Vaccination centres are winding down and infections continue to fall as country reopens

At the peak of Israels Covid vaccination drive, the halls of a huge basketball arena in Jerusalem were filled with people, each anxiously waiting up to two hours until their number was called. More than 3,000 people a day were being vaccinated here in January.
On Monday, no more than 15 people lingered around long rows of empty chairs. Some barely had time to sit down before they were called to receive a jab. They wait about 10 seconds, said Shani Luvaton, the head nurse at the vaccination centre. She only uses half her booths for just a few hundred people a day.
Among the adult population, only vaccine-hesitant stragglers, roughly 1 million people, are yet to be inoculated. Everyone who wanted to get vaccinated has already come, said Luvaton.
Behind her workstation, boxes of syringes and disposable gloves have been piled up in a kiosk that used to sell snacks to people attending games. Special fridges containing the Pfizer/BioNTech vials sit under signs that offer deals for mustard-covered hotdogs and Coca-Cola.
Fast food may be sold here again very soon. On some days during the past two weeks, the vaccination centre had to close early because basketball games with limited crowd sizes have restarted. The country is slowly getting back to life, said Luvaton.
Israel, which has run the worlds fastest Covid vaccination campaign, may be reaching a point other countries take months or years to get to: an endgame scenario for the pandemic.
The country of 9 million people has administered both shots to more than half its population and infection rates have consistently dropped. That has continued even though daily life has returned almost completely to a pre-pandemic situation.
Israelis sit at a restaurant in Tel Aviv last month. Photograph: Corinna Kern/Reuters
In January, during the countrys third and most intense wave of Covid-19, there were 10,000 confirmed infections a day at one point. But now the total number of active cases is less than that figure. According to health ministry statistics, fewer than 130 new infections were confirmed on Sunday.
Eran Segal, a computational biologist at Israels Weizmann Institute, said in a presentation to the Stanford department of medicine that Israels coronavirus death rate had dropped by more than 90% since the mid-January peak.
He compared what happened after Israels second wave last year before vaccines were available with the third wave this year, which occurred while the country was vaccinating.
After a lockdown during the second wave, infection rates soon increased and never dropped until another lockdown was imposed. But after the third wave, the effect of the vaccines kicked in, he said. The R number (the growth of infections) has since dropped to its lowest level in the pandemic, he said, even though the economy is more open than it has been for a year.
Covid cases in Israel graph
Entry to gyms, hotels, theatres and concerts is available to people who have a green pass, an app that proves people have been fully inoculated or have presumed immunity after contracting the disease.
In the coastal city of Tel Aviv, beaches have been packed for the Passover holiday. When the sun sets, thousands of people head to bars and restaurants. While indoor locations are supposed to scan peoples green pass, which has a QR code, many bars appear to assume their customers are immunised.
The green pass, launched last month and eyed as a potential strategy by countries such as Britain, has been credited with helping motivate unvaccinated Israelis to get the jab. At the Jerusalem arena, Avishag Buskila, 26, said the app was why she finally decided to do so.
My parents were divided. My dad got vaccinated three months ago but my mum wanted to wait and see, she said. Buskila, a law student, said she wanted to wait, but her university campus will open next week to students with green passes and she did not want to miss out.
If Im not vaccinated, I cant go back to school. Im sorry I didnt do it earlier.
If clinical trials show it is safe for under-16s to get vaccinated, Israel is expected to start inoculating that demographic. However, with the vast majority of at-risk and older people already immunised and infection rates steadily dropping, the sense of urgency is lessening.