Israel may have reached “a sort of herd immunity” and can safely ease further restrictions, a top expert said Saturday.
With over 4.9 million Israelis fully vaccinated, the number of daily coronavirus cases has plummeted by 97 percent, Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, told Channel 12.
“It is possible that Israel has reached a sort of herd immunity and regardless, we have a wide safety net,” Segal said. “I think that makes it possible to remove some of the restrictions immediately.”
Segal underlined that with most Israelis immunized, the reopening of swathes of the economy and gatherings over the Purim and Passover holidays did not contribute to a spike in cases.
If confirmed, Israel could be the first country in the world to hit the milestone of herd immunity.
Last week, researchers at University College London said the United Kingdom would reach herd immunity by Friday, though the claim was immediately disputed.
Israel in recent months has significantly rolled back coronavirus restrictions by opening businesses, event venues and other activities, as morbidity levels have dropped amid the country’s world-leading vaccination drive.
The Health Ministry is widely expected to lift the outdoor mask mandate this month.
Some caps on gatherings and in schools remain in effect, however.
Israel also currently limits the number of people who can enter and exit the country each day, fearing the spread of variants that could undermine the effective vaccination program.
Government ministers on Thursday voted to further ease coronavirus restrictions at schools, scrapping the requirement that fourth graders learn in smaller class sizes. Ministers also ended the requirement for students to present a health declaration signed by their parents to enter the classroom, while allowing universities and colleges to hold all tests in-person.
Under the existing health rules, 100 people are allowed to gather outdoors, and 20 indoors. Cultural venues are allowed to host up to 750 people under the Green Pass program, which is given to those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus, granting them entry to public venues not open to others.
As of Saturday, there were 4,002 active coronavirus cases in the country, 221 of which were diagnosed on Friday. The Health Ministry said 268 people are in serious condition. The death toll stood at 6,292. According to the ministry, over 5.3 million Israelis have received the first dose of the vaccine, and 4.9 million were administered both doses.