COVID-19 in Israel: Green Pass to be canceled as gov't debates future restrictions

R rate drops to 0.68 • Positivity rate drops to 19% • Death toll stands at 9,710

   Israelis receiving their fourth coronavirus vaccine, January 3, 2022. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israelis receiving their fourth coronavirus vaccine, January 3, 2022.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Israel’s Green Pass system will no longer be extended after March 1 when the current system is set to expire, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Thursday morning.

“We were the first country to close its borders to Omicron, so it is now time to start lessening [the restrictions] gradually,” Bennett said at the start of a discussion on the future of corona restrictions in Israel. “As far as I’m concerned, we need to prepare for the end of the restrictions soon.”

The discussion focused on the steps Israel will take now that the Omicron wave has passed its peak, in order to maintain a normal sense of life while also remaining alert for any future corona waves.

While the Green Pass restrictions have been severely reduced over the last few weeks, they will now be removed entirely, although one aspect – the need to perform an antigen test at the entrance to nursing homes – will remain.

Ahead of the discussion, and following Wednesday’s announcement that restrictions at Ben-Gurion Airport would be largely reduced, Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai penned a letter to Bennett requesting that an urgent update be made to Israel’s current vaccination policy for tourists, which prevents many children from entering the country.

 SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 (illustrative). (credit: PIXABAY) SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 (illustrative). (credit: PIXABAY)

“Children over the age of one who do not have Israeli citizenship are required to prove vaccination and/or recovery in order to enter Israel,” he wrote. “This policy prevents families – both of Jews and non-Jews – from entering Israel with their children, since no vaccine is available worldwide for children under five. In preparation for Passover, I call on you to more fully open Israel’s gates and immediately allow for any family hoping to gather around the Seder table in Israel the opportunity to do so. We have the ability to establish a long-term framework that will allow entry into Israel while ensuring public health.”

Exactly 21,152 new corona cases were recorded in Israel on Wednesday, with a 19% positivity rate for the 111,273 PCR and antigen tests that were taken throughout the day, according to a Thursday morning Health Ministry update.

The number of seriously ill patients continues to drop, down to 886 from 911 the previous day. Of the serious cases, 322 are considered critical, with 263 people intubated and an additional 28 on ECMO machines.

Many hospitals are still operating beyond capacity due to the strain put on them by the Omicron wave, with 2,219 hospital workers still in isolation, including 350 doctors and 657 nurses.

However, hospitalized cases are beginning to decline, with 2,064 coronavirus patients currently hospitalized as of Thursday morning.

As a result of the declining caseload, Wolfson Medical Center in Holon has closed one of several corona wards, N12 reported. However, five hospitals across the country are still operating at over 100% capacity, including Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, which has reached 111% capacity.

There have been 9,710 corona-related deaths recorded in Israel since the start of the pandemic.