UK records 30,838 new coronavirus cases
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The highly infectious Delta variant of coronavirus has been surging across Israel, despite more than 80 percent of the adult population being vaccinated. There are fears the effectiveness of vaccines wears off over time, hence the booster programme.
An extra vaccine dose was originally offered to all those aged over 60, before being extended to younger age groups.
Israeli health experts believe this has caused a slowing in the hospitalisation of over-60s over the past ten days.
Doron Gazit, an Israeli government adviser from Hebrew University, said: “We attribute this to the booster shots and to more cautious behaviour recently.”
A study by the Israeli health ministry found those given a booster jab were four times less likely to catch coronavirus after ten days, as compared to those who’d only received two vaccine doses.
The figures, presented by vaccine experts last week, found a third jab decreases the number of serious illness cases amongst the over-60s by a factor of five to six.
However, full details of the study are yet to be publicly released.
Israel has one of the most advanced vaccination programmes in the world and has adopted a “living with Covid” policy.
The country has largely reopened, with children expected to return to school shortly after the summer break.
However, the Delta surge has led Israel to re-impose indoor mask-wearing requirements and some limitations on socialising.
According to Israel’s health ministry, the R rate for the over-60s has now fallen below one.
This means each over-60 infected with coronavirus passes the disease to an average of less than one person, so the disease is in retreat amongst this age group.
Experts attribute this to the success of the booster jab programme.
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However, the national R rate remains at 1.14, though this is a fall from 1.36 at the start of August.
Israeli health minister Nitzan Horowitz said: “We are optimistic, but very cautious.
“It [booster jabs] gives us more time, slows the spread and we’re moving away from lockdown.”
Dvir Aran, from the Israeli Institute of Technology, warned it will take time for the booster doses to take full effect.
He stated: “It will take a long time until enough people get a third dose and until then thousands more people will get seriously ill.”
The Israeli booster programme, and a similar one in the United States, is raising questions about UK policy.
Coronavirus rates are surging across Britain and could rise further when schools and universities return in autumn.
Despite this, the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is only expected to recommend jabs for the very elderly, and very vulnerable.
On Tuesday the UK recorded another 174 coronavirus deaths, the highest figure since March 12.
A death is counted as coronavirus related if it takes place within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test.
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