Finally swimming again, to a stage show or a hotel night? This is possible again in Israel, starting next Sunday. On one condition: you must show that you have received the vaccination against Covid-19. Israel is a world leader in vaccinations and wants to return to “normal” as quickly as possible.
The Israeli cabinet decided to reopen the economy largely from February 21, although not all children are allowed to return to school immediately. Most stores and schools are currently closed. Markets and shopping centers will open to everyone, but gyms, events, hotels and a number of other amenities will only be available to people who received their second dose of Covid vaccine at least a week ago, or who have recovered.
Work is underway on a “green passport” in the form of an application and a hard copy. There may also be an interim certification for people who tested themselves shortly before the event. Although the international airport remains largely closed, Israel has already agreed with Greece and Cyprus to mutual allow tourists to have a vaccination certificate.
Israel has already provided 4 million first vaccines and 2.6 million second vaccines, out of more than nine million people. First research results from practice confirm that not only fewer people get vaccinated, but infected people also become less sick. According to a study published Sunday by Clalit, the largest health insurance company in Israel, the Pfizer vaccine is 94 percent effective after two injections, roughly the same percentage as clinical tests indicated. In addition, the group of 1.2 million people included in the study was 92 percent less dangerous in the vaccinated group compared to the control group that did not receive any injection.
Lines for vaccination centers
Effects can be seen in hospital admissions. 72% of Israelis over the age of 60 have been fully vaccinated, and more than 80% are over the age of 80. A month ago, most of the patients who ended up in hospital were over 60, and at the end of last week only 7 percent of the 962 critically ill patients were over 60. Three-quarters of the new patients were in critical condition under the age of 40.
Now that a higher percentage of the population has been vaccinated, a new problem is emerging. All Israelis from the age of 16 onwards are now allowed to be vaccinated, and the campaign was opened to foreigners in Israel last week. However, lines at vaccination centers were much shorter in recent weeks than in the first period. Young people are less keen to get vaccinated because they believe they are less likely to contract serious diseases. Other groups lagging behind in vaccinations are Haredim or Orthodox Jews and Israeli Palestinians. A persistent rumor in both societies with rich children is that the vaccine will affect fertility. There is no scientific evidence for this.
Delaying the vaccination campaign threatens the goal of achieving herd immunity. For Covid-19, it is not yet clear what percentage of vaccines are needed to protect the entire population, but for other infectious diseases the required percentage is at least 70%, which is much higher than the current 43%. The government is trying to win over the skeptics in innovative ways. In the ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak, the injection was recently given free of charge ColetteA traditional Saturday dish. Day hikers in southern Israel can be vaccinated for a walk in the woods this weekend, and some companies are offering employees an extra chance or a day off.
In addition to the announced green passport privileges, the government is also considering penalizing refusers. For example, the Minister of Health wants to legally require teachers to be vaccinated. Those who refuse must undergo an aura test every other day – and may pay for it themselves.
No agreement has yet been made on vaccines for Palestinians in the occupied territories, despite the first medical staff being punished in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority received several thousand moderna vaccines from Israel, and the first Russian vaccines have also arrived. Although the Palestinian Authority has been formally responsible for healthcare since the Oslo Accords were concluded in the 1990s, international organizations indicate that Israel, as an occupying power, has an obligation to protect the Palestinian population as well. Israel allowed a previously banned shipment of 1,000 Russian vaccines to be sent to the Gaza Strip, where Hamas rules on Wednesday.
In Israel, medical experts warn of a rapid step in re-opening the community. Purim, the Jewish version of the carnival, will begin in just over a week. Since Purim celebrations turned into a major source of pollution last year, the government is considering shutting down the country again this time. However, partying is only allowed with your family. For Prime Minister Netanyahu, this does not dampen the clamor. “We are the world leaders in vaccinations, and we will be the first to emerge from the Corona virus,” Netanyahu said on Israeli television.
Update (February 17, 2021): On Wednesday, Russian vaccines that were stopped at the border with the Gaza Strip were allowed to be delivered. This has been updated in this article.
A copy of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on February 17, 2021
A copy of this article also appeared on nrc.next on February 17, 2021