The ministers met for several hours on Friday, only completing their meeting shortly before Shabbat, and agreed on several principles, the first of which was to ensure that Israel maintains a continuous inventory of vaccines and that vaccination efforts be stepped up.
According to Segal, only around 4,000 people were vaccinated last week – not enough to help move Israel back toward herd immunity.
The government also said it would evaluate the need for a third shot of the vaccine, at least for the elderly.
Next, the ministers said they would put an emphasis on rolling out rapid home testing as early as next week. Bennett said he wants to see these and other rapid tests accessible to everyone to enable life to go on during the pandemic.
FURTHERMORE, the ministers agreed to prepare for enforcing the Happy Badge,"
which gives access to weddings and similar events with more than 100 guests only to those who are vaccinated, recovered or holders of a recent negative coronavirus test.
The system applies to indoor gatherings where food and drinks are served and people mingle or stand, such as dancing at weddings or concerts. While there will be no cap on participants, people will be required to wear masks.
Establishments that do not follow the rules will be subject to a NIS 5,000 fine.
Several top health officials are pushing for the government to bring back the Green Pass within the next two weeks for all gatherings over 100 people, including at restaurants. The coronavirus cabinet is expected to discuss the idea this week and insiders have said they are likely to accept it.
Already on Sunday, a team of 1,600 municipal inspectors will be charged with ensuring that the public is wearing masks, mostly in malls and larger grocery stores. The fine for not wearing a mask in closed public spaces is NIS 500.
Another action authorized at the meeting is that a joint team run by the Health and Transportation ministries will examine the policies at Ben-Gurion Airport – and the relevant authorities will begin preparations for the High Holy Days and the opening of the school year in the shadow of coronavirus.
Finally, the ministers also agreed that all of the staff hired by the hospitals to help during the coronavirus crisis will remain employed until the passing of a state budget. This includes some 600 doctors and 1,600 nurses.
Last week, thousands of administrative and other support staff from 30 medical centers across the country went on strike over some 200 positions that were likewise hired during the pandemic and were under threat of cancellation.
The strike ended on Thursday and all of the employees agreed to go back to work after a deal was brokered between Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and the Histadrut Labor Union, which similarly said that until a state budget is formulated, all employees that were hired during the COVID-19 pandemic would remain in their jobs.
The doctors, nurses and support staff who were hired to help the hospitals during the crisis were supposed to lose their jobs at the end of the month.
In addition, it was agreed on Thursday that Histadrut chairman Arnon Bar-David would discuss a wage increase for these workers with the Finance Ministry.
THE MEETING came shortly after the Health Ministry announced its intention to add Spain and Kyrgyzstan to the list of banned countries, and Britain, Cyprus, Turkey, Georgia, Uganda, Myanmar, Fiji, Panama, Cambodia, Kenya and Liberia to the list of red countries beginning Friday, July 23 – meaning that if Israelis travel to these places, they will have to be isolated upon returning for seven to 14 days.
Other countries for which there is already a severe travel warning include the United Arab Emirates, Seychelles, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Tunisia.
Additional countries are also expected to be added soon, including Thailand, Greece and Holland, according to reports from Israeli media.
The list of banned countries includes Argentina, Brazil, India, Mexico, Russia and Belarus. Israelis are prohibited from visiting these countries unless they obtain permission from a special governmental exceptions committee.
The government is expected to approve the new list of countries this week.
“The government will continue to monitor all developments and convene frequently to discuss them and plan the next steps in advance,” Bennett concluded, “so that the public will understand where we are going and what we are doing, without the mishaps, without panic – and mainly, with advance planning, to anticipate the future.”