Ryan Bourne: Ministers must speed up the pace of vaccination. Here are some ways of doing so.

6 Jan

Ryan Bourne is Chair in Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute.

Back in May 2020, I wrote that a high-efficacy vaccine was the biggest economic stimulus available to us. Removing whatever barriers existed to its approval and rollout, so accelerating the end of the pandemic, was worth billions of pounds per week in GDP and hundreds of lives. Stock market reactions last year implied vaccines were potentially worth 5-15 per cent of global wealth. But it’s now clear there’s a need for even greater urgency in getting the UK vaccinated.

The disease outlook is grim. As of Sunday, the number of people hospitalised with Covid-19 in England was 32 percent higher than its April peak, with new daily admissions above those seen last Spring. In the South East, the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital is near double the 2020 peak. Chris Whitty explained yesterday how case curves are trending upwards in other regions. Given recent trends and mobility data less responsive so far than to lockdown one, things will get worse before they get better.

So a national lockdown was perhaps inevitable. To judge by Twitter, people were gearing up to revive their pro- and anti-lockdown talking points beforehand. But the armchair cost-benefit analysis from Spring 2020, or even November, is no longer valid. First, because we have vaccines already being rolled out that will, at the very least, mitigate against Covid’s worst effects. Second, because the new mutation appears more highly transmissible in the face of given suppression measures. Both realities strengthen the case for reducing interactions now. Both increase the urgency for rapid vaccination.

The benefits of measures that reduce transmission of the disease are more certain with vaccines available. Lockdown sceptics had a point when they said at least some “lives saved” from government mandates last year were deaths deferred until the next wave. Now, with only 20 million full vaccination courses required to inject demographic groups making up 97 per cent of cumulative deaths so far, avoiding infections today means avoiding Covid-19 deaths forever. That makes the case for breaking up social networks all the stronger, including through closing schools (evidence suggests children are seeding the virus into households).

The high transmissibility of the new strain supports this action. A more rapidly spreading virus increases the risk of “overshooting” ICU capacity. Such is the speed of spread (one in 50 people had the virus last week), each day of societal delay in reducing the transmission rate below one accelerates the crunch. So quickly are we becoming infected, herd immunity may even come this year. The choice before us is whether we achieve it through the route strewn with significant deaths and bad illnesses, or via a path where injections eliminate almost all severe cases.

It feels almost lame to say it—as if nobody ever thought of it—but both the public health and economic consequences suggest we must do everything possible to speed up the vaccination process. We are in a straight race between vaccinations and the virus, and I fear even Boris Johnson’s revised timetable is too slow.

In an ideal world, with plentiful vaccines, logistics ready, and vaccines preventing transmission, the best path to herd immunity would be to vaccinate high transmitters first in a geographically concentrated way. However, we do not know whether the vaccines actually reduce transmission yet, and Chris Whitty contends that there will be supply shortages for months. If that is true, prioritising those at highest personal risk, as the government is doing, makes sense.

The UK regulator was admirably swift in vaccine approval. But doses available have been revised down massively since November and it’s not obvious why things aren’t moving faster. Reported vaccinations in week two (through 27 December) were not even half the number of those in week 1. Sure, this was Christmas week, but why not have longer working hours on other days to compensate? With a spreading virus, delay costs lives. Oxford/AstraZeneca’s vaccine was approved last Wednesday. It was not rolled out until Monday. Why? The virus doesn’t take time off to celebrate New Year’s Eve and a bank holiday.

Yesterday, Johnson said that 1.3 million vaccinations had now been undertaken. That’s only around 350,000 in the past eight days – nowhere near fast enough given the balance of costs and benefits. By mid-February, he hopes that 13.4 million first doses will be achieved. That requires two million per week from now until then. Yet even that seems tardy given the costs of lockdowns.

We must be pulling every lever here. Constraints to early roll-outs should have been foreseen. And if there are unforeseen roadblocks, economists would advise that raising the price you are willing to pay encourages supply. If, as reported elsewhere, a lack of vials is really the problem, what incentives are being given to ensure manufacturers work round the clock, seven days per week? Making the activity more profitable increases the willingness to pay overtime, train new workers, and run machines hot. If not vials, identify the production or staffing bottleneck and apply the same logic.

