Israel has announced plans to allow only people who are deemed immune to COVID-19 or have recently tested negative to enter some public spaces such as restaurants, gyms and synagogues after a surge in coronavirus cases.
The government had removed most coronavirus restrictions after a rapid vaccination drive that pushed down infections and deaths.
The easing of restrictions included dropping a “Green Pass” programme that had allowed only people who had been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 to enter some public spaces.
But some measures have already been reinstated, including wearing protective masks indoors and tighter entry requirements for incoming travellers, because of the rapid spread of the more infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
In a further tightening of measures, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said on Thursday the Green Pass programme would be back in force from July 29, pending government approval.
“The (Green Pass) will apply to cultural and sporting events, gyms, restaurants and dining halls, conferences, tourist attractions and houses of worship,” Bennett’s office said in a statement after a meeting of his “coronavirus cabinet”.
Entrance to events with more than 100 attendees will be allowed only for “the vaccinated, recovered and those with a negative test result who are aged 12 and over”.
Under what Bennett calls a policy of “soft suppression”, his government wants Israelis to learn to live with the virus – involving the fewest possible restrictions and avoiding a fourth national lockdown that could do further harm to the economy.
Moreover, Israel’s coronavirus task force recommended expanding the list of so-called “red countries” to where travel will be restricted without special authorisation.
That list now includes the UK, Georgia, Cyprus and Turkey, joining a group that already included South Africa, India and Mexico.
About 62 per cent of Israel’s 9.3 million inhabitants have already received their first coronavirus vaccination, and more than 56 per cent have also received the second dose.
However, Israel has faced criticism for refusing to vaccinate most Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, or in the Gaza Strip, which has been under a 14-year Israeli blockade.