Israel to begin easing lockdown after one of the world’s most successful Covid vaccination drives

Credit: AP

Israel is to begin slowly easing its latest Covid lockdown on Sunday, with the hope its highly praised vaccination programme helps to contain any outbreak accelerated by new variants.

As rules relax, people will no longer have to remain within 1km of home, national parks will reopen and restaurants can offer takeaways. Private workplaces can also reopen.

Israel has launched one of the world’s most successful vaccination drives, with more than a third of its population of 9.3 million receiving the jab in a matter of weeks.

The country has faced criticism, however, for failing to extend vaccinations to Palestine - who say the occupying Israelis have a legal obligation to do so.

A medic administers a Moderna vaccine to a fellow medic during a campaign to vaccinate frontline medical workers in Bethlehem. Credit: AP

The move to ease restrictions comes despite the rate of new cases in Israel still high, in part because of more contagious variants from the UK and South Africa.

The country has been reporting some 7,000 new infections a day - one of the highest in the developed world.

Nearly 5,000 people have died, more than a quarter of them in January alone.

There have been three nationwide lockdowns since the start of the pandemic.

Israel has been accused of ignoring the Palestinians when it comes to vaccines. Credit: AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is urging Israelis to get vaccinated, with a particular focus on people over 50.

The rate of vaccinations has slowed recently, with some apparent hesitancy among Arab citizens, ultra-Orthodox Jews and younger people.