On Tuesday, Israel lifted the requirement for face coverings to be worn indoors in public spaces such as supermarkets and banks.

It marked the end of the country's domestic Covid restrictions (its borders are still tightly controlled) and a watershed moment as the world's first population to vaccinate its way out of the pandemic.

At the peak of its second wave in January, Israel was detecting around 60,000 infections per week and more than 450 Covid confirmed deaths per week in a population of nine million.

HeraldScotland: In Israel, 59% of the total population are now fully vaccinated compared to 45% in the UKIn Israel, 59% of the total population are now fully vaccinated compared to 45% in the UK

Today the disease has been all but stamped out, with the country now averaging just 140 cases a week and 11 deaths.

On June 1 it scrapped its green pass system which had limited entry to premises such as bars, restaurants and gyms to those who were either fully vaccinated or recovered from infection. With prevalence of the virus now so low, the protocol was deemed redundant.

READ MORE: Why the Delta variant has changed the race between the virus and the vaccines

Social distancing has also been abandoned and cinemas and wedding venues have reopened at full capacity.

All this has been achieved through a combination of a lightning fast rollout using the highly effective Pfizer vaccine and extremely high uptake: nearly 60 per cent of Israelis are now fully vaccinated compared to around 45% of people in the UK (and, it must be said, fewer than 5% of those living in the occupied Palestinian territories).

It is now extending the vaccine to 12 to 15-year-olds as under-16s account for around a third of Israel's population, making herd immunity harder to reach by inoculating adults alone.

Travel curbs also mean that Israel has reported only a handful of Delta cases, and tourism into the country remains limited to small, fully vaccinated tour groups.

HeraldScotland: Israel has ended restrictions, including scrapping its 'green pass' system after virus cases started averaging one-two per day nationallyIsrael has ended restrictions, including scrapping its 'green pass' system after virus cases started averaging one-two per day nationally

Any visitors entering from non-green list countries (including the UK, which is 'red') must quarantine for 14 days, even if they are fully vaccinated.

Israelis wishing to travel to "highest risk" countries, such as India, Brazil or South Africa - which are effectively on a banned list - must apply to the government for a special exemption.

If only we had closed our borders we might now be nearing the normality enjoyed by Israel.

As the Sage expert group warned in January, only that - or blanket supervised quarantine for all arrivals - would be truly effective in keeping potentially dangerous or disruptive variants out.

READ MORE: Indian variant outbreak is a warning against UK's 'leaky' traffic light border controls 

Ironically, UK leaders drew reassurance (and arguably over-confidence) from the promising early signs of Israel's rollout and gambled instead on a hope that a really bad mutant probably wouldn't happen and that vaccines would usher us successfully across some sort of post-Covid finish line back to "freedom".

Instead, the UK is now reporting roughly 53,000 confirmed Covid cases per week, though so far deaths remain comparatively low at around 65 per week.

The problem with the Delta variant is the continuing uncertainty over how exactly its characteristics - increased transmissibility, double the risk of hospitalisation, and lower responsiveness to vaccines - will translate into admissions and critical illness.

Scotland, England and Wales have all delayed their roadmaps out of lockdown this week as a precaution.

HeraldScotland: Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday June 15 as she confirmed further steps out of lockdown would likely be delayed until July 19 Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday June 15 as she confirmed further steps out of lockdown would likely be delayed until July 19

The good news is that the outlook is already looking less gloomy than it was even a few days ago.

Modellers are currently revising down by thousands their forecasts for the number of people predicted to be hospitalised or die during the summer Covid wave after new data emerged indicating that vaccines are more effective against severe disease with Delta than thought.

In England, the Government delayed its planned June 21 'Freedom Day' amid warnings that hospitalisations would peak at 3000 a day whereas delaying this final stage would reduce the peak to 1000 per day.

But those projections were based on estimates that the AstraZeneca vaccine would lower the risk of serious illness by 85-90% and Pfizer by 87-91% after two doses.

In fact, Public Health England now puts their efficacy against hospitalisation at 92% and 96% respectively (and 75% after a single dose). 

READ MORE: Hundreds of NHS staff in 'high risk' wards not tested for Covid 

This may not seem like such a huge leap until you consider the maths: a vaccine which is 98% effective at preventing deaths, for example, is actually twice as effective as one which is 96% effective because what matters is the residual population still at risk.

In other words the 4% of people still succumbing to the disease compared to the 2% with a more effective vaccine.

HeraldScotland:

HeraldScotland: Intensive care occupancy projections have been downgraded by Scottish Government modellers (top: June 11 report; bottom: June 18 report)Intensive care occupancy projections have been downgraded by Scottish Government modellers (top: June 11 report; bottom: June 18 report)

In Scotland, the latest Modelling the Epidemic report has already slashed its projections for intensive care occupancy from a previous best-case scenario just one week ago of 50 Covid patients by late June to a new estimate of 18 by early July - or 36 in a worst-case scenario.

"As more information becomes available on vaccination effects and the Delta variant this will be refined further," the report adds.

HeraldScotland: Average daily hospital admissions for Covid up to June 9 (Public Health Scotland)Average daily hospital admissions for Covid up to June 9 (Public Health Scotland)

Vaccines have changed the game and the clues are already in the data. On Thursday, the number of Covid infections detected in Scotland over the previous seven days broke through the 7000 mark, on a par with the levels hit immediately before Christmas as the Kent strain took off.

Notably, however, by the time we reached that point around December 23 there were already 1025 people in hospital with Covid, including 56 in ICU.

Now?: 128, and 12.

There are even signs of a slowdown in cases.

The 7,351 infections detected in Scotland in the week ending June 17 was up 29% on the previous week - but that is down from a 51% week-on-week increase between May 27 and June 3.

Researchers behind the ZOE app, a Covid symptom tracker study at King's College London, say the UK's third wave is already beginning to flatten and predict that it will peak within a fortnight.

Thousands of hospitalisations are "baked in" of course as a result of people currently unwittingly infected who will, in due course, fall ill.

But something closer to normality looks within reach. We're just arriving there a little later than planned.