More than 3.8 million Israelis have now received at least their first vaccination shot against Covid-19, with more than 2.4 million having the crucial second injection.
Maccabi Healthcare, one of the four major healthcare providers in Israel, has claimed 95% effectiveness for the Pfizer vaccine, based on no deaths and only 4 severe cases out of 523,000 Israelis who have been fully vaccinated. Further evidence of the vaccine's effectiveness is that those now being hospitalised are more likely to be young than in the 60+ age group who have been vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Professor Nachman Ash, the coronavirus 'czar', has annouced that much of the economy will be able to re-open from February 25, urging businesses to "hang on", with the R rate declining to just 0.88, the lowest in three months. In the past week, travel restrictions have been removed and 20% of pupils are now back in school. However, it has also been reported that anti-vaxxers may not benefit from the relaxations, with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein favouring severe restrictions against those who have refused the chance to be vaccinated. This appears to have the support of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has been quoted as saying "whoever doesn't vaccinate endangers us all".
Despite El Al becoming the first airline in the world to vaccinate all staff members, it is not clear when Ben Gurion Airport will re-open. Currently closed to all but emergency flights, it is due to open on 21 February but there has been speculation that it could be delayed. A dispute, meanwhile, has opened up with the Biden administration, which is demanding that US airlines should have the right to participate in the emergency flights.
With, B''H, the tide seeming to have turned on coronavirus, Israel has fallen slightly to 15th on the list of tests per million people (1,234,891), compared with the UK in 16th place (1,189.955) with the disputed territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza remaining in 95th place (207,139).
After last week's rise, Israel remains in 52nd place in the list of deaths per million people (582 per million). This is still well below the UK in 5th place with 1,717 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 371 deaths per million people and which remains in 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.