In a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus at large events, the coronavirus cabinet on Thursday adopted the “Happy Badge,” an outline for safely holding mass gatherings.
On the heels of the third straight day with more than 750 cases, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the pass was necessary for “maximum protection.”
Starting Wednesday, access to weddings and similar events with more than 100 guests will be reserved to individuals who are vaccinated, recovered or holders of a recent negative coronavirus test, Bennett, Economy Minister Orna Barbivay and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said in a joint statement.
The Happy Badge outline was set to be approved by the coronavirus cabinet late Thursday night.
The system was set up after a meeting between Bennett, Barbivay and event-hall owners earlier in the day to deliberate how weddings could continue to take place in a safe manner amid the current coronavirus outbreak.
“Our goal is not to prevent weddings and other celebrations in the halls,” Bennett told the event-hall owners. “This would be the easiest and most harmful step because weddings would take place in an illegal manner with no control. Our goal is to find out how to allow them at the time of a pandemic, with minimum harm to the events industry and maximum protection of Israeli citizens.”
The event-hall owners made several suggestions, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
The new system will be relevant only for indoor gatherings where food and drinks are served and people both sit and stand. There will be no cap on participants, and people will be required to wear masks.
During the coronavirus cabinet’s meeting on Tuesday, health officials recommended limiting access to gatherings with more than 100 people to vaccinated and/or recovered individuals or people with a negative coronavirus test.
No final decision had been made, but a move in this direction was expected.
During the joint press conference with Bennett on Wednesday, Horowitz said the Health Ministry was working to make inexpensive rapid coronavirus tests widely available. Rapid tests, also known as antigen tests, are less accurate than PCR tests, but they offer results very quickly and are easier to perform.
The cabinet decided to transfer responsibility for enforcement of coronavirus regulations to the Public Security Ministry.
On Thursday, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Amos Ben Avraham was appointed as the ministry’s commissioner responsible for enforcing coronavirus quarantines.
Ben Avraham will head the coronavirus enforcement headquarters, which will coordinate the necessary operations, including the use of advanced technology and coordination between various bodies, such as the police, local authorities and the Airports Authority, the Public Security Ministry said.
Some 765 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in Israel on Wednesday, with 1.38% of tests returning positive, the Health Ministry reported Thursday morning.
The figure marks the highest number of new infections since March. Until a month ago, 10 to 20 new virus carriers were identified every day.
Serious morbidity has also increased. Some 54 patients were in serious condition on Thursday. A week ago, there were 41. In April, with about 5,300 active cases, a similar number as now, more than 320 patients were in serious condition.
The likely explanation is that among the current virus carriers, some 2,000 are schoolchildren, and half of them were fully vaccinated. Both groups are very unlikely to develop severe forms of the disease.
Two people succumbed to the virus on Wednesday, bringing the total number of victims since the beginning of July to 11. Nine people died of COVID-19 during June.