Israel to ease more COVID curbs, launch leisure 'Green Pass' on Feb. 21

FILE PHOTO: People walk inside a shopping mall with most shops shuttered due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, in Petah Tikva, Israel February 11, 2021. REUTERS/Corinna Kern

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israel plans to ease more restrictions on businesses on Sunday and reopen hotels and gyms to those fully vaccinated or deemed immune after recovering from COVID-19, the government said.

With nearly 43% of citizens having received at least one shot of Pfizer Inc’s vaccine, Israel has pushed ahead with a gradual relaxing of lockdown measures imposed on Dec. 27.

Malls, open-air markets, libraries and museums will be allowed to reopen on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement on Monday.

Also on Sunday, Israelis in possession of a “Green Pass” – a certificate of presumed COVID-19 immunity, displayed on an Israeli Health Ministry app – will be allowed entry to leisure facilities such as gyms and hotels, the statement said.

Officials had initially planned to launch the Green Pass leisure access on Feb. 23.

Israel is on course to fully inoculate 30% of its 9 million population with the two-dose Pfizer regimen this month, a benchmark for a preliminary easing of curbs. It hopes for 50% coverage and a wider reopening next month.

Israel’s swift vaccination roll-out has made it the largest real-world study of Pfizer’s vaccine. The country’s largest healthcare provider has reported a 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 cases among 600,000 people who received both doses.

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