Israel starts reopening as COVID-vaccinated population nears 50%

JACK GUEZ / AFP

Israel reopened swathes of its economy on Sunday in what it called the start of a return to routine enabled by a COVID-19 vaccination drive that has reached almost half the population.

While shops were open to all, access to leisure sites like gyms and theatres was limited to vaccinees or those who have recovered from the disease with presumed immunity, a so-called "Green Pass" status displayed on a special Health Ministry app.

Social distancing measures were still in force. Dancing was barred at banquet halls, and synagogues, mosques or churches were required to halve their normal number of worshippers.

Coming exactly a year after Israel's first documented coronavirus case, Sunday's easing of curbs is part of a government plan to open the economy more widely next month, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is up for reelection.

Israel has administered at least one dose of the Pfizer Inc vaccine to more than 45 per cent of its 9 million population, the Health Ministry says. The two-shot regimen has reduced COVID-19 infections by 95.8 per cent, ministry data showed.

The country has logged more than 740,000 cases and 5,500 deaths from the illness, prompting criticism of the Netanyahu government's sometimes patchy enforcement of three national lockdowns. It has pledged that there will not be a fourth.

Elementary schoolers and pupils in the last two years of high school attended classes on Sunday in Israeli towns found to have contagion rates under control. Middle schoolers are due back by next month, after almost a year of remote learning.

More from International

Coming Up on Dubai Eye

  • Nights on Dubai Eye 103.8

    6:00am - 7:00am

    Dubai Eye complements the conversation with the music you love from the eighties, nineties and newer.

  • The Best of Dubai Eye 103.8

    7:00am - 1:00pm

    Hear the highlights from the week gone by on Dubai Eye 103.8. Listen again to the best interviews, advice and the top stories that has gripped our conversation this week.

BUSINESS BREAKFAST LATEST

On Dubai Eye

  • Honouring Kian's life

    Goli lost her five-year-old son Kian in a tragic accident on Boxing Day. Today, we honour Kian's memory and send our love to Goli and her family.

  • Combatting COVID-19: Dubai amends travel protocols

    Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis & Disaster Management has announced amendments to travel protocols as part of preventive measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.