Israel on Sunday extended the Green Pass mandate by one week despite strong opposition from some hospital chiefs, who called to scrap the rule over its inefficacy.
The Health Ministry appears to have been mulling scrapping the mandate for some time since the Omicron variant of coronavirus is said to infect both vaccinated and unvaccinated at a similar rate.
The government voted to extend the mandate during a weekly cabinet meeting, where representatives of three hospitals expressed their opposition to the move, saying the government's policy of not imposing lockdowns and strict restrictions on movement was "accurate".
Israel first introduced the Green Pass last year - a document that allows people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have recovered from the disease to enter public accommodations.
"We never collapsed in the two years [of pandemic]. The collapse was more psychological than physical. Did we collapse in terms of patient overload? No. I do not recall that happening to us," said Prof. Yaakov Jerris, director of the COVID ward at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, known as Ichilov Hospital.
Ichilov is currently treating 120 coronavirus patients, of whom 90 are hospitalized in the internal medicine wards. "Defining a serious patient is problematic. For example, a patient with a chronic lung disease always had a low level of oxygen, and now he is with coronavirus, which technically makes him a serious coronavirus patient, but that's not true. The patient is in a difficult condition because he has a serious underlying condition."
Dr. Roi Ilan, director of the Intensive Care Unit at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, also agreed with Prof. Jeris. "The reason for overload is not necessarily due to people who are seriously ill with coronavirus, but anyone who tested positive. The wrong calculation actually puts a lot of pressure on the system," he said.
"A patient who is hospitalized in the coronavirus ward receives double the amount of nurses. Half of the staff inside are protected, caring for the patient, and the other half are waiting outside - ready to be replaced. It is a huge burden."
Prof. Nimrod Maimon, the director of the Coronavirus Internal Medicine Department at Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, also said that despite the COVID wards at the hospital feeling "like a war", the medical center is "not collapsing".
"I remember I was in Lebanon, we would go inside, you go right into a war zone, the same thing is happening here inside the coronavirus wards, huge loads, and then you come out of the hospital and people around you are celebrating the end of the pandemic.
Despite the administrative problems, he claimed the conduct of the government and the Health Ministry in the current wave was correct. "None of the people on the ground think the country should be shut down, I think we should live alongside the coronavirus just as the government has decided to do," he said.
"This wave is completely different from previous ones because Omicron is less severe on the one hand, but more contagious on the other, so everyone sitting here understands that another approach to Omicron should be proposed."
The three chief, however, all agreed the Green Pass mandate should be scrapped due to its irrelevance. "I see it happening, it's on its way, soon," Dr. Ilan added.