The Health Ministry is reportedly closing in on a plan to spur more Israelis to get vaccinated by bringing back certain leisure activities in the near future, but making them hard to access for those who have not gotten shots.
Channel 12 News reported Wednesday that officials are looking to limit access to gyms, hotels, restaurants and cultural and sports events for those who refuse to be vaccinated, while the inoculated will be able to enter freely.
As it is legally problematic to completely ban those who do not want to take the shots, a path will be available to those with fresh negative COVID-19 test results from the past 48 hours.
But health officials hope to find ways to make getting tested more difficult, thereby encouraging more people to go for the vaccine, including charging for tests, limiting their numbers and cutting back on testing locations.
Unnamed senior Health Ministry officials told the network they were working on formulating an exact list of activities that would be limited for the non-vaccinated.
One official told the network, “If they are required to pay a few dozen shekels every couple days so they can enter their workplace, gym or restaurant, it will encourage them to get vaccinated.”
Israel’s Manufacturers Association has asked government officials to be able to put workers who refuse vaccinations on unpaid leave, Channel 12 said Wednesday. The association was said to request permission to demand non-vaccinated workers present a negative coronavirus test every 72 hours.
Meanwhile, the city of Ra’anana told municipal workers if they choose to not get vaccinated, they will need to come to work in a full protective suit, starting next week. It’s not clear whether the city has the authority to mandate such attire.
Mayor Haim Broide told Channel 13 the city would prevent non-vaccinated workers from coming into contact with vaccinated ones.
Earlier Wednesday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said he was considering proposing legislation that would enable employers to prevent workers who aren’t vaccinated against the coronavirus from coming in to work, and warned the rule would also apply to those in the education system.
Edelstein said at a press briefing on the virus outbreak that education workers who refuse the vaccine may have to pay for a virus test every 48 hours if they want to keep teaching, according to Hebrew media reports.
His remarks came as the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign has slowed down recently, with around 130,000 shots administered on Tuesday, according to Health Ministry figures — far below the country’s capacity, reached in previous weeks, of over 200,000 injections in a day.
In the last three days, only about 65,000 Israelis a day have been vaccinated with their first shots, even though vaccinations are now available to all Israelis aged 16 and over.
Urging the population to participate in the mass vaccination program, Edelstein said that the so-called green passports — a document that will enable vaccinated people to attend certain public venues and events and potentially travel abroad without quarantine — will soon be introduced.
While certain essential services must always remain open to the entire population, he said, there are venues that will be made available only to those who are vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19. The intention is to prevent those locations from becoming infection hubs.
“I strongly advise that anyone who wants to enjoy hotels, gyms and some cultural events to go and get vaccinated,” Edelstein said, referring to a Health Ministry lockdown exit plan shown to ministers the day before, which set February 23 as a possible opening date for those locations.
Edelstein also discussed the approaching annual Purim holiday, which usually features parades, parties and other public and private celebrations and social gatherings.
However, a final decision on Purim has not yet been taken, he said, and instructions on limitations will be issued closer to the day, February 25, while taking into account infection rates at the time.
Header: An Israeli receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Jerusalem, February 10, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)