Mall entry in Israel to require COVID-19 Green Pass starting Friday

Omicron cases spike to 89 * Health Ministry says unvaccinated have three-fold increased chance of contracting variant

Shopppers in Mamilla. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Shopppers in Mamilla.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Beginning Friday, people will only be able to enter shopping centers if they are fully vaccinated or recovered from coronavirus within the last six months, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett decided on Tuesday.

The decision comes as the Omicron variant is threatening to spread across Israel and coronavirus cases are increasing week-on-week.

In a meeting with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and health and other professionals, the group ruled that the Green Pass outline will apply to all closed commercial spaces of more than 10,000 square meters.

At the entrance to these facilities, an individual’s Green Pass will be scanned by security personnel. If the person is protected, they will receive a colored bracelet to enter the complex and move about. The color of the bracelet will change daily.

The only exceptions will be people who need to receive an essential service. In those cases, no bracelet will be provided but the person will be allowed to enter to get what they need.

 The new green pass (credit: HEALTH MINISTRY) The new green pass (credit: HEALTH MINISTRY)

In addition, children and adults who have received at least one shot will be able to receive a temporary Green Pass for 30 days after they are jabbed and waiting to get their next shot.

The officials also reviewed and updated the policy for Israelis returning to the country from abroad.

Beginning Friday, fully vaccinated and recently recovered individuals entering Israel from red countries will sign an agreement to isolate themselves at home, meaning they will no longer have to go to a coronavirus hotel. Instead, they will take a PCR test at the airport and on day seven. If both tests are negative, they may leave isolation on the last day.

Unvaccinated individuals will still go to hotels, but they will only have to stay until they receive a negative test result from their first screening at the airport. Then they too can sign an agreement to home isolate and complete their quarantine at home.

A person who tests positive for coronavirus will remain in a hotel.

Finally, the Health Ministry will update its list of recommended red states. A meeting is expected to take place on Wednesday at which much, if not all, of Europe is likely to be labeled red.

All of these decisions are expected to go into effect at midnight between Thursday and Friday, subject to the approval by the government and the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

Israel’s health officials have been pushing to keep a tight rein on the situation, as the Omicron variant threatens to cause coronavirus to once again spiral out of control in the country.

The variant entered Israel two weeks ago and is believed to be more contagious and more vaccine-resistant than its Delta predecessor.

Unvaccinated people have a three-fold greater chance of contracting the Omicron variant compared to their vaccinated peers, according to the Health Ministry.

“There was approximately 2.7% infection among vaccinated people who returned from red countries and were sequenced for Omicron, compared to 7.5% in the unprotected population,” Emilia Ennis, director of the Health Ministry’s Department of Epidemiology, said at the Knesset on Tuesday. She added that 26% of unvaccinated people infected six or more people, compared to 0% among the vaccinated.

“When it comes to super-spreaders, we see a very significant difference between the two groups,” Ennis said.

Already, Israel is experiencing a slight increase in new daily cases.

The Health Ministry reported there were 89 confirmed cases of Omicron in Israel as of Tuesday night, an increase of 22 cases from the last report. The majority (57) returned from abroad and 21 were in direct contact with returnees. The other 10 caught the virus locally.

More people who caught the variant were vaccinated than unvaccinated: 67 versus 21. However, the majority of Israelis – and certainly the majority of Israelis who are traveling – are vaccinated, which means there is still a higher percentage of unvaccinated people who caught Omicron.

The Health Ministry added that there are another 150 people they suspect have the variant, but their samples are still being sequenced.

There were 769 new cases of coronavirus in general diagnosed on Sunday, the Health Ministry said Monday. On the same day last week, there were only 495 new cases.

However, the number of serious cases continues to decline. There were 88 serious cases on Monday morning, including 47 who were intubated. The death toll stood at 8,224.

The good news is that Pfizer reported on Tuesday that the final analysis of its COVID-19 oral antiviral treatment still showed the drug reducing the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% within three days of symptom onset and 88% within five days of symptom onset compared to a placebo.

Nobody in the trial who received the Pfizer treatment died, compared with 12 deaths among placebo recipients.

The data were based on an analysis of more than 2,000 people.

Pfizer shared the data with the US Food and Drug Administration, it said. Pfizer is looking to gain emergency use authorization of the oral treatment. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.

Finally, the Israeli Nurses Association has announced that it will strike on Wednesday over underfunding of a program to prevent violence against medical personnel.

This year has seen a spike in most times of violence and threats of violence against doctors and nurses. In hospitals and health funds, the situation has been tied largely to overcrowding and stress as a result of COVID-19.