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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 February 2021

Israel begins to reopen after nearly half of the population receive Covid-19 vaccine

The country has administered at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to more than 45 per cent of its nine million population

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, centre, and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, second right, visit a fitness centre before the reopening of gyms in the Israeli city of Petah Tikva on February 20, 2021. AFP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, centre, and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, second right, visit a fitness centre before the reopening of gyms in the Israeli city of Petah Tikva on February 20, 2021. AFP

Israel reopened much of its economy on Sunday in what it called the start of a return to routine.

It said the move was enabled by the vaccination against Covid-19 of almost half its population of nine million.

While shops were open to all, access to gyms and theatres was allowed only to those who have taken the vaccine or who have recovered from the disease with presumed immunity, both groups of whom gain “Green Pass” status on a health ministry app.

Social distancing measures were still in force. Dancing at banquet halls was was barred, and places of worship were ordered to halve their congregations.

Sunday’s easing of curbs, exactly a year since Israel’s first documented coronavirus case, is part of a government plan to open the economy more widely next month, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be up for re-election.

Israel has administered at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to more than 45 per cent of its nine million population, its health ministry said.

The two-shot regimen has reduced coronavirus 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 there will not be a fourth.

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

Updated: February 21, 2021 03:39 PM

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