Israel Continues to Lift COVID-19 Restrictions, Sends Aid to Hard-hit India

Sporting events, public pools, gyms, taxis, and trains no longer have to restrict capacity as long as attendees or occupants are vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19. The ministerial committee overseeing Israel’s coronavirus response voted Tuesday to open up venues completely for “Green Pass” holders.

“We are on our way to a full reopening. I welcome the path we have taken and am glad we have reached coronavirus case numbers that until a few months ago would have seemed fantastical,” Chili Tropper, Culture and Sports Minister, said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing you all at culture and sports events next week.”

The plan goes into effect Thursday. Because children are not yet vaccinated, events for them will still be limited—50 in attendance indoors, 500 outdoors.

The “purple pass” system will be in place as well, allowing those who are not vaccinated to visit the gym or pool as long as distancing guidelines are observed.

The further easing of restrictions comes as Israel’s COVID-19 numbers continue to decline. For the first time since last July, there are fewer than 100 coronavirus patients in serious condition as of Tuesday. Authorities also report there are only 1,235 active cases in the country. There were just 13 news cases two days ago.

More than 60 percent of the total population is now fully vaccinated, according to Israeli health officials. It is anticipated that Pfizer will receive permission from the US FDA next week for teens to receive the vaccine. Israel says it will be ready to launch a vaccination campaign for 12- to 15-year-olds as soon as the pharmaceutical company gets the green light.

As venues open to the public again and vaccines continue to roll out, Israeli health officials say they will remain vigilant. The “Green Pass” system is expected to stay in place through the end of 2021. And to keep from importing any new troubles, Israel is restricting travel to India, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Ukraine, Ethiopia, and Turkey—hotspots for COVID-19 and its variants. Special exceptions will be granted for humanitarian, athletic, or diplomatic travel. Those returning from visiting any of those nations must follow strict protocols, including up to two weeks in quarantine, even if they are vaccinated or previously recovered.

It is not clear yet if the Indian strain is resistant to the vaccine. As of last week, 41 cases—including five children—of the India COVID-19 variant had been reported in Israel.

This week, Israel began shipping life-saving medical supplies to India to aid them in their latest battle against COVID-19.

“Israel is standing now by India and sending medical equipment, oxygen generators and oxygen respirators, as well as medical equipment to our great friend,” Gilad Cohen, Israel’s Deputy Director-General for Asia and Pacific Affairs said from Ben Gurion airport. “And we hope that this equipment will help (people to) survive and have the Indians recover from this COVID-19 that India is facing right now.”

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