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Bennett: Vaccine refusers are endangering the entire country

PM warns another lockdown is possible if one million holdouts aren’t immunized, says aim is ‘to have an open and safe country’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on July 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on July 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issued a fresh appeal on Thursday for all Israelis to get the coronavirus vaccine, accusing those eligible to get vaccinated who have not done so of endangering the rest of the country.

In a primetime television address from Tel Aviv, Bennett said the government’s aim is to allow Israelis to go about their lives unimpeded and not to reimpose COVID-19 lockdown measures.

“We want to have an open and safe country. We are managing this campaign responsibly… and on the basis of facts and data,” Bennett said.

Asserting vaccines alone were insufficient to cope with the more contagious Delta variant, which has been largely blamed for the resurgence of infections in Israel, Bennett urged all Israelis older than 12 to get immunized.

“Every citizen over age 12 who doesn’t have a medical reason not to must go get vaccinated,” he said.

“One million Israelis are refusing to get vaccinated,” Bennett continued. “They are endangering the entire population, they are endangering the other 8 million citizens in the country.”

He warned that the vaccine holdouts could cause the government to impose a fourth national lockdown since the pandemic began.

A young Israeli receives a coronavirus vaccine shot at a Clalit vaccination center in Petah Tikva, on July 19, 2021. (Flash90)

“If you know a vaccine refuser, convince them, explain to them that they are risking others’ health,” the premier said. “Don’t give up on them.”

In his remarks, Bennett noted the high-level coronavirus cabinet’s decision on Thursday to start requiring the unvaccinated to pay out of pocket for COVID tests, linking it to the government’s push to increase immunization rates.

“There is no reason that taxpayers and those who fulfill their civic duty to get vaccinated will fund tests for those who refuse to get vaccinated,” he said.

Bennett also noted that those who are vaccinated are subject to less stringent quarantine requirements when they enter the country.

Earlier Thursday, the coronavirus cabinet approved reinstating the “Green Pass,” limiting attendance at large events to those who are vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19, or who present a valid negative test result.

The renewed restriction will take effect July 29, pending government approval.

Ministers also voted add the United Kingdom, Georgia, Cyprus and Turkey to a list of countries Israelis are barred from traveling to over COVID fears. The latter two are among the most popular destinations for Israeli tourists.

If okayed by the government, the ban on visiting those countries will begin July 30.

Also Thursday, a health minister committee on vaccines reportedly voted against recommending a third booster shot for the elderly, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

According to the report, the committee members said that even though the effectiveness of the vaccines appears to be wearing off, particularly in the face of the delta variant, it would be more effective to wait for a booster shot specifically targeting the variant that is being developed by Pfizer.

The final decision will no go to Health Ministry Directo General Nachman Ash.

After COVID morbidity and mortality reached record lows, following a mass vaccination campaign, Israel has seen a jump in infections that has been largely blamed on the Delta variant.

According to new Health Ministry figures released Thursday evening, 901 new cases have been confirmed since midnight, bringing active infections to 9,742.

The number of patients in serious condition rose further to 75, and the death toll increased slightly to 6,457.

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