Ash: Herd Immunity in Israel Possible With 7 Million People Vaccinated

YERUSHALAYIM -
A medical worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine injection, at a vaccination center in Yerushalayim, March 8. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash said on Monday that Israel could reach herd immunity when at least seven million Israelis are vaccinated against coronavirus.

In an interview with Yediot, Prof. Ash said that all remaining restrictions on movement could be lifted by the summer if the current infection trend continues.

Prof. Ash said that no additional restrictions are expected to be imposed ahead of Pesach. “Festivities this year will be safer due to the high number of inoculated. People will be able to celebrate with their families – up to 20 people indoors and 50 outdoors.”

He admitted that wearing face masks during the Pesach meals would be “unpractical,” but warned that people should still take precautions. “If a family member feels unwell before the chag, he should go get tested, but everybody else should be fine,” he said.

Prof. Ash said Israel might start vaccinating children before the FDA approval and will make a decision on the matter once Pfizer’s trials are completed, which he added are set to end in a month or two.

Prof. Ash added that at this point officials are not planning to increase the number of people who can enter events and restaurants, saying more data is needed to make the decision.

“It is currently not on the table, but it will definitely be mulled over later on, we just want to be cautious and make sure the current exit plan works, especially in facilities intended for Green Pass holders. I have heard reports these places are not adhering to protocol and that is a problem. We will see what the results are, but there are no plans as of now to increase capacities,” he said.

He said, however, that an outline is being drafted to allow Israelis to fly abroad, but added the variables such as quarantine and new COVID variants are complicating the decision-making process.

“As long as we do not have a solution for enforcing quarantine [for travelers], which we are working on, it will be very difficult to open the airport any further,” he said.

“If we’ll have enough electric tracking devices, more people will be able to go on a vacation abroad. I hope that by the summer we will be able to fly again. It also depends on bilateral entry agreements, which we will be able to discuss once the infection rate drops further globally.”