Israel took a step towards normalcy on Sunday, re-opening a raft of businesses and services from pandemic lockdowns, but with some only available to fully vaccinated “green pass” holders.
Nearly three million people, almost a third of Israel’s population, have received the two recommended doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, the world’s quickest inoculation pace per capita.
With a steady flow of data proving the Pfizer vaccine’s efficacy in stopping serious illness from Covid-19, Israel’s government has begun gradually easing restrictions in place since December, when it imposed its third lockdown.
Shopping malls and stores with street access re-opened Sunday, with certain limitations on crowd size.
But gyms, swimming pools, hotels and some cultural facilities are re-opening only to those who have been fully vaccinated and obtained the so-called green pass.
Israel’s green pass scheme is being closely watched as a possible model for how other economies might re-open once a substantial part of the population is vaccinated, while stirring controversy over unequal access for those who opt out of the jab.
Lifting weights at a gym in Petah Tikva near Tel Aviv late Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Israel was moving ahead “with caution”, while imploring “everyone to get vaccinated”.
Standing at the entrance of a posh Tel Aviv gym, 90-year-old Ora Davidovicz said she “couldn’t wait” to go swimming.
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