Israel has restricted access to its Covid-19 Green Pass to allow only those who have received a third booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine or recently recovered from the virus to access indoor venues.

The new criteria mean that nearly two million citizens will lose their access to venues like shops, restaurants and gyms, as well as large-scale events.

Israel is the first country to make a third jab a requirement for its digital vaccination certificate, in an attempt to encourage those who have not yet had their vaccine booster to do so.

Israel Ministry of Health deputy director-general Dr Asher Salmon said: “We believe everyone should be getting a third shot. We are basically telling people that if they have not already done so, they are not fully vaccinated.”

All existing passes were initially set to expire at midnight on 2 October and replaced by new ones issued through the Health Ministry’s website or app. However, high demand led to the system crashing within hours, preventing many citizens from obtaining their new passes.

As a result, the existing passes will continue to be valid for the next few days.

Under the new rules, those who have received only two doses, as well as those who have contracted Covid-19 and recovered, will be issued with passes valid for six months following the date of their second vaccination or recovery. After this, they must have received a third dose to continue to access the pass.

A temporary Green Pass can also be obtained by producing a negative Covid-19 test, which must be paid for unless the individual in question is ineligible for vaccination.

Over 60% of Israel’s population has received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and about 37% have received a third booster dose of the vaccine. However, many of the almost two million citizens in Israel who have received just two doses will now lose their Green Pass privileges in cases where their second dose has occurred over six months ago.

The decision to make a booster dose necessary to receive Green Pass approval has proven controversial, with opponents seeing it as a system of forced vaccination. Protesters jammed morning commuter routes on 3 October as many Israelis returned to work following the Jewish High Holidays.

“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,” Sarah Felt, who protested along the main highway connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, told AP.

Israel began its Covid-19 booster campaign on 1 August, with doses now available for everyone aged 12 and over who has received their second vaccine in the last five months.