Israel lifted coronavirus lockdown restrictions this week with its “green passport” system showing those vaccinated against Covid-19 allowing even indoor facilities such as gyms to reopen.
Vaccine passports are being actively considered by leaders in England and Scotland and all eyes are on the Israeli model following its rapid rollout of jabs meaning that more than half of its population has now received at least one dose.
Israel has used the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and analysts are treating the country as the first population-wide efficacy study. Figures this week show that this vaccine is almost 96 percent effective in preventing hospitalisation and death.
A dramatic fall in serious illness has led to shops, libraries, museums, shopping arcades and outdoor visitor attractions such as zoos reopening, albeit with visitors still required to wear masks and keep their distance.
In addition, ministers announced that gyms, hotels, cinemas, swimming pools and synagogues could reopen to people carrying a green passport – a certificate contained within an app, which is given to those who have been fully vaccinated.
In a system that may be replicated in the UK, Israelis get a green passport one week after their second jab, and it is valid for six months. The country is currently vaccinating its over-50s, a process it expects to complete in ten days’ time.
Ministers said life was returning to normal, but not all public infrastructure has reopened. Israel’s airports remain closed to all but emergency flights and freight, while sporting events are still allowed only very limited spectator numbers.
It comes as Israeli authorities doubled down on the safety of vaccines for expectant mothers after a pregnant 32-year-old woman died from the disease.
Osnat Ben-Shitrit, who was otherwise healthy, was in the late stages of pregnancy when she was hospitalised with Covid-19 last week. Despite treatment she died in Jerusalem, as did her baby, who was delivered prematurely.
Around 50 other Israeli women are currently hospitalised with Covid-19 and officials say 70 percent of pregnant Israelis are awaiting vaccination or have declined the jab.
Medics say it is far more dangerous for both mother and baby if the pregnant woman avoids vaccination, but they are battling misinformation about vaccines causing miscarriage or infertility, which is being pushed through social media.
Ben-Shitrit’s brother told Israel’s public broadcaster that he had operated an anti-vaccination Facebook page, only disabling it after his sister died.
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