Officials in Israel have restricted its Covid green pass to allow only those who have received a vaccine booster dose or recently recuperated from coronavirus to enter indoor venues.
But technical problems have hit the rollout of the updated pass – a kind of digital vaccination passport – as millions of Israelis tried to reissue digital documentation that would allow entry to shops, restaurants, cultural events, gyms and other indoor venues.
Under the new guidelines, people eligible for a green pass must have received a booster shot. Those who have received two vaccine doses, or those who have recovered from coronavirus, are only eligible for six months after the date of their vaccination or recovery.
The new criteria means nearly two million people will lose their vaccination passport in the coming days.
Scores of Israelis have staged demonstrations around the country in protest against the green pass system, with convoys of cars clogging morning commutes as many Israelis returned to work on Sunday after September’s Jewish High Holidays.
Opponents of the system say it is a form of forced vaccination.
“We are totally against any forced vaccinations, or any forced medications, and we are totally against doing anything to our children and grandchildren that we don’t agree with,” said Sarah Felt, who protested along the main road connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Israel raced out of the gate early this year to vaccinate most of its adult population after striking a deal with Pfizer to trade medical data in exchange for a steady supply of doses.
This summer Israel launched an aggressive booster campaign to shore up waning vaccine efficacy in its population.
More than 60% of Israel’s population has received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and nearly 3.5 million of its 9.3 million citizens have received a booster shot.
Recent months have seen a surge in new cases of coronavirus in Israel. As of Sunday, more than 70% of the 588 serious coronavirus cases in Israeli hospitals involved unvaccinated individuals, according to the health ministry.
The ministry issued a statement on Sunday morning saying that because of heavy traffic on its green pass website and app, previously existing certificates will remain valid in the coming few days.