Feb 20, 2021 - Health

Israel to reopen gyms, hotels to people who have been vaccinated

A health worker administering a COVID-19 vaccine to an Israeli at a bar in Tel Aviv on Feb. 18.

A health worker administering a COVID-19 vaccine to an Israeli at a bar in Tel Aviv on Feb. 18. Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that people who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will soon be able to download a certificate that would allow them to attend cultural events, fly abroad and go to gyms.

Why it matters: Preventing unvaccinated people or those who have only received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the country from using those additional services or attending extracurricular activities has created a number of legal, moral and ethical questions for Israel’s government, the New York Times noted.

Context: Israel's government voted this week to start reopening the country after a nearly two-month lockdown.

  • Beginning Sunday, some shopping malls, open-air markets and museums will be allowed to open to the general public, with social distancing rules and mask mandates in place.
  • The government is imposing separate rules for places allowed to reopen under the country's "green pass" system. Under the rules, only those with vaccination certificates will be allowed to access gyms, hotels and swimming pools, attend cultural and sporting events and fly abroad, per AP.

What they're saying: “Getting vaccinated is a moral duty. It is part of our mutual responsibility,” said Yuli Edelstein, Israel's health minister, per the Times.

  • “Whoever does not get vaccinated will be left behind," he added.

By the numbers: Israel has already inoculated nearly half of its population, according to AP.

  • But two million eligible citizens aged 16 or older have yet to receive vaccines, and the average number of new daily infections is around 4,000, the Times reported.

The big picture: Israel has also been criticized for not extending its vaccine program to the occupied Palestinian territories.

  • Israel said Friday it would vaccinate 100,000 Palestinians who regularly cross checkpoints for work, per the Washington Post.
  • It would mark the largest delivery of vaccines to Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  • While the UN has said Israel's vaccination effort is "impressive," it has called on the country to “ensure swift and equitable access” to the vaccines for the millions of Palestinians living in the occupied territories.
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