Coronavirus: Green passport won't work without enforcement - analysis

The Green Pass regime will only work if there is enforcement: if only those vaccinated are indeed the only ones sitting inside restaurants, celebrating at weddings, and going to concerts.

People sit and drink coffee in the sun as Israel reopens its economy after COVID-19 restrictions   (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
People sit and drink coffee in the sun as Israel reopens its economy after COVID-19 restrictions
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
There was a distinct holiday feeling in the country on Sunday when stores, restaurants, hotels, wedding halls and a variety of other relics of the pre-corona days reopened to the COVID-19 fully vaccinated, or those who had already contracted and recovered from the virus.
All of a sudden things seemed somewhat normal again. Twitter feeds were full of pictures people posted of themselves with a mug of coffee sitting in a coffee house, or a plate full of food at a restaurant.
The nightly television news programs interviewed shoppers in the malls, bartenders serving drinks, a bride and groom making final preparations for the wedding in front of not 20, but 300 people. Just like the old days.
All of this was made possible because of the high rate of people vaccinated in the country – some five million, or more than half of the country, and some 80% of those over 18 – and the roll out of the Green Pass.
The world is watching to see how the Green Pass plan goes. Ran Balicer, the chairman of the National Expert Advisory Panel to the Government on COVID-19, said that this method of opening up the country, of emerging from the corona, is a “world-class” experiment and “no one else has tried it.”
The idea behind the Green Pass plan is to open the economy under strict regulations: only those who are a week after their second vaccination, or have recovered from COVID-19, can sit inside restaurants, attend weddings of up to 300 people, go to bars, and attend scaled-down sporting and cultural events.
So far the tone has been optimistic, with Health Ministry and political officials saying that the numbers are encouraging as the rate of infection has declined, the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus onto – the R number – is not soaring past one, and the number of corona patients in serious condition is declining. The impact of the mass gatherings 10 days ago on Purim has not yet been felt, but there is cautious optimism.
But the Green Pass regime will only work if there is enforcement: if only those vaccinated are indeed the only ones sitting inside restaurants, celebrating at weddings, and going to concerts and to clubs. Otherwise it would be another example of “Israbluff,” a term coined in a 1974 skit by the comedy team Hagashash Hahiver to refer to pulling a fast one over on everybody.
The skit depicts a man applying for a job as a messenger at a bank who is told by the bank manager that his meager salary can be augmented by his  being reimbursed for a taking a sabbatical year to the US, even though he has no intention of doing so; for car payments, even though he has no car; and for an annual allowance to buy books, even though he doesn’t read.
Project that method of pulling the wool over peoples eyes to the here and now, and it would mean the existence of a great Green Pass system on paper, but not in practice because no one is checking to see if only the vaccinated are being allowed into venues that only they – and those who have recovered from corona – are supposed to have access to.
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana admitted in a KAN Bet interview on Tuesday that the police do not have the manpower to enforce the regulations.
“Just as the police does not stand and check who has a ticket to get into a cinema, or who can get into a gym – who is above 16, and who is not – you have the proprietors of the establishments, and municipal and government supervisors [to do that]. The police manages this event [the Green Pass system] since it has authority for national enforcement, but there are many other participants in this national saga.”
Ohana said that the police’s daily challenges – crime, traffic accidents, and terrorism – have not disappeared, and therefore other authorities should be carrying out the chore of ensuring that the Green Pass regulations are being followed.
He called on people to demonstrate individual responsibility. But while many in the country have exhibited personal responsibility during the past year – staying home when so directed, wearing masks, following the rules and regulations – a minority have not.
And therein lies the rub, since the minority can gum up the works for everyone else. Which is why there needs to be enforcement of the Green Pass regulations, otherwise the freedom that many have felt over the last three days will be short-lived, and – probably some some time after the elections – the country, if the regulations are not enforced, will be forced into yet another lockdown.
On paper the Green Pass system looks like an innovative way to return life to normal. The key is ensuring that the plan is fully implemented in practice, and that people who should not be dining out or attending concerts are indeed being barred entrance. Because if it is not, the infection rate will rise again and everyone will end up paying a steep price.
The country’s experience over the past year shows that when it comes to corona the honor system will not work, and that enforcement is needed to keep the Green Pass from becoming an “Israbluff.”