Eliminating barriers to vaccinator volunteers is a no brainer. So it’s heartening that the government is “reviewing” red tape that says vaccinators must be diversity, terrorism, and fire-safety trained. But financial incentives could help too. The NHS is giving GPs an extra £10 for every care home resident they vaccinate this month, which makes sense given 36 per cent of deaths have been in homes. Yet what about financial inducements for extended hours, weekend work, and more?

This would not only help in getting more vaccinations delivered, but potentially space them out a bit too. So prevalent is the virus right now, hordes of people packed into waiting rooms could lead to infections even prior to vaccines being administered. Is anyone establishing drive-through or outdoor sites, as seen in Israel?

Nor can we afford wasted vaccines. The zero out-of-pocket price means no penalty for people or providers for missed shots. With the possibility of vaccines wasted or appointments missed, GPs, hospital workers, and (hopefully) pharmacies should have the decentralised authority to administer them to “ineligible” individuals without the threats of repercussions to avoid waste. A vaccine dose to someone is better than no one. Let’s not sacrifice lives on the altar of “fairness.”

The Government’s “first doses first” policy shows that Ministers understand inoculating more people sooner is essential, even with a potential efficacy trade-off. But this strategy only helps in the medium-term if the supply is ramped up. The economy and the public health effort require getting the manufacture, logistics, and physical delivery expanded in the swiftest time possible. It’s not easy, but the language from government sometimes treats the stated constraints fatalistically, rather than seeing them as an economic problem that prices, incentives, and regulations could affect.

Daniel Hannan: Britain is utterly skint. We must use our post-EU freedom to grow ourselves out of this mess.

6 Jan

Daniel Hannan is a writer and columnist. He was a Conservative MEP from 1999 to 2020, and is now President of the Initiative for Free Trade.

Remainers were right after all. Almost every catastrophe they predicted has come about. Our economy has collapsed, unemployment is rising, several countries have closed their borders to us, civil liberties have been suspended and lorries have piled up in Kent. We have seen empty shelves and angry protesters and even (in East Africa) a plague of locusts.

True, none of these things happened as a result of our leaving the EU. Indeed, January 1 saw a smooth flow of traffic at the Channel ports – in marked contrast to the previous week when, still under EU law during the transition period, hundreds of mainly Eastern European drivers were trapped in Kent by France’s border closures. Still, however you cut it, we are in a worse place than anyone could have imagined a year ago.

These various catastrophes were, of course, supposed to be triggered by what Opposition politicians used to call (as if it were a single noun) “a-disastrous-no-deal-Brexit”. It is already becoming hard to remember how widely that outcome was expected. Several Conservative MPs, some of them good and sensible people, left their party because they did not believe that Boris Johnson would sign an agreement with the EU. In the event, he came back with the most comprehensive trade deal that the EU has with any sovereign country.

That gain, though, is insignificant next to the cost of Covid and its associated lockdowns – costs which, through a tranche of bad luck and a sprinkling of bad judgment, are higher for Britain than for almost any other country.

Eleven months of bad economic news have dulled our sensitivity to big numbers. Still, it cannot be repeated to often: we are utterly skint. The first lockdown caused a sharper contraction than any comparable period during the Great Depression or the two world wars. We have not yet had the chance to assess the cost of the second. Now we are in a third. The economist Julian Jessop reckons that every month of lockdown costs around £18 billion – 10 per cent of our GDP.

How are we going to recover? It may sound obvious, even trite, but the only way out of a mess like this is growth. The primary purpose of economic policy for the next five years should be to generate revenue. That doesn’t mean that we give up on improving public services, improving the environment, levelling up and all the rest. It simply means acknowledging the reality: without money in the kitty, these other things are impossible.

What can governments do to stimulate growth? They can stop putting barriers between businesses and their customers. Some of those obstacles are fiscal. Countries with lower, flatter and simpler taxes tend, other things being equal, to grow faster than countries with higher and more distortive taxes. We need to cut some taxes and suspend others – especially, in the short term, taxes on investment and employment.

Then there are the regulatory barriers – everything from planning restrictions that inflate the cost of housing to staff ratio rules that give us the most expensive childcare in Europe. I could fill a longer article than this one simply by listing them. Consider, as just one subsection, the EU laws we can now disapply: the Temporary Workers’ Directive, the REACH Directive, the End of Life Vehicles Directive, the droit de suite rules and other regulations that hurt London’s fine arts market, the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive, chunks of MiFID II, GDPR, the bans on GM.

Even as I ran through that list, you will have spotted the problem. A consequence of the pandemic has been to make voters around the world, including here, more authoritarian, more dirigiste, more demanding of state intervention.

