Israel’s swift and efficient Covid-19 vaccine rollout has largely suppressed the spread of the virus with the number of new cases dropping dramatically since late January. The country experienced a peak in daily new cases in the midst of its third wave on January 27 when just under 12,000 new infections were recorded and by the start of this week, that had dropped to just 139 according to Our World in Data. The downward trend in new cases has remained consistent over the past few weeks despite the economy reopening and the end of the pandemic looks to be in sight for the country’s nine million inhabitants.
Israel’s authorities are remaining wary given the possible emergence and spread of new Covid-19 variants with increased vaccine resistance and lethality. Late last week, an Israeli study found that the South African variant of Covid-19 may be able to evade some of the protection provided by the Pfizer PFE -BioNTech vaccine, a potentially worrying development considering that shot was almost exclusively used throughout the country. The study had a small sample size and in the United States, Dr. Fauci labeled it misleading, stating that vaccines remain effective at preventing serious illness and death.
In Israel, daily life has been approaching something of a pre-pandemic normality in recent weeks, though rules mandating indoor and outdoor mask wearing have reminded people that they have not reached the end of the road quite yet. That may be set to change, however, amid reports that Israel’s Ministry of Health will remove the outdoor mask obligation at the start of next week, nearly a year to the day since it was implemented.
Fully vaccinated people have also been able to enjoy a range of amenities and activities such as gyms, swimming pools and theaters through the use of a “green pass” app that provides proof of inoculation. Israel kicked off its impressive vaccination campaign on December 19th and its speed, coupled with low levels of vaccine hesitancy among the population, brought the third wave of infections to a swift end. By March 23rd, 60% of Israelis had received a jab and the country has pursued a strategy of fully vaccinating its citizens. By April 11th, the share of people who had received both shots was at 57%.
While the situation is looking positive for Israelis, the country’s government has been criticized for its failure to vaccinate millions of Palestinians who live under its military control. At least 100,000 Palestinian workers who enter Israel and Jewish settlements have been vaccinated while around 5,000 doses have been donated to the occupied territories. While Israel has raced ahead, the Palestinian Health Authority has been largely reliant on COVAX and donations from wealthy Arab states such as the UAE. When Israel finishes its vaccination drive, it will be interesting to see whether leftover quantities make their way to the West Bank and Gaza where they are urgently required. In mid-January, the UN released a statement saying that it was Israel’s responsibility as the occupying power to ensure swift and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for the Palestinian population.
*Click below to enlarge (charted by Statista)
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