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Israel may have already achieved COVID-19 herd immunity, experts say

About 56 percent of Israel’s 9.2 million citizens are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and another 15 percent have recovered from the disease, putting Israel squarely in herd immunity territory, Israeli public health experts tell the news and travel site Israel21c. Herd immunity, or the point at which enough people in a population have developed antibodies to a disease that non-immune people are protected, is estimated to kick in at about 65 percent to 70 percent with COVID-19, explained Dr. Eyal Leshem at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, the country’s largest hospital.

“We’re seeing a decline in the number of cases now despite the return to mass gatherings and schools following the third lockdown, because most of the people the infected person will meet are immune by now,” Leshem said. Israel has an aggressive, very successful immunization program, but children aren’t yet vaccinated and neither are all adults, so it isn’t out of the woods entirely.

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Currently, Israel is closed to most non-citizens, and when tourism resumes, “Israel is expected to be a very safe place for travelers because of our lower risk of transmission,” Leshem told Israel21c. As long as travelers are fully vaccinated or test negative for the virus, tourism will have “a reasonable risk-benefit balance” for Israel, too, but “there are no magic tricks here,” he added. “If unvaccinated people travel without full quarantine and testing, we will increase the risk of reintroducing the disease to Israel.”