(JTA) — Israel is dropping its “Green Pass” system that allowed access to public venues only to people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Since the pandemic’s start, Israel has been at the forefront of many phases: infection, optimism, resurgence, vaccination, vaccination and vaccination. The expiration of a vaccination requirement to participate in large gatherings suggests that the country believes the next phase of the pandemic will be its end.
Israel was among the first countries in the world to begin a vaccination campaign against the coronavirus in December 2020. The speed with which it vaccinated its population and rolled out the Green Pass program that restricted entry to places like restaurants to those who had been vaccinated helped the country begin reopening in early spring 2021, long before other countries had even vaccinated a significant share of their populations.
Green Passes have been available to those who have been vaccinated three times or more, those who have recovered from COVID-19 and those who have recently tested negative for the coronavirus. But when the system expires next month, Israeli officials will not renew it.
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The decision was made Thursday at a meeting of Israeli health officials and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as the number of new COVID cases continues to decline and the Omicron wave of the pandemic eases.
“This wave is breaking,” Bennett said at the meeting, according to The Times of Israel. “We are seeing a decline in the number of severely ill.”
While Israel recorded over 20,000 new cases on Wednesday, that number marks a significant drop from the cases recorded last month. Hospitalizations and the number of serious cases of the disease have also started to fall.
The Green Pass restrictions had been rolled back earlier this month to allow people to enter restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms without showing a Green Pass but will as of March 1 remove restrictions on all venues, including event halls, and large gatherings. Visitors to nursing homes will still be required to take an antigen test before entering.
Health officials are also reportedly considering ending travel restrictions for Israelis and foreign visitors. Under consideration is ending the negative COVID test requirement before boarding a flight to Israel as well as scrapping the quarantine requirements for Israelis returning to the country.