UK minister backs nations with strong vaccine record for no-quarantine green travel list

The UAE, with Israel and Bahrain, has one of the world's most successful vaccination programmes

Nations with successful vaccination and testing programmes are most likely to make it on to the UK's green travel list, the country’s vaccine minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said.

Mr Zahawi said reopening the skies would rest on the ability of nations to prove domestic immunisation programmes against Covid-19 are successful.

Alongside the UK, Israel and Bahrain, the UAE has one of the most successful vaccination programmes in the world, with 8.6 million doses administered in a country of nearly 10 million.

“Clearly there are a number of countries that have done tremendously well, not least Bahrain, Israel, the US and others,” Mr Zahawi said.

In the last days we have recorded zero healthcare workers who are confirmed as covid positive

Dr Khetam Hussein, Rambam Healthcare Campus, Israel

“The vaccine task force is looking at exactly how we are going to move forward with reopening the skies, which is really important.

“Part of that is how we operationalise the ability of our citizens to have a test certificate or a vaccination certificate that the NHS is working on.

“The protocols that we all must adhere to are global and we can bring in other countries as they progress with the vaccination and immunisation of their own nations.”

An updated list of countries with UK travel restrictions is due for release on May 17.

Virgin Atlantic launched a digital travel pass for UK travellers flying to the US to ensure they meet health requirements, while Emirates Airline is preparing to introduce its version of a digital travel pass.

Created by the International Air Transport Association, the free app will provide airports with a passenger’s vaccination and health status.

An Israeli medical worker prepares to administer a Covid-19 vaccine in Jerusalem. Reuters
An Israeli medical worker prepares to administer a Covid-19 vaccine in Jerusalem. Reuters

In Israel, Dr Khetam Hussein, head of the infection control service at the Rambam Healthcare Campus, Haifa, said its third wave of infections hit more pregnant women and younger adults than previous outbreaks.

“It has been a tough year but we have learnt a lot,” said Dr Khetam, who treated patients in critical condition in the most recent wave of infections.

“We are seeing the end of the epidemic, or at least it [is] becoming easier for us.

“In the last days, we recorded zero healthcare workers who are confirmed as Covid-19 positive.”

Israel is a beacon of hope for the region in its battle to contain infections and return to some sense of normality.

More than five million people have had at least one dose of the vaccine, with 4,839,838 people fully vaccinated.

Since the first case was recorded in Israel, there have been four national lockdowns and three waves of the virus, with new mutations for medics to contend with.

Minority communities, where vaccine hesitancy is traditionally higher, also showed a positive uptake to the national immunisation programme.

About 84 per cent of people over 50 years old in the Arab population were vaccinated, while 74 per cent of the Haredi community in the same age group received some protection.

“We have had to deal with a lot of fake news,” Dr Hussein said.

“It was very hard for us to convince the Arab and religious Jewish community about vaccines [being beneficial].”

So far, more than half the country has received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Hamad Al Mahmeed, from the Bahrain Ministry of Interior, ran the operations room with medical experts to lead the nation’s response to the pandemic.

Mr Al Mahmeed said keeping Covid-19 patients separate from regular hospital patients helped to reduce infections.

“In January 2020, we set up a war room but it did not feel like it was needed at the time because we had no cases in Bahrain,” he said.

“It was a cohesive response, and we ran a system in parallel to the existing health system.

“Field hospitals were built exclusively for Covid patients to help us maintain the care for non-Covid patients without interruption.”

A billboard in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, urges people to sign up for a voluntary vaccine. AFP
A billboard in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, urges people to sign up for a voluntary vaccine. AFP

Bahrain has so far conducted 3,651,647 tests, with 148,817 positive cases and 536 deaths.

It has one of the lowest death rates in the world, with fatalities recorded in just 0.4 per cent of people with the virus.

Most of the population has been tested at least once, with an average of 17,000 tests completed every day.

It offers residents the choice of the PfizerBiontech, AstraZeneca, Sputnik V, Sinopharm and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

“We are proud of what we have achieved in our Covid response and our vaccine roll-out,” Mr Al Mahmeed said.

Updated: April 7, 2021 01:14 PM

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