It’s like traveling to another planet. I can not believe it. There things are so bad and here normality has already returned. Amazing. Another planet, another world ”, Lorenzo walks the streets of the Mahane Yehuda market with a face mixed with happiness and disbelief. He has just returned from Argentina to Jerusalem, just this Sunday, the day on which the mandatory use of the mask in open spaces is lifted.
Ever since the Ministry of Health announced the end of this restriction on Thursday, people wanted the moment to come and, when it did, the first moments were of uncertainty. Lorenzo’s happiness contrasted with Zvi’s prudence, who continued to use a handkerchief to cover his mouth and nose because “we are going to need time to lose our fear, especially in highly frequented places such as markets. For now, I will continue to cover myself.
Vendors in the mythical market in the western part of the city, a traditional Likud fiefdom, had no doubts when it came to talking about the “miracle” of vaccination in Israel and pointing to ‘Bibi’ (an affectionate nickname for Benyamin Netanyahu) as “the savior.” “Thanks to him we have gotten the vaccines and we have removed the masks,” he says.
of the 9.3 million inhabitants of Israel have already been immunized since December.
- Unquestionable numbers.
Since the peak of the pandemic in January there have been 87% fewer deaths and 98% fewer cases
- Negative exception.
Success contrasts with the situation in the Palestinian territories, mercilessly hit by the third wave
The change in the regulations comes after four months of a massive vaccination campaign that has managed to reduce daily infections from 10,000 to less than two hundred. The Minister of Health, Yuli Edelstein, was in charge of advancing the measure and pointed out that “the infection rate is very low and this allows a relaxation of the restrictions. I ask, however, that a mask continue to be worn indoors. Together we will keep the infection rate low.
The vaccination campaign began on December 19 with the first dose of Pfizer administered to the prime minister himself. Netanyahu is a politician whose perseverance has been key to the success of the campaign. Of the 9.3 million inhabitants, 5.3 have already been immunized “and we estimate that another 10% have overcome the disease and generated antibodies. The vaccine works and we couldn’t have nine million people wearing outdoor masks when the infections are less than two hundred a day, “says Professor Eyal Leshem, Sheba Medical Center (SMC).
His colleague Eran Segal, from the Weizmann Institute, another of the voices with strong weight in the media since the outbreak of the pandemic, took to social networks to share his idea that “we return to life pre-Covid.” Segal reviewed the data from recent months in Israel on his Twitter account, where “since the peak of the pandemic in mid-January, there have been 98% fewer cases, 93% fewer patients in critical condition and 87% fewer deaths, 85% of 16-year-olds have been vaccinated or have overcome the disease and are immune. It is time to lift the restrictions.
The three national confinements and the closure of borders were not enough to control a virus that has so far left 6,316 dead. The vaccine is the key that explains the return to normality and some experts point out that it is close to group immunity. Professor Cyrille Cohen, from the University of Bar-Ilan, defends in the newspaper ‘The Jerusalem Post’ that “it is close because even after so many openings like those of Purim and Pesach (the Jewish Holy Week), the reproduction rate of the virus has remained between 0.7 and 0.8 ». When R, the reproduction rate, is below 1, the disease is considered to be in recession.
The pandemic forced Ido Kappach to change businesses. The head of Jerusalem Tours, one of the busiest agencies in the city, now sells flowers and came waiting for the authorities to reopen the borders to vaccinated foreign tourists. «Leaving the mask is very good news. Now the next step should be to allow tourism to return, yes, all vaccinated and with the Green Pass that certifies immunity, “says Kappach from inside his office, in the middle of Yafa Street. The Ministry of Tourism reported that as of May 23, the first groups, made up of vaccinated travelers, will be able to travel. The border closure has been in place for months and only Israelis or residents were allowed access to the country. The objective of this measure was to prevent the entry of new strains of the virus.
Another challenge is to guarantee the arrival of more doses of Pfizer, which guarantee immunization in the event that a third vaccine is necessary. At this moment there is a shipment of 700,000 doses frozen by the laboratory due to a non-payment problem generated by political disputes when preparing the national budget.
Palestinian hospitals collapsed
The success of vaccination in Israel contrasts with the situation in the Palestinian territories, where the third wave hits hard and for the first time since the start of the pandemic, hospitals are collapsing. Israel has donated 2,000 Moderna vaccines to the Palestinian National Authority and immunized 110,000 Palestinian workers who every day cross the wall or enter West Bank settlements – also with Moderna – but has shown no willingness to assist in inoculation in the occupied territories.
A mid-January report by the United Nations Human Rights Commission criticized Tel Aviv’s strategy, stating that the vaccination campaign “must include Palestinians living under its occupation”, calling the difference “morally and legally unacceptable.” in access to medical care in the midst of the worst health crisis of the century ”. The Jewish State defends itself by saying that, according to the Oslo Accords, the competence in health matters in Gaza and the West Bank belongs to the ANP. An argument rejected by the UN and the main human rights organizations present in the region.
“The non-vaccination of the Palestinians, however, is not affecting this side of the wall as we thought at the beginning and this shows that there is not so much direct contact between us. From a medical point of view, I believe that everything possible must be done to ensure that they receive the vaccine, but from an epidemiological point of view, the risk is not that high and this is confirmed by the statistics, ”says Professor Leshem when referring to the contrast in the vaccination process on both sides of the wall.
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