Israel began rolling out its controversial green pass system which enables vaccinated people — and the vaccinated only — into once public venues such as cultural halls, sporting events, gyms and beginning next week, restaurants, too. Even some houses of worship are implementing a green pass and barring congregants from services if they can’t show vaccine papers.
The vaccine passport is being pushed through the Knesset. Israel’s leaders already voted last week to release the medical records of the unvaccinated to municipalities, the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Welfare, in order to allow these agencies to pressure residents and employees to get the injections.
The green pass is a certificate, digital or on paper form, given to individuals who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine or have recovered from the virus.
So far, more than 4.8 million Israelis have received at least one shot and 3.5 million are fully vaccinated. That is some 88 percent of all Israelis ages 50 and up.
“We are giving a huge line to vaccinators,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said. “This is the first step back to an almost normal life.”
Edelstein added that soon there will be places of work that will have to require their staff be vaccinated or not come to the office without proof of a vaccine. Many have already done so. However, this mandate has yet to be tested in court.
Hadassah Medical Center declared this week that medical staff that haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 can no longer treat patients. Some five percent of medical staff at the hospital — about 300 people — who haven’t taken the vaccine will be forced to take administrative jobs or work wherever the hospital sees fit.
“We can turn nurses and doctors into administrators or put them in any other jobs we find around the hospital,” a Hadassah spokeswoman told The Times of Israel.
This comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he is in talks to bring both Pfizer and Moderna to Israel to develop the vaccine on Israeli soil. And he has said that Israelis will have to vaccinate against coronavirus every six months.
Despite the year of rolling lockdowns, the widely lauded success of the vaccination campaign, mask mandates remain in place in Israel and not all grades have been reopened for classroom learning.
The coronavirus czar, Nachman Ash, said a fourth nationwide lockdown remains a possibility. Ash said that reopening Ben Gurion Airport was “far from ideal” and “brought with it the risk that new virus strains will be introduced into Israel.”
“We have a few critical weeks ahead. We will have to see if there is an increase in morbidity. It’s absolutely possible that we will see more seriously ill. We may need to impose further restrictions, and we may even have to impose another lockdown.”