Discussing COVID

July 15, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce facilitated a zoom meeting of two leaders in the fight against COVID, Australia’s Professor Paul Kelly and Israel’s Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis, the head of public health services in the Health Ministry.

Michelle Blum, Professor Paul Kelly, Charles Coorey and Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis

Professor Kelly said that there has been hardly any COVID here stating that Canberra had gone for 367 days without a case. “We are starting from a different base than Israel.”

He said that Australia has never had more than 20 patients in critical care at any time whereas Israel has had 1200.

He told Dr Alroy-Preis Australia is “not anywhere near the levels of vaccination rollout that Israel is currently ”

Professor Kelly said that Australia will reach 10 million doses this week.  He commented: “So we’re we’re certainly progressing and in our older and more vulnerable groups. The vaccination coverage, at least a first dose is actually very high and is 70%. So that’s approaching levels, which will good protection in that age group.”

He reports that the younger age groups are lagging behind a bit, that’s partly because we haven’t really opened totally the vaccination to the under-forties.

Asked about  Australia implement the green passport as Israel uses. He replied: “I suspect that some of the ideas like the green passport will be one of the ones that we will test.”

He pointed out that in the modelling there would need political, and social acceptance.

He said: “But at the moment we do not have that degree of flexibility, I think at the moment, our plan is very clearly is agreed in the national cabinet that we will keep this very low rate of infection close to zero as possible. And then when we get to that point. we can move on.”

The advanced vaccine rollout such as Israel’s means they’re able to make these decisions that are different. The elderly population, who have seen their friends or family affected by COVID, often fatally, are very highly motivated to get the vaccine and they’re very highly motivated to protect themselves. And as we’ve seen in Israel, in the UK, where the vaccination is rolling out, they are already seeing a large drop in cases.

Moderated Charles Coorey asked Dr Alroy-Preis about the possibility of a third vaccination for certain Israelis.

Dr Alroy-Preis said that vulnerable Israelis including those who have had transplants will be among those who will get a third vaccination. She said: “So it’s really complex. What we’re doing right now from this week is giving a third jab only to immunocompromised patients.”

The two COVID experts also spoke about the problem of returning Australians and Israelis.

Dr Alroy-Preis pointed out: “I think international travel has been one of the biggest challenges for us in the past year. At the beginning, the borders were closed. And so with the first disease wave was really minimal. It was easy, but after that, when the borders opened, we had a huge challenge of who travels where to and what do they do when they come back? Can we enforce isolation we tried at some point to get to a hotel quarantine by the state to from specific countries and then we got to plan to a place where we had people who are applying to be to be removed from the list of the hotel quarantine because they were sick because they were elderly.

She said that Israel had a list of no-go countries. She said:  “In the past month, we were also able to enforce no travel to those places if you don’t have approval. It has been a challenge. From our perspective, following the vaccination campaign we had four confirmed cases a day.  Just to give the perspective, at the highest disease point, we had 10,000 cases a day. So we got to a place where we had four confirmed cases. And then all this disease coming from international travel started. And now we’re about we have about four 450 cases a day. Most of them are community spread, not international. So that is the biggest challenge.”

Professor spoke about the reduction of visitors being allowed into Australia.

He said: “We have full trust that people who have been vaccinated in Australia will have been vaccinated with a vaccine we know is safe and effective and good quality.

And we’ll have a designated proof of that vaccine. At the moment, we don’t have that sort of level of confidence or any other country.

But we’re looking for ways that we can link up with as many countries as we can in the world which have something similar to our digitized records. If we  have that proof of vaccination, it will open up a whole lot of possibilities, but we’re not there yet.

It was a difficult decision to decrease the numbers coming across the border at the moment. It was really to take the pressure off our hotel quarantine system. We’re really concentrating on the vaccination rollout.”

The reduction of inbound travellers will be a temporary thing according to Professor Kelly. He ended by saying: “We hope soon to be able to increase those numbers and have that flexibility of quarantine arrangements for those that have been vaccinated here in Australia and later on the rest of the world.”

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