Israelis Confused About Government Rules as ‘Coronavirus Fatigue’ Deepens
Some restrictions reimposed as delta variant spreads
Many Israelis, confused by changing restrictions and inconsistent enforcement, are unclear what rules the government currently has in place to contain the novel coronavirus.
On June 25, the masks were again required in public places indoors and on public transport, but not in eateries. And on July 29, the Green Pass restrictions were partially reimposed.
Under the latest restrictions, everyone over the age of 12 must present a Green Pass certificate of vaccination or recovery or show a negative COVID-19 test to access indoor events and restaurant venues where more than 100 people are present. Moreover, everyone over the age of 12 years must do the same to enter all hotels, restaurants, gyms, cafes, bars, pubs, and cultural and sporting events.
People without a Green Pass may present one of the following documents: a PCR test (result valid for 72 hours) or a rapid test (result valid for 24 hours).
Prof. Ora Paltiel of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health’s Department of Hematology told The Media Line, “I think there is definitely some confusion. I think there’s a message to be careful, but there is not a clear message that regulations are being enforced.”
Paltiel is pleased with the government’s approach to vaccinating people, and with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s clear message that to refuse vaccination is to endanger fellow Israelis.
“One message that I think is clear is that he does say that he wants to keep the economy open, and he wants schools to open, and that there is an issue of individual responsibility, but I think that the issue of what is individual responsibility or social responsibility, that has to be made a little bit clearer,” she said.
Some Israelis remain bewildered by what they see as the inconsistency of the government’s message.
Asher, a 58-year-old Jerusalemite, explained his predicament to The Media Line.
“The government says last week that the vaccine is not good against the delta [variant of the] virus, and now they say that everybody must go and get vaccinated [for a third time, because of the delta variant]. We don’t know what to do,” he said.
As of August 1, all Israelis over the age of 60 who are not currently or were previously ill with the novel coronavirus, and who received their second inoculation against COVID-19 more than five months ago, can make an appointment to receive a third inoculation, or booster shot, consisting of Pfizer vaccine.
Asher continued that the apparent irregularity of the government’s messaging has made him distrustful.
“I’m not really believing the government. They say one thing, and the next day they say another thing. It has confused most people.”
However, Devora, 33, another Jerusalem resident, said she has no problems finding out what the current government guidelines are.
“First of all, there’s the website of the Health Ministry. Second of all, they have a Telegram [social media] group, and there you get the formal indications right away,” she told The Media Line.
Other Israelis appear to be suffering what has come to be known as “coronavirus fatigue.” Many of these people strictly adhered to regulations during the first year of the pandemic but have since become disillusioned, losing hope that the virus is going away.
Chai, a 38-year-old man living just outside Jerusalem, told The Media Line on Sunday, “I don’t know if I’m taking it seriously anymore. I believe what’s happening is true; I’m not believing conspiracies. I’m just not so afraid, and I’m not so concerned about doing what the government tells you.”
Chai had not heard anything about the renewed Green Pass regulations.
Paltiel expressed concern over the diminishing regard for government restrictions.
“I think what happened was that we had a real honeymoon in May, beginning of June, when there were really almost no cases,” she said. “I think that’s natural, but people need to take into account that things [new infections] seem to be doubling every week.”
The government appears to have recognized this shift in public sentiment. On Thursday, Bennett released a statement saying that the hiring of 400 inspectors had been approved by the Finance Ministry’s Budget Division, to enforce coronavirus regulations on public transportation.
Paltiel is skeptical of this approach.
“I think people should enforce one another. People shouldn’t be shy about telling one another, even socially, to wear masks. I think that making it a criminal matter never really worked. I would put more stock in social pressure,” she said.
Aron Rosenthal is a student at the University of Edinburgh and an intern in The Media Line’s Press and Policy Student Program.