Israel's plan to require COVID Green Pass at malls pushed off

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz were already in quarantine after they each came back from trips abroad.

 A discussion in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on December 6, 2021  (photo credit: DANNY SHEMTOV/KNESSET SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
A discussion in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on December 6, 2021
(photo credit: DANNY SHEMTOV/KNESSET SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)

The government pushed off a decision to require the Green Pass for entry to malls on Thursday after a heated discussion ended without agreement and 21 Knesset staffers – including one MK – entered isolation.

Members of the cabinet expressed fierce opposition to the plan presented by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that would have required indoor shopping centers to screen people for Green Passes and then mark those who were protected in some way.

The plan will not go into effect on Friday and likely not at all.

Instead, it appears that a strict Purple Ribbon outline will be rolled out in accordance with the size of the mall, and antigen tests will be offered outside. However, no final decisions will be made until a meeting with representatives of the malls, the Health and Economy ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office takes place on Friday.

The Purple Ribbon outline also includes social distancing, rules on crowding, and only allows people with Green Passes in food courts.

 Travelers at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on September 6, 2021.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Travelers at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on September 6, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

There will be fewer staffers at the Knesset next week after a Knesset security guard tested positive for the COVID Omicron variant on Thursday, the Knesset spokesperson said. The last time the individual was at the Knesset was December 12.

The Health Ministry carried out an epidemiological investigation revealing that the individual came in contact with 21 people, including MK Meir Porush. All of them entered isolation.

Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz were already in quarantine after they each returned from trips abroad and infected individuals were discovered to have been on their flights.

The number of Omicron cases has not been updated by the Health Ministry since Wednesday when there were 89 cases and more than 150 people suspected of carrying the variant.

To help stop the spread of infection, the government on Wednesday night extended the country’s travel restrictions until December 29, which the Knesset approved Thursday.

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee also approved on Thursday the addition of Denmark and the United Kingdom to the list of red states beginning at midnight between Thursday and Friday.

The Health Ministry recommended on Wednesday adding seven new states to its list of red countries beginning December 19, including the United Arab Emirates and Ireland.

The Airport Authority sent a message on Thursday that passengers returning now from the UK and Denmark and from the United Arab Emirates, France and Spain next week – places that have direct flights into Israel – will land at Terminal 1 to avoid mixing passengers with travelers from orange countries, which are less infectious.

All passengers arriving from red countries will be asked to sign a contract at the airport saying they will enter isolation for seven days. Anyone who refuses to sign will be transported to a coronavirus hotel along with unvaccinated passengers.

At one point on Thursday, an announcement began circulating that the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee had revoked the recommendation to add the UAE to the list of red countries. However, the item was false, the Health Ministry stressed. This latest list of red countries, however, has not yet been brought before the Knesset. That vote should take place next week.

Two flights in recent days arrived with more than 10 sick passengers, Amelia Enis, director of the Health Ministry’s Department of Infectious Diseases, told the Knesset on Thursday.

The majority of Omicron cases have come from abroad.

There were 741 new cases of coronavirus diagnosed on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said Thursday; 80 patients in serious condition, including 42 who were intubated.

The ministry’s dashboard was down most of the day and there were no updated numbers at press time.