Israel announces ‘green passports’ for Covid-19 recoverees; Pandemic expected ‘for at least another year’

Nachman Ash announces “green passports” for Israelis who have recovered from the virus and have antibodies, allowing them to travel freely.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The head of Israel’s national coronavirus program warned the nation Thursday that despite the expected arrival of millions of doses of vaccine, the pandemic will be with the country for at least another year.

“We are vigorously preparing to lead a nationwide vaccination campaign, at the end of which I hope we can declare that the people of Israel defeated the corona,” Prof. Nachman Ash said at a Health Ministry briefing held online. “But it will take some more time.”

“We have more difficult days ahead of us,” Ash warned. “Some people think the coronavirus is already behind us. I see things differently. It’s not going to be easy, it’s not going to be short.”

“My working assumption … is that the corona will be here in the coming year. An effective vaccination of the population will be at best around mid-2021, and at worst – towards the end of next year,” Ash said.

“Therefore, we as a country and as citizens must prepare for at least a year in which we will still live in the corona routine. It’s a long time and it’s a complex mission.”

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On a more positive note, Ash announced the introduction of what the ministry is calling a “green passport” for Israeli residents that will be issued to those who have recovered from the virus and tests show that they have antibodies in their system to protect them.

Ash, the former top medical officer in the IDF,  said that in the coming days the ministry will distribute over a million serological tests so that Israelis can be tested for antibodies to show they are not at risk of being infected or passing on the infection. The green passport will allow them to travel freely around the country and possibly be for use for those traveling abroad.

The coronavirus czar also warned the population against those who were not heeding the health guidelines.

“Unfortunately, there are also irresponsible people who pose a danger to all of us,” Ash said. “Those who gather, who do not wear masks, who hold mass events. Most of the people are on guard, the minority that belittles – endangers us all.”

“Hence the question: When and will there be a third closure? This is definitely on the agenda. A third closure depends on the data and depends on us,” Ash said.

On Friday morning, the Health Ministry reported 1,072 confirmed new cases in the past day, with 279 of the 504 Israelis hospitalized with coronavirus listed in serious condition. Another six Israelis died, bringing the death toll to 2,836 since the beginning of the pandemic.

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Although government officials previously said they wanted the weekly average of infections to drop to 500 daily before additional openings of the economy, the corona Cabinet on Thursday evening approved a decision that high school grades 10-12 will reopen this coming Sunday, but only in areas with low-to-medium infection rates.