Gov’t Exempts Houses of Worship from Strict COVID-19 Restrictions

Israel’s Health Ministry Director General Prof. Nachman Ash said Thursday, August 5, that if the rate of coronavirus infection does not slow, a lockdown might have to be imposed this month. Speaking with the press, he said that at this point he did not think the move would be necessary. He added, however, that if the number of people who were severely ill with COVID-19 and on ventilators increased to the point where the quality of hospital care was affected, the Health Ministry would have to reconsider the issue.

The COVID-19 vaccination campaign among young people

The COVID-19 vaccination campaign among young people (Photo: Magen David Adom)

The steep rise in the number of coronavirus patients in serious condition has revived the debate on overcrowding in public hospitals, and most of all the fear that plagued Israel – like countries around the world — even before the arrival of the delta variant: the health system’s inability to provide adequate treatment to patients when overwhelmed by a large surge in the number of ill requiring hospitalization.

However, Israel’s coronavirus cabinet decided Thursday to for now exempt worshipers at synagogues, mosques and churches from the obligation to carry the Green Pass – a certificate granted upon full vaccination or proof of immunity. The decision, which came at the request of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, imposes entry restrictions only when prayers involve more than 50 people.

In previous COVID-19 waves, houses of worship were initially exempted from government restrictions, a decision that health experts said accelerated the spread of the virus and elicited considerable public criticism.