Israel re-opens restaurants, bars with 40% of country fully vaccinated

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Israeli Prime Minister Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gets his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine on January 9, 2021.
Israeli Prime Minister Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gets his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine on January 9, 2021.
  • Israel has taken another step towards normalcy by opening restaurants, bars and cafes to vaccinated "green pass" holders.
  • About 40% of the population of Israel has been vaccinated. 
  • While many countries struggle to secure vaccine supplies, Netanyahu's government remains well-stocked thanks to an arrangement with Pfizer. 

Israel took another step towards post-pandemic normalcy on Sunday, opening restaurants, bars and cafes to vaccinated "green pass" holders, with about 40 percent of the population fully inoculated against the coronavirus.

"We are coming to life," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, as he cut into a pastry at a Jerusalem cafe, according to a video posted on Facebook.

Israel, which launched its vaccination campaign in December, has given the recommended two jabs of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to more than 3.7 million of its roughly nine million people.

Nearly five million have received one shot.

The country launched its green pass programme last month, allowing controlled numbers of people with proof of full vaccination - or those who had recovered from Covid-19 - to enter gyms, pools and other facilities.

But Sunday's slate of re-openings has been highly anticipated, as it marks the restoration of services that touch the daily lives of many Israelis.

Restaurants are now permitted to resume indoor dining up to 75 percent capacity, with a cap of 100 people and with tables two metres apart.

Green pass holders can also now have a drink at a bar, but cannot yet strike up a chat with a stranger sitting on the stool beside them, with rules requiring an empty seat between patrons, unless they live together.

Eating and drinking on terraces does not require a green pass.

Large numbers of students, many of whom have been out of classrooms for months, will also start returning to school this week, while hotel event halls, sport venues and places of worship are re-opening to green pass holders, with capacity limits in place.

Israelis stranded abroad amid a weeks-long airport closure will also be allowed to return home in increasing numbers this week, beginning with 1,000 arrivals permitted on Sunday.

'We'll be done' 

Netanyahu, who faces a tough re-election battle in two weeks, has put Israel's robust vaccination drive at the centre of his campaign.

While many countries have struggled to secure vaccine supply, Netanyahu's government has remained well-stocked thanks largely to an arrangement with Pfizer to share medical data on the product's impact.

The prime minister, in power since 2009, has said he wants Israel's entire over-16 population vaccinated by the end of this month, hoping the economy will be almost fully re-opened in time for the Passover holiday, which begins on March 27.

"Just have to get a few hundred thousand more people... especially the over 50s, and we'll be done," Netanyahu said at the Jerusalem cafe, gesturing as if he were jabbing his arm with a shot.

While Israel's vaccination pace remains among the world's fastest, the Jewish state has faced widespread calls, including from the United Nations, to ensure inoculations of Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank, and those in Israeli-blockaded Gaza.

Netanyahu's government has announced plans to vaccinate 100,000 Palestinians with permits to work in Israel. 

Did you know you can comment on this article? Subscribe to News24 and add your voice to the conversation.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Are you going to keep wearing a mask following the announcement that it is no longer required under law?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
No ways, I'm done
41% - 2739 votes
Yes, I still want to be cautious
21% - 1410 votes
Only certain circumstances
38% - 2504 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.