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Israel reopens economy after vaccinating nearly 40% of population

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By Euronews with AP
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Women sit in a caffe-bar overlooking the Mediterranean Sea as restrictions are eased following months of shutdowns, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, March 7, 2021
Women sit in a caffe-bar overlooking the Mediterranean Sea as restrictions are eased following months of shutdowns, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, March 7, 2021   -   Copyright  Ariel Schalit/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Israel, a world leader in vaccinations per capita, reopened most of its economy on Sunday.

The Middle Eastern country has vaccinated nearly 40% of its population in just over two months.

The easing of restrictions comes after months of shutdowns and less than three weeks before the country's fourth parliamentary elections in just two years.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government approved the easing of limitations on Saturday night, including the reopening of the main international airport to a limited number of incoming passengers each day.

Bars and restaurants, event halls, sporting events, hotels and all primary and secondary schools could reopen with some restrictions in place on the number of people in attendance.

Certain places are opening to the vaccinated only.

Israel has confirmed at least 800,000 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and 5,861 deaths, according to the Health Ministry.

Netanyahu campaigning for re-election

Netanyahu is campaigning for reelection as Israel's coronavirus vaccine champion at the same time that he is on trial for corruption.

Over 52% of Israel's population of 9.3 million has received one dose and almost 40% two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

After striking a deal to obtain large quantities of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines in exchange for medical data, Israel has distributed over 8.6 million doses since launching its vaccination campaign in late December.

Yet Israel's unemployment rate remains high. As of January, 18.4% of the workforce was out of work because of the pandemic, according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics.

Few vaccines provided for Palestinians

Israel has faced criticism for not sharing significant quantities of its vaccine stockpiles with the Palestinians.

On Friday, Israel postponed plans to vaccinate Palestinians who work inside the country and its West Bank settlements until further notice.

Israeli officials have said that its priority is vaccinating its own population first.

The Palestinian Authority has said it would fend for itself in obtaining vaccines from multilateral initiative COVAX.