It is hard enough in normal times to make the case for smaller government. Every privatisation is unpopular until it happens. Every regulation calls into existence a tribe of beneficiaries who arrange their affairs around it. But the perception of a common threat, as any psychologist will tell you, makes us even more collectivist and change-averse.

Our reaction may be irrational and atavistic, but it is no less real for that. If we were looking at the past year logically, we would see that the private sector often succeeded where state bureaucracies failed. PHE, Ofqual, NHS procurement and a hundred other agencies were unable to discharge their basic functions. But Tesco kept its shelves full, Amazon expanded to meet our demand and Pfizer found a vaccine.

The trouble is that we rarely think logically in a crisis. We instead fall back our Stone Age instincts, turning inwards, sticking to our tribe and demanding strong leadership. There might be a perfectly rational case to the effect that, for example, rising unemployment and falling wages make it impossible to keep increasing the minimum wage. But find me a politician who is prepared, in the current climate, to articulate that case. There might be an argument that a diminished private sector cannot continue to fund the public sector as though nothing had happened, and that the pain of lower wages should be spread. But, again, find me any MP who is prepared to explain that there is no money to Give Our NHS Heroes A Pay Rise.

We have won the right to make different decisions outside the EU. But the Coronavirus has diminished our appetite to exercise that right, just as it has made the need for reform more urgent.

Still, one way or another, change is coming. To succeed outside the EU, we need to be fitter, leaner and more globally engaged. The only question is whether we make the necessary decision now, or whether we wait to have our hand forced by economic reality.

Louie French: We need to ensure our pubs and clubs survive the winter

5 Jan

Cllr Louie French is the Deputy Leader of Bexley Council. He was the Conservative candidate for Eltham in the 2019 General Election.

As we leave the nightmare year that was 2020, we must learn lessons from the pandemic. Understandably, the immediate focus of policymakers and people across the country are on how we contain the latest spike in cases, protect the most vulnerable in our society, and ensure that the NHS has the capacity to treat patients. Improvements in the evidence base and testing should help inform decision-making, alongside the rapid rollout of vaccinations.

However, we must not lose sight of the negative externalities and wider impact of Covid related restrictions, particularly as we look to the future and what we want our country to look like post Brexit and the virus.

For many of us, a safe return to our local pub, bar, sports or social club will be high on our Christmas wish list given the limitations of interacting socially online. Try to picture the scene in springtime. The government, NHS and scientists have successfully vaccinated the most vulnerable members of society, infection rates and restrictions are much lower, the economy is rebounding strongly and the sunnier days are encouraging more people to return to their local. Perhaps for a glass of English wine with old friends, Sunday lunch with family or a post-match drink with teammates ahead of a sizzling summer of sporting events.

But for this to become a reality, we need to act now to ensure they survive the winter and people have jobs to return to once furlough ends.

Whilst the majority of businesses have faced significant headwinds in 2020 and calls for help are likely to grow in January, few sectors have been hit as hard as hospitality and leisure, especially local pubs and clubs throughout the year. With the first round of government support grants and greater flexibility for use of outdoor spaces, many businesses spent thousands to make their premises as Covid-secure as possible for re-opening. They then adapted their business models as local restrictions changed, were asked to close in November, and after a short period of stocking up on scotch eggs and serving substantial meals in December, were asked to close their doors again at one of the busiest trading times of the year.

Despite additional funding of £1,000 for wet led pubs and support grants for businesses required to close, industry analysis estimates that an average sized pub is losing approximately £600 each week while closed. Evidently, an unsustainable situation for many indebted business owners.

In Bexley, we have listened very carefully to our local business networks and conducted our own economic analysis of where extra support is urgently needed and could be targeted beyond the existing national grant schemes this winter. Unsurprisingly, the hospitality industry, particularly pubs and clubs that make most of their revenues behind the bar and through events, were high on the risk of closures and the subsequent negative impacts on our communities and local economy.

Consequently, we took the decision that we needed to act, and as part of the additional restrictions grant funding provided to local councils by the government to support a range of businesses, we have used our discretion to launch a special winter support scheme of approximately £1 million for local independent pubs, bars and licensed sports and social clubs to apply.

The top-up grants range between £6,000 and £14,000 (depending on the size of the business) and we expect to help over a hundred pubs, bars and clubs. These include local cricket, football, rugby and tennis clubs across Bexley, which highlights that this support scheme is about much more than a drinking culture.

