Freedom. That was the overarching message this week as governments at Holyrood and Westminster set out their respective timetables out of the pandemic.

How far it will be safe to go, when, and exactly what should be allowed is still up for debate.

Israel once again offers an interesting case study. It is reinstating its mandate for indoor facemasks just days after the requirement was abandoned on June 15 after a sudden upturn in cases which has spooked politicians and public health experts.

The Herald:

The country has fully vaccinated almost its entire adult population and is in the process of extending immunisations to 12 to 15-year-olds but has been caught out by the highly-transmissible Delta variant.

On Thursday, 169 infections were detected - the fourth day in a row that numbers had exceeded 100.

For most of June daily cases had been hovering around 10-20 in a population of around nine million.

READ MORE: As Israel ends restrictions, are vaccines already slowing the UK's third wave? 

Most of the new infections have been detected in unvaccinated children and Israelis returning from trips abroad, some of whom were already fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.

In hospitals across the country, 26 patients were in critical condition on Thursday night, among them an unvaccinated child.

The Herald: Israel's Covid case rate has increased four-fold, from 1.92 to 8.34 cases per million people per day, since it ending its indoor mask mandate on June 15.The UK rate is currently 164.5Israel's Covid case rate has increased four-fold, from 1.92 to 8.34 cases per million people per day, since it ending its indoor mask mandate on June 15.The UK rate is currently 164.5

The Health Ministry says over 84 per cent of the seriously ill patients are individuals who have not been vaccinated and on Monday announced that it would ramp up efforts to inoculate 12 to 15-year-olds, with prime minister Naftali Bennett urging all eligible teenagers to get their first doses by July 9.

The vaccines have been available to people in this age group since June 6 but until now the ministry had stopped short of issuing an official recommendation to vaccinate them and uptake has remained comparatively low, in the thousands.

However, with a third of Israel’s population under 16 and the Delta variant now in circulation it is more important than ever to increase vaccine coverage to limit an explosion of infections which would eventually spill over into more vulnerable adults and lead to ‘breakthrough’ cases that escape vaccine immunity.

The Herald: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali BennettIsraeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett

In addition to vaccinating teenagers, Israel has increased daily testing, imposed more stringent quarantine measures, threatened parents with a 5,000-shekel (£1,107) fine if their children flout quarantine, advised its citizens against all non-essential travel abroad, and delayed the reopening of its borders to foreign tourism from July 1 until August 1.

“We have decided to treat this as a new outbreak. We intend to cut it off here, take a pail of water and douse the flames while they are still small,” said Mr Bennett on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Hospitals 'full and bursting' amid signs that pandemic backlog starting to hit NHS 

Meanwhile Scotland has set a target to move into Level Zero on July 19, the same date that the UK Government has earmarked as England’s new “freedom day”.

In England that would herald an end to facemasks and social distancing, allowing pubs, restaurants and other leisure venues to return to normal capacity levels without limits on socialising such as the ‘rule-of-six’ or tables kept one-metre apart.

Nightclubs would also reopen and legal Covid restrictions replaced by “personal responsibility”.

The Herald: The Scottish Government's updated strategic framework, outlining plans for 'beyond level zero'The Scottish Government's updated strategic framework, outlining plans for 'beyond level zero'

Scotland’s roadmap is more cautious: at Level Zero nightclubs will remain closed and indoor socialising will still be capped at 10 people from four households in an indoor public place, such as a restaurant, and eight from four households in a private home.

However, any restrictions on outdoor socialising - in terms of overall numbers, households, or physical distancing - would be jettisoned, with up to 200 guests also permitted at weddings and funerals.

The Herald: The previous levels plan, from May, still included restrictions on outdoor socialising at Level Zero. These are now expected to be scrappedThe previous levels plan, from May, still included restrictions on outdoor socialising at Level Zero. These are now expected to be scrapped

Scotland’s de facto “freedom day” is scheduled for August 9, by which time all over 40s (excluding those who refuse or cannot take the vaccine) should be fully immunised and two weeks on from their second dose.

This ‘beyond zero’ phase has been described by Nicola Sturgeon as “almost complete normality in our day to day lives”, although there is no guarantee it will include an end to one-metre physical distancing indoors - the First Minister only said it “could”.

Requirements to wear face coverings indoors, on public transport and in shops, were “likely” to continue, she said, and it is unclear whether nightclubs will reopen at this stage.

READ MORE: Fewer than 4% of hospital cases now translating into a hospital admission

Among scientists there is a general consensus that it would be logical to retain basic mitigations such as indoor facemasks and ventilation at least until all adults are fully vaccinated in September.

In the past four weeks case rates have exploded among young people, with Scottish data showing an eight-fold increase among 20-24-year-olds and total infections nearing a record 3000 per day.

Given that there are no plans to reinstate tougher restrictions, we will continue to see week-on-week increases until the effect of vaccinations (and natural immunity gained through infection) begin to outweigh the virus.

For some, minimising deaths and preventing the NHS being overwhelmed is the key aim. Roughly 3-4% of cases are now translating into hospital admissions (compared to a peak of 14% in January).

The Herald: Source: Scottish Government Source: Scottish Government

But 3000 cases a day is still 90 to 120 hospital admissions per day - on a par with numbers after the first lockdown in late March 2020. An NHS bed taken up by a Covid patient is also one less for the non-Covid sick now swamping A&E departments and requiring admission.

ICU occupancy is also projected to reach up to 100 by mid-July unless transmission declines.

There is also the threat of Long Covid, with a Norway study finding that one in five 16-30-year-olds still had fatigue, and 10% cognitive or memory problems, six months on from a Covid infection.

As health mathematician Professor Christina Pagel noted: “Even a very conservative estimate is that by the end of July, tens of thousands more young people [in the UK] will be living with ongoing fatigue or memory issues.

“Please stop saying that infections that don’t result in hospitalisations don’t matter. They do.”