Israel to reimpose coronavirus 'Green Pass' as Delta variant hits

FILE PHOTO: An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man wearing a face mask, carries his luggage at the arrivals terminal in Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport, amid a spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), near Tel Aviv
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TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Israel announced plans on Thursday to allow only people who are deemed immune to COVID-19 or have recently tested negative to enter some public spaces such as restaurants, gyms and synagogues after a surge in coronavirus cases.

The government had removed most coronavirus restrictions after a rapid vaccination drive that pushed down infections and deaths.

The easing of restrictions included dropping a "Green Pass" programme that had allowed only people who had been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 to enter some public spaces.

But some measures have already been reinstated, including wearing protective masks indoors and tighter entry requirements for incoming travellers, because of the rapid spread of the more infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

In a further tightening of measures, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's office said the Green Pass programme would be back in force from July 29, pending government approval.

‮"‬The (Green Pass) will apply to cultural and sporting events, gyms, restaurants and dining halls, conferences, tourist attractions and houses of worship," Bennett's office said in a statement after a meeting of his "coronavirus cabinet".

Entrance to events with more than 100 attendees will be allowed only for "the vaccinated, recovered and those with a negative test result who are aged 12 and over."

Under what Bennett calls a policy of "soft suppression", his government wants Israelis to learn to live with the virus - involving the fewest possible restrictions and avoiding a fourth national lockdown that could do further harm to the economy.

Over 56% of Israel's 9.3 million population is fully vaccinated, and serious cases have remained lower than during previous waves of infection.

(Reporting by Rami Ayyub, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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