The decline of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Israel appeared to continue over the course of this week. The R coefficient, which indicates the spread of the virus, stood at 0.68 on Thursday, which means it is in retreat. Israel registered 50% fewer COVID-19 cases this week than last week.
In people aged 60-years-old and above, who are more susceptible to the virus and who were vaccinated first, there have been 86% fewer cases of infection, 73% fewer critically ill, and 91% fewer deaths since mid-January, when the country experienced the peak of the third wave of infections.
Professor Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science and an expert on COVID-19 in Israel, noted that decline in the virus is seen across all age groups, and this with the economy nearly fully open, including shopping malls and culture events.
He credited Israel’s aggressive vaccination campaign. “How do you come out of lockdown after a major surge? Vaccinate like there’s no tomorrow,” said Prof. Segal.
Over 5,158,000 Israelis have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine to date. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu estimated earlier this month that by the end of April the entire adult population in Israel will be vaccinated.
Still, in private conversations, many Israelis remain skeptical, not of the vaccine, but of the rosy picture suddenly being painted by politicians.
Israel is just days away from its fourth national election in two years, and no one wants to be the politician who continued punishing the economy with draconian coronavirus regulations. So even as experts cautioned against reopening everything too hastily, the politicians paid no heed, and today life in Israel nearly has returned to normal, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been touting in his election campaign.
But will it remain that way? Not a few Israelis have told us that they’re concerned that after the election, Israel could face a return of harsh limitations. By then, the politicians will no longer be vying for votes, and will go from being those who don’t want to be seen as punishing the public, to those who don’t want to be seen as doing too little to curb the pandemic.
In other words, is it all just politics?
With reporting by TPS