During a cabinet meeting on Israel’s coronavirus response Thursday, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz proposed advancing legislation that would obligate the public to be inoculated, or face punitive measures, according to a television report.
Steinitz compared the matter to sanctions on civilians who refuse to enter bomb shelters during wartime, Channel 12 news reported.
The report said Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit shot down the proposal, asking, “Are you proposing to sanction anyone who runs away from a needle?”
Additionally, the energy minister proposed vaccinating children aged 14-16 (an age group currently excluded from vaccination — only ages 16 and up participated in vaccine trials), suggesting Israel could lead trailblazing research on the matter.
The network said ministers were shocked by Steinitz’s suggestions and that neither proposal was backed by others.
As of Thursday, all Israelis aged 16 and up can be vaccinated. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein urged all those eligible to get vaccinated, tweeting: “Take advantage of the opportunity that almost no country in the world has.”
The Health Ministry said Friday morning that 3,370,951 Israelis received their first vaccine shot, of whom 1,965,972 have also gotten the second dose.
Netanyahu said Tuesday that the country is aiming to vaccinate 90 percent of those over the age of 50 within the next two weeks, as part of its race to offset fast-spreading mutations of the coronavirus.
The latest ministry data shows there are 84,060 active virus patients in the country, of whom 7,168 were diagnosed Thursday. There are 1,094 patients in serious condition.
The positive test rate on Thursday was 8.8%, its lowest level in 13 days, but still higher than the 6.5% recorded in early January.
Since the start of the outbreak early last year, 679,149 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Israel and 5,019 have died of the disease.
The cabinet agreed early Friday to extend Israel’s national lockdown until 7 a.m on Sunday.
The lockdown has shuttered all nonessential businesses, Ben Gurion International Airport, and the entire school system with the exception of special education institutes.