Pubs and a variety of clubs now offer vital community spaces, which are often family-friendly and even before Covid, were providing environments to help with issues such as isolation and loneliness. For example, a number of local pubs traditionally open on Christmas Day to prevent people being alone, and in our part of the country, we have witnessed the organic growth of micropubs that are designed to promote conversations between customers. As a councillor, it is also not uncommon for residents and groups to request a meeting in one of these venues, which can be lively at times, and I witnessed first-hand the incredible community work some pubs undertook during the first lockdown such as providing freshly cooked meals for local hospitals.

Hopefully, this additional funding will help these much-loved community assets survive the winter and thrive again in the future when restrictions are relaxed. By sharing this story and highlighting that action can be taken now without requiring any changes in government policy, I also hope that others will be encouraged to support their local pubs and clubs this winter.

Whilst most businesses just want the freedom to open, and the debates will continue over the effectiveness of the tier system and lockdowns, it is clear that with more businesses closed under the Tier 3 and 4 restrictions, additional support will be required to help keep the lights on this winter. From an economic perspective, I believe that the government would be well advised to channel any additional funding via these council-led schemes so that they can use their local knowledge to better target business support, reduce fraud risks, make payments efficiently, and in this case, back British Pubs and Clubs.

Louie French: We need to ensure our pubs and clubs survive the winter

5 Jan

Cllr Louie French is the Deputy Leader of Bexley Council. He was the Conservative candidate for Eltham in the 2019 General Election.

As we leave the nightmare year that was 2020, we must learn lessons from the pandemic. Understandably, the immediate focus of policymakers and people across the country are on how we contain the latest spike in cases, protect the most vulnerable in our society, and ensure that the NHS has the capacity to treat patients. Improvements in the evidence base and testing should help inform decision-making, alongside the rapid rollout of vaccinations.

However, we must not lose sight of the negative externalities and wider impact of Covid related restrictions, particularly as we look to the future and what we want our country to look like post Brexit and the virus.

For many of us, a safe return to our local pub, bar, sports or social club will be high on our Christmas wish list given the limitations of interacting socially online. Try to picture the scene in springtime. The government, NHS and scientists have successfully vaccinated the most vulnerable members of society, infection rates and restrictions are much lower, the economy is rebounding strongly and the sunnier days are encouraging more people to return to their local. Perhaps for a glass of English wine with old friends, Sunday lunch with family or a post-match drink with teammates ahead of a sizzling summer of sporting events.

But for this to become a reality, we need to act now to ensure they survive the winter and people have jobs to return to once furlough ends.

Whilst the majority of businesses have faced significant headwinds in 2020 and calls for help are likely to grow in January, few sectors have been hit as hard as hospitality and leisure, especially local pubs and clubs throughout the year. With the first round of government support grants and greater flexibility for use of outdoor spaces, many businesses spent thousands to make their premises as Covid-secure as possible for re-opening. They then adapted their business models as local restrictions changed, were asked to close in November, and after a short period of stocking up on scotch eggs and serving substantial meals in December, were asked to close their doors again at one of the busiest trading times of the year.

Despite additional funding of £1,000 for wet led pubs and support grants for businesses required to close, industry analysis estimates that an average sized pub is losing approximately £600 each week while closed. Evidently, an unsustainable situation for many indebted business owners.

In Bexley, we have listened very carefully to our local business networks and conducted our own economic analysis of where extra support is urgently needed and could be targeted beyond the existing national grant schemes this winter. Unsurprisingly, the hospitality industry, particularly pubs and clubs that make most of their revenues behind the bar and through events, were high on the risk of closures and the subsequent negative impacts on our communities and local economy.

Consequently, we took the decision that we needed to act, and as part of the additional restrictions grant funding provided to local councils by the government to support a range of businesses, we have used our discretion to launch a special winter support scheme of approximately £1 million for local independent pubs, bars and licensed sports and social clubs to apply.

The top-up grants range between £6,000 and £14,000 (depending on the size of the business) and we expect to help over a hundred pubs, bars and clubs. These include local cricket, football, rugby and tennis clubs across Bexley, which highlights that this support scheme is about much more than a drinking culture.

