Coronavirus: Serious patients drop as new Green Pass system kicks in

Bennett: 'We’re at a critical stage and must strictly keep to the rules.'

 A woman receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary Clalit health care center in Jerusalem, September 30, 2021.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
A woman receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary Clalit health care center in Jerusalem, September 30, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The number of serious COVID-19 patients over the weekend dropped below 600 for the first time since mid-August.As of Saturday night, there were 587 patients in serious condition, 100 less than a week earlier. The highest number recorded in the fourth wave was 738 on September 23.

The new Green Pass system is set to come into effect on Sunday as the coronavirus cabinet is scheduled to meet for the first time in a month. In light of the encouraging data, which also included a decline in the reproduction and positivity rates, the cabinet is not expected to introduce any new restrictions, including no cap on large gatherings which had been widely discussed.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed satisfaction over the development but said it is too soon to celebrate, as the outbreak is not over.

“We are at a critical stage, with the reopening of the education system and our intention to end mass isolation and move to a model of extensive testing and isolation required only for identified cases,” he said on Saturday night. “Right now, we must strictly keep the Green Pass rules and not be complacent.”

By mid-October, the pilot program to change the isolation and testing requirements in the education system will be completed, and starting from October 17, only those infected will need to quarantine, while their classmates will undergo coronavirus tests every day for a week. In addition, parents of children under 12 are set to receive at-home test kits to check them regularly – possibly once or twice a week.

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)

According to the new definition of “fully vaccinated,” only people who have been inoculated with a booster or who received their second shot less than six months earlier will be eligible for the Green Pass, in addition to those who have recovered less than six months earlier or have recovered and received one shot.

In the last few days following the end of the Sukkot holiday, many more Israelis have been flocking to vaccination complexes to get the booster, but they are only defined as fully vaccinated a week after getting the shot.Under the new system, more than 1.5 million Israelis are set to lose their Green Passes on Sunday.

The Green Pass grants access to several venues and activities, as well as to some workplaces. A temporary one can be obtained by undergoing a test.

The “traffic light” application that provides citizens with their Green Passes will be refreshed on Sunday and all eligible individuals will be required to re-download their passes.

The new pass will only be scannable through a special QR code. Those who don’t have smartphones will also be able to get their pass through the website.

Individuals will be asked to present their ID card alongside their pass to enter Green Pass events and establishments.

Police told The Jerusalem Post that they will be stepping up enforcement beginning on Wednesday, but will spend the first half of the week focused on a public relations campaign to inform the public of the rules and regulations.The officers will put an emphasis on giving tickets in red cities and to business and event hall owners, as well as at restaurants, cafés and mass cultural events. They will not be checking people at the entrances but rather aiming to catch owners of these establishments who are not ensuring that the rules are followed.

The focus will shift away from giving tickets for not wearing masks, something that the Police have been focused on for the last month, they said. However, officers will continue with their efforts to keep at home, travelers who are required to be in isolation.

Regarding traveling, in a telephone vote on Friday, the government approved a recommendation by the Health Ministry to remove Brazil, Bulgaria and Turkey from the list of red countries starting Monday. This means that vaccinated and recovered Israelis will be able to travel anywhere in the world without entering isolation on return.

Until now, to travel to these destinations, Israelis had to request special permission from an exception committee. Then, when coming back into Israel, both vaccinated and unvaccinated Israelis were asked to enter isolation for up to seven days.

After last month, the Health Ministry redefined what fully vaccinated means; those who are considered as such are able to enter Israel from “orange countries,” which would otherwise require isolation on return, and only isolate until the results of their negative coronavirus test are returned or for 24 hours – whichever comes first.Brazil, Bulgaria and Turkey will become orange as well.

ON THURSDAY night, the ministry released some data regarding the safety of the booster shot.According to the data, nine cases of myocarditis were recorded within four age groups that comprised more than 1.5 million people who had received a booster shot.

All were male, three were between the ages of 16 and 29 and six were in the 30-59 group. Eight more possible cases were still being reviewed. Most myocarditis cases are generally mild, the ministry said.

Some 3.46 million Israelis had received a third shot as of Saturday night, with 6.12 million having been inoculated with at least one shot and 5.64 million with two.

There were 3,585 new cases identified on Friday, out of about 120,000 people tested.

Health trends during the period have been significantly affected by Jewish holidays and the resulting limited number of regular school and work days.

As a result, the number of daily cases has varied greatly, with the number of daily tests performed ranging between 55,000 and 185,000. The outcome has been as few as 3,000 up to over 10,000 virus carriers identified in a single day.

However, both the reproduction rate, or R – which measures how many people each virus carrier infects on average – and the positivity rate, which expresses the percentage of people screened who are infected, have been trending downward.

The former stood at 0.73 meaning that the outbreak is declining, and the latter is 3.18% down from around 6% two weeks earlier.

Reuters contributed to this report.