Less than a month after the start of a Covid-19 vaccine booster campaign, Israel sees signs of an impact on the country’s high rates of infection and serious illness fueled by the rapidly spreading Delta variant, according to officials and scientists.
Delta struck Israel in June, just as the country was starting to reap the benefits of one of the world’s fastest vaccine deployments.
With an open economy and most restrictions removed, Israel has gone from single-digit daily infections and zero deaths to around 7,500 daily cases last week, 600 people hospitalized in serious condition and more than 150 people dying over the course of the year. of this single week.
On July 30, it began giving a third dose of the Pfizer / BioNtech vaccine to people over the age of 60, the first country to do so.
On Thursday, he expanded eligibility to people 40 and older whose second dose had been given at least five months previously, saying the age could drop further.
In the past ten days, the pandemic has eased among the first age group, more than one million of whom have received a third dose of the vaccine, according to data from the Israel Ministry of Health.
The rate of spread of the disease among vaccinated people aged 60 and over – known as the reproduction rate – began to decline steadily around August 13 and fell below 1, indicating that every infected person transmits the virus unless someone else is.
A reproduction rate of less than 1 means that an epidemic is decreasing.
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After hitting one of the highest per capita infection rates in the world this month, the question now is whether Israel can extricate itself from a fourth outbreak without imposing another lockdown that would hurt its economy.
Evidence has emerged that although the vaccine is still very effective in preventing serious illness, its protection wanes over time.
But there is no consensus among scientists and agencies that a third dose is needed, and the World Health Organization has said more of the world should be vaccinated with a first. dose before people receive a third dose.
About one million of Israel’s 9.3 million people have so far chosen not to vaccinate at all and children under 12 are still not eligible for vaccines.
Since Delta’s skyrocketing, Israel has reimposed the wearing of indoor masks, restrictions on gatherings, and stepped up rapid testing.
Its “living with Covid” policy will be tested next month, when schools reopen after the summer holidays and when the Jewish holiday season begins, with families traditionally coming together to celebrate.
Australian pandemic panel backs reopening targets despite Sydney epidemic
Australia can continue with plans to reopen when the country hits 70% to 80% immunization levels, the government’s pandemic modeling adviser has said, although some states have hinted they may not ease restrictions borders if Sydney fails to control its Delta outbreak.
The Melbourne-based Doherty Institute said the country should focus on limiting the number of deaths and hospitalizations from Covid-19, compared to its current strategy of zero cases, when at least 70% of the country’s population over the age of 16 is fully immunized.
“This level of vaccination will make life with the virus easier, as we do with other viruses like the flu,” he said in a statement. “Once we reach 70% immunization coverage, an opening to tens or hundreds of cases per day nationwide is possible.”
Currently, 30% of the adult Australian population has been fully vaccinated while 53% have received at least one dose.
Australia unveiled a four-step plan in July for greater freedom with higher vaccination rates
But the states of Queensland and Western Australia have signaled that they may not honor the deal as drafted when the number of cases in Sydney was much lower.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the concerns of some states over the Sydney epidemic, but said “the lockdowns forever” would do more harm than good for the country.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s 30 cases or 800 cases, the conclusions are the same, and that’s what the Doherty Institute said… we can do it safely and we have to do it,” he said. Mr. Morrison told Nine News.
Australia has suffered less from the coronavirus pandemic than many other developed countries with around 44,600 cases and 984 deaths. But a third wave of Delta variant infections has plunged Sydney and Melbourne, its largest cities and the capital Canberra into a multi-week lockdown.
A total of 753 cases have been reported in New South Wales, up from 818 yesterday, although daily infections continue to linger at record levels. Seventy-four deaths have been reported from the latest outbreak, although the death rate has slowed from last year.
New Zealand to skip Paralympic Games opening ceremony amid virus fears
The New Zealand Paralympic team has said it will not attend today’s opening ceremony in Tokyo due to coronavirus safety fears as infections rise in the Japanese capital.
Organizers have so far reported 161 Paralympic Games-related Covid-19 cases, mostly among staff and contractors living in Japan, but also including six athletes.
Paralympics New Zealand said its athletes will not take part in the opening ceremony, where two standard bearers usually lead their teammates into the Olympic stadium.
“Our team will not be present as we continue our commitment to our Covid-19 operating principles and guidelines, aimed at keeping our team as safe as possible,” he said in a statement.
Instead of designating flag bearers, two athletes will be given symbolic “leadership roles”.
Throughout the pandemic, New Zealand has pursued a ‘zero Covid’ elimination strategy, resulting in just 26 deaths in a population of five million.
But a nationwide lockdown is currently in place to curb the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, after a cluster of viruses severed a six-month streak with no local case.
New Zealand is the only one of 162 Paralympic delegations to have confirmed that they will skip the evening ceremony, International Paralympic Committee spokesperson Craig Spence told reporters.
“We have to respect the decision,” he said, adding that team leader Fiona Allan had told him that despite strict countermeasures against viruses, they wanted to be “super safe”.
There are 32 Paralympians in the New Zealand squad, according to Tokyo 2020.
Some other countries and territories have reduced the number of representatives at the ceremony for a variety of reasons, including Covid-19 and heat issues.
The virus situation in Japan worsened significantly in the weeks following the opening ceremony of the July 23 Olympics, with the country recording more than 25,000 daily infections on multiple occasions over the past week.
Hawaii Governor Urges Visitors To Stay Away Amid COVID Outbreak
Hawaii Governor David Ige has urged residents and visitors to restrict travel to the U.S. state to essential business activities amid an increase in Covid-19 cases on the islands.
The governor highlighted restrictions on restaurant capacities and limited access to rental cars and said those who choose to visit the islands will not be able to enjoy a typical Hawaii vacation.
“We are seeing more Covid patients in our hospitals and intensive care is filling up,” he said, adding that the state was working on expanding health facilities.
The governor said he supported Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s announcement to restrict indoor gatherings to ten and outdoor gatherings to 25.
So far, 62% of the state’s population has been fully immunized. Mr Ige urged others to get vaccinated as soon as possible after full clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine.
The latest request comes after the governor reimposed Covid-19 restrictions earlier in the month limiting social gatherings as the Delta variant of the coronavirus pushed cases and hospitalizations in the United States to a six-month high.