Ministers Ready to Scrap Green Pass Rules as Bennett Also in Favor
On Thursday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed agreement with officials in scrapping the Green Pass certification system in the country at the end of the month. Since the fifth wave of the coronavirus in Israel is waning, the government has decided to remove some of the restrictions in place. The meeting had been conducted for reviewing whether the remaining restrictions should be lifted or not and was attended by the Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, along with other officials. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, they had decided to not extend the Green Pass system in the country beyond March 1st.
The Green Pass certificate is required to gain entry to several public venues and events and is issued to those who have recovered from the coronavirus, tested negative for COVID-19 recently, or are fully inoculated. The system has played a key role in the government’s efforts to control the spread of the virus, which includes the latest Omicron variant that had been running rampant. It had pushed up the rate of infection in Israel to record levels since the start of the year. At the beginning of the meeting, the premier said that the wave is now ‘breaking’ and there is a decline in the number of serious patients.
Bennett said that Israel was one of the first countries that had closed its borders in the Omicron wave and now was the time for them to start relaxing the rules gradually. He was referring to the closure of the country’s borders to tourists and non-Israelis in November when the highly infectious Omicron variant had first been discovered. He said that they should be ready to relax all restrictions soon. However, the Prime Minister’s Office added that while a Green Pass would no longer be required, people would still have to take antigen tests to be allowed to enter retirement homes.
The Prime Minister also said that the country also needs to be prepared for dealing with future waves. He said that he wanted the government to learn lessons from the management of this wave in order to be better prepared for handling any new waves in the future. The officials from the finance and health ministry clashed during the meeting over the budget for a system that the premier had called for in order to monitor outbreaks of the virus globally. Doing so would give Israel enough time to gear up for any future variants.
According to officials of the Health Ministry, they have not been given the budget for this project and stated that the treasury was just dragging its feet. In response, the Finance Ministry stated that the Health Ministry had demanded an excessive amount of money. Yogev Gradus, the head of budgeting, said that the demands of the Health Ministry were ‘unfounded’. He said that it is delusional to ask for 50 people to monitor the situation abroad. Horowitz said that the using the word ‘delusional’ was uncalled for and Nachman Ash, the Director-General denied asking for so many positions for the program.