Covid-19: Israel eyes carrot-and-stick approach as vaccination slows

‘Green pass’ will give access to leisure facilities, while those who refuse jab face obstacles

A makeshift outdoor classroom in the coastal city of Ashkelon, Israel. Photograph: Tsafrir Abayov/AP Photo

A makeshift outdoor classroom in the coastal city of Ashkelon, Israel. Photograph: Tsafrir Abayov/AP Photo

 

Although Israel still leads the world with its Covid-19 vaccination drive, the numbers requesting the jab have decreased sharply over the past week or so, prompting the government to consider a carrot-and-stick policy to help stop the spread of the virus.

Later this month a “green pass” app will be introduced for those who have received both doses of the vaccination, allowing them access to leisure facilities.

“The estimated implementation date is the 23rd of the month,” health minister Yuli Edelstein said. “We are talking about gyms, hotels, places like that, where using the green pass would be both appropriate and practicable.”

Those who choose not to get vaccinated will have to show a negative Covid-19 test result in order to access the same leisure facilities.

Israel’s justice minister has asked the attorney general to prepare a legal opinion on the question of whether access can be restricted only to people who either have been vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid-19.

The health ministry is also considering charging Israelis who refuse to get vaccinated for their Covid-19 tests and reducing the number of test sites.

Mr Edelstein also spoke of legislation that would enable employers to prevent unvaccinated employees from working at the office and warned that the rule might apply to the education system as well. “No one has the right to endanger Israel’s children,” he said.

One school network, which operates 40 special education campuses across Israel, has already informed its employees that only vaccinated workers will be allowed to enter its campuses.

Unpaid leave

Israel’s manufacturers association is seeking authority to put workers who refuse vaccinations on unpaid leave.

More than 40 per cent of Israel’s population of more than nine million have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Last week vaccines were made available to all over-16s, but only about 65,000 people have been turning up each day at the inoculation centres, significantly lower than the 100,000 daily average when the vaccines were limited to the elderly and those considered high risk.

In an effort to increase numbers, Israeli companies this week started administering vaccines at places of work.

Prof Dror Mevorach, director of a Covid-19 ward at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, said it should be made clear to young people refusing the vaccine that the choice was either Covid-19 or the jab.

“The chance of each of us of becoming ill with Covid-19 is constantly increasing, and if it isn’t today, it will be in a month or two months,” he said. “Covid-19 will not go away. The choice is the vaccine or Covid-19. In my opinion, choosing the vaccine is much better than getting sick.”