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Health

Israel plans "Green Pass" to leisure for COVID-immune on Feb 23

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel plans to open up some hotels, gyms and other leisure facilities in two weeks to those documented as being immune to COVID-19, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Wednesday, in a possible harbinger of a wider emergence from the pandemic.

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Having administered Pfizer Inc vaccines to almost 40% of its 9 million population, Israel saw first signs of managing to outpace highly contagious virus variants, he added.

Israel has said it would issue an official app allowing users to link up to their Health Ministry files and show if they have been vaccinated against or recovered from COVID-19, with presumed immunity, in order to gain entry to leisure facilities.

Those to whom neither applies would be able to get a COVID-19 test and, if the result is negative, display it on the app for up to 72 hours of similar access, officials have said.

Initially dubbed “Green Passport”, the system has been renamed “Green Pass” in an apparent bid to head off speculation that it would also enable unfettered travel abroad.

“The estimated date is the 23rd of the month,” Edelstein told Ynet TV. “We are talking about gyms, hotels, places like that, where using the Green Pass would be both appropriate and practicable.”

“Today - finally, finally - there is an encouraging sign, a small reduction in morbidity,” he said. “If this vector continues, we will meet all of our commitments.”

Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Kan radio that the app will be ready next week and predicted that 60% of adult Israelis would be eligible for the Green Pass by Feb. 23.

After launching the vaccination drive and Israel’s third national lockdown in December, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu predicted the economy could begin reopening this month. He is up for reelection on March 23.

With some kindergarten and elementary schools due to open on Thursday, Edelstein, speaking separately with reporters, said he would seek to require teachers who are not documented as being immune to COVID-19 to test negative every 48 hours.

The health ministry says that around 50% of teachers have been vaccinated, and that Edelstein’s proposal would not be in effect by Thursday.

Israel has logged 706,000 COVID-19 cases and 5,233 deaths. The Health Ministry gave a 5.9% infection rate on Wednesday, Israel’s lowest in a month. The “R” reproductive rate was at 0.93, having fallen steadily from the 1 threshold this week.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Maayan Lubell and Angus MacSwan

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