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Bennett: Economy will stay open as much as possible in Omicron wave

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 2, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 2, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says that despite skyrocketing COVID cases in the country, he is working to ensure the economy stays open.

“Omicron is a variant that infects more than all the other variants put together,” says Bennett in a live press conference ahead of a scheduled meeting of the COVID cabinet this evening.

But Bennett vows that his goal is that “the market will stay open as much as possible and the economy will still be working.”

“I don’t want to see people losing their jobs, closing their businesses,” he says. He calls on people to work from home as much as possible, and also notes that the state will fund quarantine days, including for the self-employed, as part of a new initiative agreed to by the Finance Ministry.

“Lockdowns don’t work,” he says, pointing to other countries with lockdowns that also have skyrocketing cases.

Alongside that goal, the prime minister says, are the goals of protecting the elderly and most at-risk populations as well as children. Bennett says the rules for schools will be the same as for adults, and therefore many children will enter quarantine because many are not vaccinated.

Israel is providing “the best protection in the world for those who are vulnerable,” he says — including with booster vaccines and pills.

He says he instructed hospital chiefs to prepare for up to 4,000 serious cases at the height of the Omicron wave, even though the experts predict 1,500-2,500.

He also addresses the hours-long lines at testing stations around the country. “The lines are long, I understand, I hate standing in line myself, I know how frustrating it is,” says Bennett, calling on people not to do PCR tests if they are not over 60.

He insists the government is providing “an answer” for those businesses affected, but says these are “specific” businesses, not all. Unlike the last government, he says, he’s not going “to mortgage our children’s future” by giving out money indiscriminately.

Bennett accuses former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of acting “unpatriotically” in his criticisms of the government, referencing a recent video of the opposition leader mocking the reliability of antigen tests.

“It’s going to be unpleasant here [in the next few weeks],” Bennett says. “We’re in a situation that happens once in an era… the opposition is trying to create chaos and hysteria. It’s unjustified. We’re managing this better than almost anywhere in the world.”

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