Pubs and a variety of clubs now offer vital community spaces, which are often family-friendly and even before Covid, were providing environments to help with issues such as isolation and loneliness. For example, a number of local pubs traditionally open on Christmas Day to prevent people being alone, and in our part of the country, we have witnessed the organic growth of micropubs that are designed to promote conversations between customers. As a councillor, it is also not uncommon for residents and groups to request a meeting in one of these venues, which can be lively at times, and I witnessed first-hand the incredible community work some pubs undertook during the first lockdown such as providing freshly cooked meals for local hospitals.

Hopefully, this additional funding will help these much-loved community assets survive the winter and thrive again in the future when restrictions are relaxed. By sharing this story and highlighting that action can be taken now without requiring any changes in government policy, I also hope that others will be encouraged to support their local pubs and clubs this winter.

Whilst most businesses just want the freedom to open, and the debates will continue over the effectiveness of the tier system and lockdowns, it is clear that with more businesses closed under the Tier 3 and 4 restrictions, additional support will be required to help keep the lights on this winter. From an economic perspective, I believe that the government would be well advised to channel any additional funding via these council-led schemes so that they can use their local knowledge to better target business support, reduce fraud risks, make payments efficiently, and in this case, back British Pubs and Clubs.

A timetable for vaccinating the most vulnerable by mid-February. The Prime Minister’s statement – full text.

4 Jan

“Since the pandemic began last year, the whole United Kingdom has been engaged in a great national effort to fight Covid.

And there is no doubt that in fighting the old variant of the virus, our collective efforts were working and would have continued to work.

But we now have a new variant of the virus. It has been both frustrating and alarming to see the speed with which the new variant is spreading.

Our scientists have confirmed this new variant is between 50 and 70 per cent more transmissible – that means you are much, much more likely to catch the virus and to pass it on.

As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from Covid than at any time since the start of the pandemic.

In England alone, the number of Covid patients in hospitals has increased by nearly a third in the last week, to almost 27,000.

That number is 40 per cent higher than the first peak in April.

On 29 December, more than 80,000 people tested positive for Covid across the UK – a new record.

The number of deaths is up by 20 per cent over the last week and will sadly rise further. My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones.

With most of the country already under extreme measures, it is clear that we need to do more, together, to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out.

In England, we must therefore go into a national lockdown which is tough enough to contain this variant.

That means the Government is once again instructing you to stay at home.

You may only leave home for limited reasons permitted in law, such as to shop for essentials, to work if you absolutely cannot work from home, to exercise, to seek medical assistance such as getting a Covid test, or to escape domestic abuse.

The full details on what you can and can’t do will be available at gov.uk/coronavirus.

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, we are advising you to begin shielding again and you will shortly receive a letter about what this means for you.

And because we now have to do everything we possibly can to stop the spread of the disease, primary schools, secondary schools and colleges across England must move to remote provision from tomorrow, except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

Everyone will still be able to access early years settings such as nurseries.

We recognise that this will mean it is not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal. The Education Secretary will work with Ofqual to put in place alternative arrangements.

We will provide extra support to ensure that pupils entitled to free school meals will continue to receive them while schools are closed, and we’ll distribute more devices to support remote education.

I completely understand the inconvenience and distress this late change will cause millions of parents and pupils up and down the country.

Parents whose children were in school today may reasonably ask why we did not take this decision sooner.

The answer is simply that we have been doing everything in our power to keep schools open, because we know how important each day in education is to children’s life chances.

And I want to stress that the problem is not that schools are unsafe for children – children are still very unlikely to be severely affected by even the new variant of Covid.

The problem is that schools may nonetheless act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.

Today the United Kingdom’s Chief Medical Officers have advised that the country should move to alert level 5, meaning that if action is not taken NHS capacity may be overwhelmed within 21 days.

Of course, there is one huge difference compared to last year.

We are now rolling out the biggest vaccination programme in our history.

So far, we in the UK have vaccinated more people than the rest of Europe combined.

With the arrival today of the UK’s own Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine, the pace of vaccination is accelerating.

I can share with you tonight the NHS’s realistic expectations for the vaccination programme in the coming weeks.

By the middle of February, if things go well and with a fair wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

That means vaccinating all residents in a care home for older adults and their carers, everyone over the age of 70, all frontline health and social care workers, and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.

If we succeed in vaccinating all those groups, we will have removed huge numbers of people from the path of the virus.

And of course, that will eventually enable us to lift many of the restrictions we have endured for so long.

I must stress that even if we achieve this goal, there remains a time lag of two to three weeks from getting a jab to receiving immunity.

And there will be a further time lag before the pressure on the NHS is lifted.

So we should remain cautious about the timetable ahead.

