Israeli experts say Green Pass 'irrelevant' against Omicron, must be scrapped

Health officials advising cabinet say COVID strain infects vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, while others think Israel shouldn't remove all pandemic curbs; Health Ministry considers the move but concerned it would be reckless

Nina Fox, Adir Yanko|
Sources in the Health Ministry confirmed on Thursday that the Green Pass mandate is about to be scrapped since it appears to be "irrelevant" in the face of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
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  • The Health Ministry currently appears to mull three potential scenarios with regards to the mandate, which include canceling it, extending it, or issuing it to only those who received their fourth COVID vaccine shot. However, the decision at this point is not to recommend the fourth vaccine for the entire population.
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    קניון נתניה נפתח לקונים
    קניון נתניה נפתח לקונים
    Green Pass
    (Photo: AFP, GettyImages)
    Although health experts appear to be inclined toward the cancellation of the Green Pass mandate, the recent termination of quarantines in the education system raises a concern that scrapping Green Pass would be too reckless. Therefore, the assessment in the health care system is that after quarantines in schools are lifted, the next move will be a cancellation of the Green Pass sometime in the future.
    Prof. Cyrille Cohen, an expert on immunology from Bar-Ilan University, said that during the Omicron wave the Green Pass has become less effective.
    "The purpose of the Green Pass was originally to try and create some sort of a safer environment for vaccinated people, especially for those who can get seriously ill. The Green Pass also encouraged people to get vaccinated, but at this time it is irrelevant since the Omicron variant infects both vaccinated and unvaccinated at a similar rate.
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    פרופסור סיריל כהן
    פרופסור סיריל כהן
    Prof. Cyrille Cohen, an expert on immunology from Bar-Ilan University
    (Photo: Yariv Katz)
    "Furthermore, if there is no real enforcement of the mandate, it loses its purpose, therefore it can be eased. However, people need to keep following the basic guidelines of the pandemic. Because during these times, in which hospitals are overburdened and the morbidity rate skyrocketing, every single thing we can do to prevent further deterioration of the situation can make a difference," Cohen added.
    Professor Doron Gazit from the Hebrew University, who is a member of the panel advising the government on the coronavirus pandemic, also thinks that the Green Pass should be scrapped. "There is no doubt that during the Omicron wave the Green Pass is not useful and possibly even causing harm because it gives the vaccinated people a feeling that they are safe, even though they are contagious and infectious just like the unvaccinated," he said.
    "Regarding the cancellation of the Green Pass in general, I think Israel should not discuss this matter now, but only a few weeks later, after it has come up with a decent strategy to fight the pandemic. Only then it can think about its next moves associated with the Green Pass since for the current Omicron variant it has no meaning," Cohen said.
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    אכיפת התו הירוק בקניונים
    אכיפת התו הירוק בקניונים
    Green Pass enforced in various shopping malls
    (Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch, Haim Horenstein, Dana Kopel)
    On the other hand, not everyone agrees that scrapping the Green Pass is necessary. Prof. Nadav Davidovitch, an expert in epidemiology and public health, told Ynet the Green Pass shouldn't be canceled, and instead, it should be modified for the Omicron wave.
    Prof. Hezi Levi, director of Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center and former Health Ministry's director-general, also said the Green Pass can still help Israel to fight the pandemic.
    "While it's not helping so much with the current wave, it still reduces morbidity rate, especially among people who are vaccinated. The Green Pass mandate has some logic behind it, therefore I don't think we should break all the boundaries we established in the past two years of the COVID pandemic."
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