More than 3.5 million Israelis have now received at least their first vaccination shot against Covid-19, with more than 2.1 million having the crucial second injection. An angry Cabinet exchange last Thursday saw with Benny Gantz demanding the lifting of the lockdown before finally agreeing a compromise. On Sunday, Cabinet finally agreed to ease the restrictions, with a wider range of travel being permitted and a range of businesses being allowed to re-open. However, Ben Gurion Airport remains closed until 22 February apart from travellers with exceptional circumstances.
The first signs of tourism at least being able to plan for a return to normal is seen in the agreement between Israel and Greece to accept travel between the countries by tourists with a vaccination certificate. The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also expressed his hopes that vaccination certificates can be used to permit travel throughout the European Union.
Israel has its share of anti-vaxxers, and Rabbi Yuval Hacohen Aherov is particularly influential, controversially claiming that Covid-19 is only seasonal flu and that Israelis are being used as guinea pigs. The Health Ministry is working to get Aherov's Youtube videos removed.
With the focus switching to vaccination, Israel remains 14th on the list of tests per million people (1,199,1601), compared with the UK in 15th place (1,148,355) with the disputed territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza falling to 95th place (203,255).
Israel has risen again, to 52nd place. in the list of deaths per million people (562 per million). This is still well below the UK in 5th place with 1,656 deaths per million: a testament to the heroes of Magen David Adom and all those involved in the Israeli health system. Also impressive is the statistic for the disputed territories, with only 365 deaths per million people and which has fallen to 70th place in the list. Both Israelis and Palestinians are therefore much less likely to die of Covid-19 than the frequency of confirmed cases would suggest, whereas people in the UK are much more likely to die.
The impressive recovery rate of Palestinians (1.1 % death rate among reported cases, compared with 0.73 % in Israel and 2.6 % in the UK) is doubtless linked to the willingness of Israel to extend health care to even confirmed enemies of the nation such as Saeb Erekat, whose daughter pointedly thanked the "Arab doctors" treating him in hospital in Jerusalem, but not the Jewish medical staff or the country that tried to save his life.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians usually work in Israel, but many have lost jobs due to the economic downturn while others fear transmitting coronavirus to their families and neighbours when they return to the West Bank.