But if our understanding of the virus doesn’t change dramatically once again…

If the rollout of the vaccine programme continues to be successful…

If deaths start to fall as the vaccine takes effect…

And, critically, if everyone plays their part by following the rules…

Then I hope we can steadily move out of lockdown, reopening schools after the February half term and starting, cautiously, to move regions down the tiers.

I want to say to everyone right across the United Kingdom that I know how tough this is, I know how frustrated you are, I know that you have had more than enough of government guidance about defeating this virus.

But now more than ever, we must pull together.

You should follow the new rules from now, and they will become law in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Parliament will meet – largely remotely – later that day.

I know that the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland share my conviction this is a pivotal moment and they’re taking similar steps.

The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet but I really do believe that we are entering the last phase of the struggle.

Because with every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people.

And, thanks to the miracle of science, not only is the end in sight and we know exactly how we will get there.

But for now, I am afraid, you must once again stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

Thank you all very much.”

Infrastructure, innovation and publicity – the key to Israel’s vaccine success

4 Jan

With the recent approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca Oxford vaccines, the race is on for countries around the world to inoculate their populations.

By far the fastest in this regard is Israel, whose health agencies started vaccinating people on December 19 and are now administering around 150,000 jabs a day.

It’s expected that two million of the country’s nine million population will have received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the end of January, and health workers and the over 60s will be covered first.

The speed at which Israel has administered vaccines has astonished the international community, with calls for other governments to learn from its approach. So how has Israel achieved this milestone? And how easy is it to emulate?

The first thing to say is that some of Israel’s success comes down to geographical advantages, which – for obvious reasons – cannot be copied by everyone. Its relatively small size gives it a headstart in getting a vaccine out against countries with more area and people to reach.

That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t some important steps that can be replicated. One big factor behind Israel’s success is that simply, like the UK, it was quick to get vaccine orders in, albeit originally signing up for Moderna and AstraZeneca’s, and willing to invest a lot in something that was initially a big gamble.

The government was flexible when it turned out that Pfizer would bring its vaccine to market first. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, helped to negotiate with Pfizer’s chief executive, and the government agreed “to pay a much higher price to ensure early shipments of four million doses”, according to reports

Once the orders were signed off, the government flew the vaccines in from Pfizer’s hub in Belgium back to Israel, where the army then moved it into refrigerated lorries to local centralised hubs, from which vaccines could be given out. As ConservativeHome has written about before, clearly decentralised approaches have worked well in managing the pandemic.

Part of Israel’s ability to administer the vaccine quickly comes down to the set up of its healthcare system, which is divided into four public health maintenance organisations (HMO). Although they are all free, they compete with each other for funding, and are thus constantly having to think about how to better their approach – which seems to have fed into the delivery of the vaccines.

So far the HMOs have set up vaccination centres in stadiums, parking lots, school playgrounds and even through a mobile clinic that drives to locations. The government has also approved a drive-in-clinic.

The healthcare system is also known for its digital capacities. Those who need the vaccine are alerted through text and voice messages, and they also have the opportunity to contact their HMO if they have forgotten their appointment for a new one.

Through this technology, the Israeli government has been able to reward people for getting their Coronavirus vaccine by way of a “green passport” via a phone app once they’ve had it. This will mean they don’t have to be isolated if they’ve been exposed to a person with the virus, or if they return from abroad.

Lastly, Netanyahu has gone to huge efforts to publicise vaccinations, visiting centres almost every day with TV crews. While it’s been said that some of this is to bolster his chances for the upcoming election, it’s clearly had an effect on public confidence and no doubt it will give other governments ideas for how to broadcast that the vaccine is safe.

Of course, some will question parts of this system – the idea of “freedom passports” have caused concern among civil liberty campaigners in the UK, and none of Israel’s vaccine efforts have stopped its hospitals being under immense pressure. Infections have surged as a third wave hits the country, so the world is now watching as to how quickly it works.

But there are still lessons that others can take from Israel’s programme, namely that it has been creative, above all else, in getting the vaccine out. This is perhaps the most important tip of all for UK government, which has the vaccine numbers (albeit with some manufacturing hiccups), but now needs to be as bold as possible in delivery and cutting the red tape.

It should be noted, however, that Israel is exceptional in its vaccine performance, and that the UK is at a very good starting point, with 944,539 vaccinated (France, for comparison, had done 351 on December 31). Even so, learning from others has been a vital part of this pandemic.