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COVID-19 : Israel buys vaccines from Russia to exchange for prisoners in Syria

Israel would have paid almost one million euros to Russia for the purchase of coronavirus vaccines destined for Syria within the framework of an agreement for the exchange of prisoners between Syria and Israel reached with the mediation of Moscow. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has assured that “Not a single Israeli vaccine” has been included in the deal, but has not denied that it was paid for the Russian vaccines.

Israeli sources cited by the country’s press have reported that 1.2 million dollars (about 990,000 euros) were paid within the agreement for the liberation of an Israeli citizen that entered Syrian soil. Two Syrian pastors imprisoned in Israel are also part of the pact, announced by Netanyahu on Friday.

From the outset, the Israeli press reported that “a central aspect of the agreement” could not be published due to military censorship, which is in force in Israel when it comes to matters of national security. “The issue would be very controversial for the Israeli population,” reported the newspaper ‘The Times of Israel’.

Moscow also reportedly asked for the clause to be secret, and Syrian state media have rejected “false information” about this deal. In Syria the vaccination campaign has not yet started.

However, Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Saturday that “not a single Israeli COVID-19 vaccine has gone to this issue.” “We brought the young woman back and I have thanked President (Vladimir) Putin for that, but I respect Russia’s request not to say anything more,” he said.

Gyms just for vaccinated

“What a joy to be back in training!” With his sports outfit, Tom John went to his gym this Sunday, which reopened, although only for people vaccinated against covid-19. The Israeli government decided as of this Sunday to reopen shopping centers and street shops for the entire population as a whole, within the framework of its third lack of definition since the start of the pandemic.

But other places remain reserved only for people with a “green card”, which means that they have received the second dose of the vaccine for at least a week, or that they have recovered from the disease.

Tom John, in his 30s, logged on to his gym app and entered his “green card,” an online certificate from the Health Ministry that proves in his case that he has received the second dose of the vaccine. Pfizer / BioNTech, as explained to ..

“Click here to download the green card certificate”, our young man, who resumes training in the gym after several months of interruption.

“Everyone here has a green card (…) and I feel safe. In addition, the gym is careful, they clean the equipment, and it is not crowded as usual. There are few people, I feel good, and I am happy to go back to doing sports »he says.

Ora Davidovicz, 90, barely controls her impatience at the door of the gym with a pool, located in the heart of Tel-Aviv.

“I haven’t been to the pool for almost a year, I’m impatient, I was counting the days because I love swimming,” says the woman.

«I have brought my certificate, which shows that I have been vaccinated. Now I just need to put on my swimsuit and go swimming! “

Netanyahu in the gym

In one of the fastest vaccination campaigns against covid-19 in the world, in Israel more than 4.3 million people, 48% of the 9 million who live in the country, have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine since December, and about 2.9 million people have already received the second dose.

Recent Israeli studies put the vaccine’s efficacy at 95% one week after the second dose and 85% between two and four weeks after the first dose.

In sportswear and a black T-shirt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to a gym on Saturday night from Petah Tikva, near Tel-Aviv, and invited the millions of Israelis with a “green card” to go to the places open to vaccinated people.

“Anyone with this green card can go to gyms, cinemas and soon to restaurants and planes,” he declared, urging Israelis to get vaccinated.

Taking into account the duration of the administration of the second dose and the people who have recovered from the disease, the Ministry of Health estimates at 3.2 million people the Israelis who can now obtain this authorization.

After the gyms, restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen their doors from March 7, in this country that had a maximum of 10,000 daily cases in mid-January but which dropped to about 4,000 new daily cases in the actuality.

According to official figures, in Israel more than 747,000 people were infected with covid-19, of which about 5,600 died since the start of the pandemic.

Hoping to limit the spread of the variants, the government in late January banned international flights to and from Israel, with the exception of freighters and a few exceptions.

Flights were expected to resume this weekend but authorities have postponed that deadline to March 6.