Photo Credit: Miriam Alster / Flash 90
An usher examines the green passport of a fan at a concert in Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv, March 5, 2021.

Corona Czar Prof. Nachman Ash told Army radio on Sunday morning regarding the new relief of the lockdown and the restrictions on the economy that “our great concern is about an increase in morbidity as a result of non-compliance with the rules, which would lead us to a situation where we would have to go back,” meaning shutting down the economy and the education system.

However, a source in Israel’s HMOs pointed to a difference between the latest reopening and the previous ones, noting that “in previous openings the main problem was that the children would get infected in the schools, go home and infect their parents. This time around our fear is that the children themselves will develop a serious illness because the vast majority of parents have been vaccinated.”

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To date, just under five million Israelis have received the first dose of the Corona vaccine (4,925,155), and close to four million (3,705,330) are receiving their second. This suggests that while a full, 75% herd immunity is still not in the cards, seeing as three million out of Israel’s nine million citizens are children under age 16 who for now aren’t qualified to receive the vaccine – Israel is fast becoming a relatively safe country.

Asked about the reopening of Ben Gurion International Airport to returning Israeli passengers, Prof. Ash stressed that “self-discipline is needed here. We do not have sufficient enforcement and there’s a considerable risk of introducing mutations to the Israeli population.”

Israel’s Coronavirus Czar Prof. Nachman Ash (archive). / David Cohen/Flash90

Ash also opposes reopening schools in red cities and wants continued monitoring of the morbidity levels in other cities.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of patients in the education system, so it won’t be right to reopen schools in red cities.”

He noted that there is an expectation of an increase in morbidity each time a new reopening takes effect. “We rely on the fact that there are more than 3.5 million twice-vaccinated Israelis, and I hope this will provide protection in terms of the number of verified infections and the number of patients who are in serious condition – but if that is not enough, we will have to go back.”

Prof. Ash was asked if the meaning of going back is the possibility of new restrictions on the eve of national elections, and replied: “I believe that if we clearly see that the reopening is endangering us, then even before the election it will be possible to make a painful decision.”

The Corona Czar further explained that the definition of the infection indices is very complex, due to the different mutations. “We will have to keep track of the infection coefficient and the numbers of patients in serious condition, which are data we do not want to see going up,” he said. “It depends on the rate of increase and we will raise the red flag if necessary.”

The third and major phase of reopening the economy kicks off on Sunday. The new regulations are added to the existing ones from the first and second phases.

Meanwhile, there are significant reopenings in education, trade, and entry and exit at the border.

As part of the new regime, the education system for seventh to tenth graders will be opened in green, yellow, and borderline orange cities; and all the institutions of higher learning will be opened.

Banquet halls will be open according to a crowd limit of up to 50% occupancy and no more than 300 people.

Entry will be allowed to admit green tag holders, with up to 5% of guests allowed to enter by presenting a recent negative test result.

In restaurants, indoor seating will be allowed for those with a green tag (75% occupancy and no more than 100 people), and seating outside even without a green tag (up to 100 people) with keeping a social distance of two meters between the tables.

The hotels will also be opened and dining room operations will be allowed, but occupancy will be limited to only 50% and up to 300 people at most.

Culture auditoriums and sports arenas, houses of worship, and conference halls are allowed to open with a gathering of up to 500 people in a closed building and up to 750 in an open area.

Halls or stadiums with more than 10,000 seats will be allowed up to 1,000 people in a closed building and up to 1,500 people in an open area.

As of Sunday, the Israeli public will have to get used to two different classifications – the green tag and the purple tag. In the green tag, citizens will be required to present a vaccination record or a certificate of recovery in gyms and studios, swimming pools, restaurants and cafes, hotels, stadiums, sports fields, sports halls, sporting events, theaters, cinemas, and cultural halls, cultural events, exhibitions (not in museums), event gardens, attractions, conferences, and mikvahs.

At the same time, it will be possible to sit outside in restaurants and cafes following the conditions of the purple tags, while the folks with the green passports sit indoors.

Also, following the government’s decision to allow Israelis to return home ahead of the elections, it was agreed that as of Sunday, Israelis will be able to fly home from five destinations: New York, Frankfurt, London, Paris, and Kiev. Towards the end of the week, flights will also be added from Toronto and Hong Kong, as needed.

Entry and exit to and from Israel:

  1. The ban on the entry of Israelis into the country will be lifted, except for restrictions on entry through land crossings. This means that any Israeli citizen or permanent resident will be able to enter Israel. However, the maximum quota for entry into Israel will be up to 3,000 people per day and will reach this number in a graded manner later in the week following the plan of the Ministry of Transportation.
  • On Sunday, up to 1,000 people will enter to allow a gradual reopening as determined by the Ministry of Transportation.
  • Dedicated flights of immigrants whose aliyah cannot be postponed, essential foreign workers and professional athletes will be excluded from the quota of those entering Israel.

2. Entrance through land crossings: from Jordan – up to twice a week; the Taba Crossing (Egypt) – a one-time opening for Israeli citizens who stayed in Egypt since Wednesday, February 3.

3. Holders of a recovery or vaccination certificate will be able to leave Israel freely, except through the Taba crossing, which will be closed.

4. The obligation to isolate in hotels will be abolished and in its place, there will be increased enforcement by the Israel Police concerning returnees from abroad who are in home isolation.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.