Prime Minister Naftali Bennett mistakenly claimed that the new Omicron variant had claimed the lives of two middle-school students in the UK. His remarks during Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting turned out to be not true, and he later clarified that he meant to speak about the danger of corona in general and not specifically about the variant.
“Omicron harms children,” Bennett said. “We are seeing it in other countries, and we are seeing it in Israel as well. Just this week, two middle-school students from the same class died from Omicron in England. One of them was not vaccinated at all, and the other was apparently partially vaccinated.”
The statement turned out not to be true in many details.
There has yet to be a registered death known to specifically be caused by the Omicron variant.
“Two days ago, it was reported on the BBC that two British students from the same class got sick with COVID and died shortly afterward, a week apart,” he wrote on Twitter. “This morning, at a cabinet meeting, I referred to the incident, but I said by mistake that they were infected with Omicron instead of saying coronavirus. Either way – the coronavirus is dangerous to us and our children.”
כך או כך—הקורונה מסכנת אותנו ואת ילדינו. אני מבקש מהורי ישראל—חסנו את ילדיכם והגנו עליהם מפני הקורונה, על שלל הוריאנטים שלה.אין צורך לקבוע תור מראש—גשו ישר למוקדי ההתחסנות.בואו נשמור על בריאות אזרחי ישראל ובריאות כלכלת ישראל.— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) December 12, 2021
The two boys, Mohammed Habib, 14, and Harry Towers, 15, died at the end of October. According to the report, Towers’ sister confirmed he was not vaccinated, while the immunization status of Habib had not been clarified, but he is not believed to have been jabbed. Their school had scheduled a day to offer its students coronavirus shots on November 8, just days after the two died.
Neither Habib nor Towers was known to have underlying conditions.
Bennett made the statement about the two British students in the context of calling Israeli parents to vaccinate their children.
So far only 10,000 five-year-olds out of over 180,000 in the country, and 100,000 children age 6-11 out of over one million have been inoculated.
“I ask the parents of Israel – protect your children and protect them from the coronavirus, for its variety of variants.”
Some preliminary reports from South Africa – where the variant first emerged - have suggested that Omicron might be more infectious, including among children, but the data have not been confirmed.
At the moment, most information about Omicron appears to indicate a milder course of the disease, at least among those vaccinated.
South African virologist Shabir Madhi said on Sunday that most children hospitalized currently are hospitalized for other reasons, and happen to test positive for COVID-19 as well.