Israel's malls unconcerned about COVID restrictions

“Business is business; and health is much more important.”

Malls open for Black Friday in several cities across Israel, November 27, 2020 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Malls open for Black Friday in several cities across Israel, November 27, 2020
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

If the new government measures to combat the Omicron variant are approved – specifically the mandating of a Green Pass to gain entry into malls – they are sure to have an impact on the shopping mall industry, likely reducing the number of customers for shop owners.

Despite this, many owners seem unconcerned. Many are even highly supportive.

The government seems without a choice in trying to prevent unvaccinated citizens from entering non-essential stores in shopping malls around the country. As Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pointed out last week when raising the specter of a further restriction, “one million Israelis refuse to get vaccinated.”

Most business owners declined to comment on the Green Pass, but several who did say they are unfazed by the potential change.

“When we get the new guidelines, we’ll obviously enforce them,” the indifferent owner of an apparel shop said with a shrug. “Until now, nobody has instructed us to see if shoppers are vaccinated. I myself am not vaccinated completely – we don’t discriminate.”

A woman shows her green passport at the Khan theater in Jerusalem on February 23, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)A woman shows her green passport at the Khan theater in Jerusalem on February 23, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

If the new guidelines are implemented, store owners will likely have to undergo a test to receive a temporary Green Pass so that they can enter their own store.

“It’s possible that [the new rules] will affect me in a negative way, but still, I need to protect my health,” said Ilana, a toy store owner in Or Akiva’s Orot Mall. “I’m vaccinated, with the booster as well, and even my grandchildren are vaccinated. I’m in support of them being vaccinated. And if [the new guideline] prevents people who aren’t vaccinated because they believe in herd immunity and that kind of thing – then I believe they don’t need to be in closed areas. It’s correct that it’ll affect me negatively, my business as well, but business is business – and health is much more important.”

The manager of a popular coffee chain suggested that the new guidelines, if implemented, would be a non-issue.

It is yet unclear how frequently everyone would need to undergo a test. According to the current guidelines listed on the Health Ministry’s website, adults who have tested negative on a rapid test may present the test results in order to enter facilities complying with the Green Pass.

Alternatively, adults with a negative privately funded PCR test result can request a daily Green Pass, which is valid for 72 hours from the testing day. Either option will surely represent a significant hurdle in the routine of running a business.

A significant proportion of business owners reacted very positively to the potential shift in regulation.

“I think it’s the right choice,” said a food court restaurant manager. “People who endanger others shouldn’t be allowed in public spaces.”

Said a pensioner who runs a jewelry and art store: “For me, it’s awesome – nobody will come to the store, and I can go home early.”