Israelis set to lose their Green Pass status under new COVID-19 vaccine rules requiring a booster shot will no longer be exempt from quarantine if exposed to a coronavirus carrier, Israeli television reported Wednesday.
The reported change of policy was not immediately confirmed by the health authorities.
Starting October 3, anyone who has not received a booster six months after receiving a second vaccine dose will no longer have a Green Pass, which is needed to enter some venues and events, and instead will have to present a negative test result.
The new rules will also require those who recovered from COVID to get a booster to be eligible for the Green Pass.
According to Channel 12 news, those who have their Green Pass revoked next week will have to quarantine for at least a week if they were in contact with someone confirmed to have contracted coronavirus.
The report noted the possible economic impact of the policy change if an increasing number of workers are ordered to quarantine.
Over a million Israelis are set to lose the Green Pass when the new rules take effect Sunday, though health maintenance organizations were reportedly seeing an uptick in booster appointments before then.
Along with the revised Green Pass guidelines, schools are to begin requiring students to present a negative coronavirus result when they return to the classroom Thursday after the Sukkot holiday.
Yaffa Ben David, who heads the Israel Teachers Union, said Wednesday that she instructed principals not to deny entry to students who don’t present a negative test.
“The Education Ministry is not authorized, in the absence of legal authority, to demand that principals perform actions not in their field of responsibility,” she wrote in a letter to Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton.
Separately, Channel 12 reported that 53 coronavirus patients were being treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machines, a record since the pandemic began.
The machines do the work of a person’s heart and lungs in order to allow them to recover from serious respiratory illness. Unlike ventilators that just assist with breathing, they provide cardiac and respiratory assistance by oxygenating a patient’s blood outside of the body and are used for only the most critically ill.
Hospital chiefs warned earlier this week that they were facing a shortage of ECMO machines.
Meanwhile, the Kan public broadcaster said Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was seeking to enlist other ministers to publicly criticize top Health Ministry officials, amid reported disagreements over whether to impose further restrictions.
According to the report, Bennett told ministers that health officials were seeking to be the center of attention and charged that they were briefing journalists against him.
Bennett’s office denied the report.
Earlier Wednesday, Bennett said he “greatly respects” the work of medical professionals while opposing some of their proposed policies, after he was criticized by health officials for rebuking them during his trip to the UN General Assembly.
“I greatly respect the medical experts and value their professional work, but placing new restrictions on Israel’s citizens is not the policy of this government,” he told reporters before boarding his plane to fly back to Israel. “Despite the pressures, we will refrain at this stage from placing new restrictions on the population.
The feud between Bennett and health officials comes as the high-level coronavirus cabinet was set to convene Sunday for the first time in a month, with Bennett expected to resist imposing any new coronavirus restrictions despite hundreds of new COVID deaths.
While Israel’s fourth wave of infections has seen record numbers of daily “cases”, the number of patients needing hospitalization has remained lower than previous bouts, which experts attribute to the country’s high vaccination rates.
The death toll since the start of the pandemic stood at 7,732 on Wednesday. September is the second consecutive month that Israel has recorded at least 500 deaths, after August saw 609 deaths attributed to COVID-19.
At the same time, ministry figures showed 2,405 new infections on Tuesday, continuing a slow downward trend, though testing tends to decline sharply over weekends and Jewish festivals. The testing positivity rate on Tuesday was down to 3.42 percent, the lowest since August 4.
The number of serious “cases” was at 647, continuing a plateau of more than a month.
Government figures placed the basic reproduction rate of the virus, which measures transmission, at 0.73. Any number over 1 indicates infections are rising, while a figure below that signals that an outbreak is abating.