COVID: The future of the Jewish holidays depends on vaccination – Bennett

In a public address, the prime minister said that he is ready to consider any tool to contain the outbreak.

PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett entering Knesset meeting, August 2, 2021 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett entering Knesset meeting, August 2, 2021
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

In order to avoid a lockdown and fully celebrate the Jewish holidays, Israelis have to go out and get vaccinated, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Thursday.

“The future of the Jewish holidays depends on vaccination numbers,” Bennett stressed, addressing the Israeli public on his Facebook page in an interactive briefing.

The prime minister strongly urged both Israelis over the age of 60 to go and get a third shot and younger individuals who have not gotten jabbed at all to do so immediately.

“Five days after the third shot, people over the age of 60 are six times less likely to get infected than people who were vaccinated twice,” Bennett noted.

He also reminded younger listeners that COVID can be dangerous also for them, recalling the phenomenon of long COVID – with symptoms such as exhaustion and lack of concentration for several months – but also asked them to show responsibility toward their family and the society.

“I ask each of you to go and get vaccinated, you are endangering yourself and the people around you, as if you were walking with a machine gun and shooting Delta viruses at all of us,” the prime minister said. “This is selfish, unworthy and irresponsible. None of you want to kill people by mistake, we are waiting for you at the vaccination stations.”

Currently there are about one million Israelis who are eligible for a vaccine and have not gotten it.

Asked about whether the government is considering bringing back the Purple Badge outline – which placed restrictions on the number of customers or visitors venues and business could welcome – Bennett said there is no tool that the government is not ready to examine.

The prime minister also noted that the government aims to finalize the outline for the upcoming school year on Sunday or Monday. He said that having a normal school year, as avoiding a lockdown during the holidays, depends on how the vaccination campaign proceeds.

“If we do impose a lockdown, the purpose will be to buy us more time to vaccinate more people,” he said.

The goal is to avoid overwhelming the hospitals, putting them in a position where they have to turn patients away. During the last wave, the hospitals managed 1,200 serious cases of COVID before raising a red flag.

In response to a question from The Jerusalem Post, Bennett said that there is still no plan to let vaccinated tourists into Israel.

“The plan will be dependent on the virus,” he noted. “If we go out and we vaccinate and the virus is quelled, we can open up to tourists again - with the proper testing and other procedures, such as testing before takeoff and landing and isolation based on the location from which the tourist is traveling.

“With the way the situation is now, we cannot take the chance and let mass amounts of tourists into Israel,” the prime minister said.

At the end of the third wave, the previous government made a commitment to allow individual vaccinated tourists into the country on July 1, a move that was pushed off until August 1 and now seems indefinite.

The number of serious patients on Thursday stood at 250, 14 more than the previous day and almost 100 more than seven days before. Experts fear that if serious morbidity continues to grow at a similar rate, by the end of the month Israel could have as many as 1,600 serious patients.

The hope is that the third shot to people over 60 – who currently represent the majority of serious patients – is going to change the trend.

The response to the new vaccination campaign so far has been positive, with some 263,000 people already jabbed out of a total population of about 1.6 million.

The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that there is no shortage of vaccine, and new shipments are set to arrive in the upcoming days.

On Thursday, Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash said in an interview with Army Radio that authorities do not want to impose a lockdown, but if the situation requires, it could be decided already before the end of August.

Ash was asked about a proposal to make the move already in the next two weeks, as suggested by Construction and Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin during the latest coronavirus cabinet meeting, in order to avoid reaching an emergency situation in which the country saw morbidity has high as during previous waves, with as many as 10,000 new cases per day. He responded that he is not in favor of moving up such a dramatic step too much, but rather would follow the number of serious patients and the effects of the over-60 booster campaign for the next 10 days to two weeks.

“We do not want to reach a lockdown, but the reality could make it a necessary step,” he noted. “We have started a third vaccination campaign to reduce the serious morbidity, and if we see a decrease it could prevent - or delay - more difficult steps.”

According to reports, health officials have suggested that if a lockdown is needed it will require shutting down the commercial sector and schools.

Some 3,421 new cases were registered on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

While the number marks a slight increase compared to Tuesday – when 3,290 virus carriers were identified – it also confirms a decrease from Monday, when a fourth-wave record of 3,851 cases was registered.

In addition, the positivity rate of tests administered also offered a slight decline for the second day in a row. From the fourth wave peak of 3.8% on Monday, it went down to 3.35% on Tuesday and 3.29% on Wednesday.

On weekdays last week, Israel had some 2,100 to 2,400 new cases per day, with a 2.3 to 2.5% positivity rate.