Joe Biden praises UK's coronavirus vaccine rollout
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Dr Asher Salmon, Head of International Relations at the Israeli Ministry of Health, said by midweek there will be no social distancing required, no enforcement of masks, and large scale gatherings will be allowed without the need for any covid measures such as vaccine passports which have also been dropped. “The only place where we will still require face masks is in hospitals and care homes,” he said.
Dr Salmon added: “We are lifting the pandemic restrictions because we no longer have a substantial amount of cases across the country. The Government’s covid-19 operations centre will be winding down and the PCR testing which has been at the expense of the state will now be at the expense of individuals who may need it for international travel.”
With the majority of the population having received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and about 92 per cent of those 50 and older inoculated or recovered, Israel began gradually reopening its economy in February after three lockdowns.
He said the threat of new variants was under watch but would not stop the country from re-opening.
“Maybe we took the decision to do this too early and the threat of new variants is concerning, but we are not waiting to see what will happen with this theoretical threat though we will monitor the situation.”
He added: “By the end of February we had eighty percent of the elderly population vaccinated. This was a critical point – and at that point we started a green pass (to indicate immunity post vaccination or recovery from Covid-19) so that elderly people who had been in lockdown for so long could start enjoying life again.”
“Schools then reopened and the whole education system went back though universities are still operating on a hybrid (partly online) system.
“We have been looking closely at England and met Michael Gove and we keep in close contact. The decisions made by your government have to be their own decisions.
“It cannot be judged. We will not know if we have taken the right approach but I hope we never see another lockdown though the emergence of a new variant could create a different story.”
Israel dropped its green pass in June and has now opened its borders to vaccinated visitors and tourists.
Those who are not vaccinated or from countries deemed “high risk” will have to quarantine on arrival.
He said Israel would not pursue a zero covid – or “maximum suppression” strategy.
“To do this you would have to fully close yourself off to the world which for us is totally unrealistic because a huge amount of our population have close relatives abroad – and we also have a lot of people who travel for economic, business and scientific reasons.
“We understand the big benefits that Australia and New Zealand have seen by keeping borders closed but now they do have a big challenge.”
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