On Sunday, the cabinet decided to extend the coronavirus regulations that restrict public life for another week. Meanwhile, figures from the Health Ministry showed that the fifth wave was finally beginning to wane in Israel for the first time since it began in November. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett did warn against celebrating prematurely because of the data and added that the public should remain diligent and continue compliance with the health rules. The cabinet ministers decided to approve the request of the Health Ministry at their weekly meeting to extend the Green Pass requirements for one more week.
According to these regulations, people have to provide negative tests, or proof of immunization before they are permitted to enter certain venues or engage in certain activities. These regulations were to expire on Tuesday before they were extended. The Health Ministry stated that it needed additional time to evaluate the data on the resilience of people to the contagious Omicron variant after having recovered from the virus, or getting vaccinated. As far as Green Pass rules for educational institutions are concerned, these were extended till February 27th. The rules require teaching staff to present a valid certificate and both teachers and students have to wear face masks at all times in the classrooms.
Likewise, the Green Pass requirements have also been extended for health and welfare sites till March 1st. Commercial sites also had some rules outlined for them, which had been termed as Purple Badge, and these requirements also saw an extension for another week. Apart from that, indoor gatherings that are not complying with Green Pass rules cannot have more than 50 attendees and this was also extended for a week. The Knesset Education Committee as well as its Law and Constitution Committee needs to give its approval for all the said extensions.
Avigdor Liberman, the Finance Minister, was also in favor of these extensions but added that it was the last time he would agree for keeping these rules in place. He said that no extension would have his support beyond February 6th for even a second. Yifat Shasha-Biton, the Education Minister, and Gideon Sa’ar, the Justice Minister, both voted against the extension of another week. In the past few days, indicators have shown that the biggest wave of infections to hit Israel since the beginning of the pandemic is finally slowing down. On Sunday, the virus reproduction number had declined to 0.96, which is the lowest since November 6th.
A number below 1 shows that the outbreak is slowing down. This ‘R’ number had increased to 2.12 last month, but has been declining since then. At the beginning of the cabinet meeting on Sunday, the premier said that the Omicron wave was now stabilizing, but said that hospitals were dealing with a lot of pressure because a large number of people are still infected. According to the latest figures from the Health Ministry, there are still 2,678 patients of the coronavirus in the hospitals of the country and about 1,099 are seriously ill.