Ministers okay return of Green Pass; plan to ban travel to UK, Cyprus, Turkey

As daily coronavirus cases continue to climb, ministers approved reinstating the “Green Pass” on Thursday, limiting attendance at large events to those who are vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19, or who present a valid negative test result.

The renewed restrictions will apply to both indoor and outdoor events with over 100 participants, starting on July 29. The requirement to present proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test from the past 72 hours will only apply to people older than 12. Under that age, there will be no restrictions.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said the Green Pass will also be reinstated at sporting events, gyms, restaurants, conferences, tourist attractions and houses of worship, while stressing there won’t be capacity limitations on gatherings or at these venues.

The statement also said that starting August 8, coronavirus tests for the unvaccinated will have to be paid for out of pocket.

The decision was approved by the so-called coronavirus cabinet, a high-level ministerial forum tasked with leading the government’s pandemic response. It must still be ratified by the government, and is set to be voted on Sunday during the weekly cabinet meeting.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office described the new measures as being part of an “organized and comprehensive plan that will provide a response to the outbreak of the Delta variant in Israel.”

Israelis, some wearing face masks, walk in Tel Aviv, on July 22, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Ministers also voted during Thursday’s meeting to add the United Kingdom, Georgia, Cyprus and Turkey to a list of countries Israelis are barred from traveling to over COVID fears. The latter two are among the most popular destinations for Israeli tourists.

If approved by the government, the ban on visiting those countries will begin July 30.

Currently, vaccinated travelers arriving in Israel must quarantine for 24 hours, or until they receive a negative result for a test taken upon landing — whichever comes sooner. Unvaccinated travelers have to quarantine for seven days and receive a negative test when the week is over.

As of last week, all those returning from countries deemed to have high infection rates are required to quarantine for a full seven days, even with a negative test result, according to the Health Ministry’s updated guidelines. The full quarantine period was recently shortened from the previous 10-14 days.

The countries that are currently off-limits for Israelis are Uzbekistan, Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, South Africa, India, Mexico and Russia, with anyone traveling to those destinations subject to a NIS 5,000 ($1,500) fine, as well as quarantine.

Travelers arriving at Ben Gurion Airport, on July 1, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

After COVID morbidity and mortality reached record lows, following a mass vaccination campaign, Israel has seen a jump in infections that has been largely blamed on the Delta variant, a more contagious coronavirus strain that was first detected in India.

According to Health Ministry figures released on Thursday, 1,336 new cases were diagnosed the day before, with active infections further climbing to 9,673.

The number of patients in serious condition further ticked up, reaching 72. The death toll remained steady at 6,455.

Over 77,000 tests were performed on Wednesday, the highest number since early March, with over 1.7% of them showing a positive result.

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