants and cafes, malls, hotels, gyms and swimming pools, but would not be required for schools, workplaces, public transportation, houses of worship and street-front stores.

The passports can be used via a smartphone application or interactive voice recognition or be printed out as a physical document, according to the presentation.

“Whoever was vaccinated or recovered can enter places, such as Habima [theater], and whoever isn’t can do a test and then go to a performance,” Ash said. “There won’t be a lockdown for half the country while half the country is free. This won’t happen.”

Israel’s coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash visits Ziv Medical Center in Safed, December 24, 2020 (David Cohen/Flash90)

Along with the green passports, the Health Ministry said it would issue a proof of vaccination document for those who have been immunized, exempting them from quarantine requirements. It said an English version of the document would also be issued for overseas travelers.

The document will be valid for six months, starting a week after receipt of a second dose of the vaccine.

The Health Ministry stressed that when the passports are issued, “restrictions on occupancy and gatherings will continue in accordance with the general morbidity situation.” It also said businesses will not need to acquire special equipment to verify the passports.

A representative for the Foreign Ministry told Knesset members that it has been in touch with other countries about the passports.

“There are countries that are behind us in terms of the thought process. The moment that we know their answers we’ll issue a report,” Ilan Fluss was quoted as saying by the Ynet news site. “There is already dialogue at the level of international organizations. The European Union instructed the European Commission to put together a position paper on the matter and its implications.”

Officials didn’t specify when the passports would begin to be issued. Itamar Grotto, the deputy director-general of the Health Ministry, said the ministry was in touch with technology firms about the passports and that the main obstacle was preventing counterfeits.

Travelers at the departure hall at Ben Gurion Airport on December 14, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Earlier Monday, Health Ministry Yuli Edelstein said Israel had so far administered 1,224,000 shots of the coronavirus vaccine.

“We are winning the vaccine race while losing the battle against the mutation,” he tweeted. “The rise in morbidity should worry any elected official who needs to remember that his first commitment is to public health.”

Israel is leading the world per capita in its vaccination campaign, but health officials say that the vaccines alone will not be enough to stem a surge in infections, with the Health Ministry pushing to tighten the current lockdown by closing all schools immediately and further restricting commercial activity.

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