Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that 570,000 people over 50 who have not yet vaccinated will decide whether the current lockdown will be Israel’s last.
“I call on all of those 570,000 people over the age of 50 who have not yet been vaccinated: Go and get vaccinated! Not just for your health but for all of our health,” Netanyahu said in a rare Channel 12 interview.
“Our victory over the pandemic depends on you,” he said.
“That is where the fatalities are, nearly 100 percent; that’s where the seriously ill are, nearly 100%,” he said. “When they go to the hospitals, they block them for others, so the young start to get ill and some die.”
Netanyahu went on to call the cabinet decision earlier Monday to start reopening Israel “wonderful news.” He said the “green passport” framework that was approved will allow vaccinated Israelis to go to the movies, attend sports matches, and eventually restaurants and flights abroad.
“Those who don’t vaccinate won’t be able to,” he said. “I want first and foremost to protect those who are vaccinated, and to encourage those who haven’t vaccinated.”
“We’ll be the first in the world to get out [of COVID],” Netanyahu declared.
“If those 570,000 people over 50 get vaccinated, it’ll not only be the last lockdown, but we’ll be done with COVID. Period… We’re leading the world on vaccines; we’ll be the first to emerge from the coronavirus.”
Health Ministry figures from Monday said that almost four million Israelis had received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine while over 2.5 million have received both doses.
Later in the interview, Netanyahu announced that he is negotiating with the Pfizer and Moderna pharmaceutical firms for further tens of millions of vaccines for the years ahead.
“I’m [also] negotiating with them to build two factories in Israel — making us a world center for the struggle against COVID,” he added.
The Moderna facility would be a filling center for vaccine vials, Netanyahu indicated. The Pfizer facility would be dedicated to research and development for the battle against future viruses.
Cabinet ministers approved the reopening of stores, gyms, hotels, and other venues starting on Sunday.
Street-front shops, malls, markets, museums, and libraries will be open to all Israelis. But only those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 will be able to use gyms, enter sports and culture events, hotels, and swimming pools.
The high-level coronavirus cabinet also okayed the reopening of synagogues for the Purim holiday late next week, while pushing off a decision on whether to allow all students to return to school in localities with low infection rates.
The decisions came amid a continued decline in morbidity rates, particularly among high-risk groups, thanks to Israel’s rapid vaccination campaign.
Under the plan approved by ministers, the restrictions will be rolled back Sunday, February 21, in an apparent compromise between health officials’ desire to wait for Tuesday, February 23, and the Blue and White party’s demand to start reopening this week.