January 24, 2022

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Israeli PM Warns of Lockdown if Immediate Steps not Taken for Curbing Omicron

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On Sunday, during a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett said that if they don’t take some difficult and immediate steps right away, they would end up reaching a lockdown. Such warnings had become a staple during the previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic. Bennett said that the immunization rate was horrible, as the government is encouraging for higher numbers of vaccination. They are focused on the booster shot because it can prove to be very effective in curbing the spread of the Omicron variant. However, the premier added that their aim was to keep the economy open as much as possible, without imposing a lockdown and accomplish it without overburdening the hospitals.

Nitzan Horowitz, the Health Minister, said that he was also concerned about the new variant. He said that indications were that it was very serious due to which they had decided to extend the existing regulations and introduce a series of measures. He said that they would be able to get past it quicker with faster enforcement. A measure that the Prime Minister is considering is to require a Green Pass for entering malls. This document is proof of recovery from the virus, or valid vaccination. According to reports, Bennett thinks that there is a lot of transmission of the disease in malls, but the regulation would be designed to encourage vaccination. 

He said that in order to boost the inoculation rates in the country, especially amongst kids, the Education Ministry and the Health Ministry together would start administering the vaccine in schools all over the country. There are fifty schools that will initially be part of the pilot program and more will be added throughout the week. As mentioned by Horowitz last week, Bennett said that they were preparing for the possibility of giving a fourth shot in the coming year, beginning with those who are immunocompromised. 

On Sunday, the quarantine rule of 10 days in state-run facilities for travelers returning from countries categorized as ‘red’ also got the green light from the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. Currently, Israelis cannot visit countries that have been listed as ‘red’ by the Health Ministry. The Knesset panel also gave approval for permitting travelers with a negative test to be released from the state-run facilities and completing their quarantine period at their homes. A day earlier, the coalition party leaders had come to an agreement about updating the list of banned countries on a daily basis. 

This would make it difficult for people to plan their trips in advance and could reduce flights abroad. There are a total 55 cases of the Omicron variant in Israel so far, which include 20 cases that were confirmed on Saturday. The Health Ministry disclosed that 36 of the Omicron cases had been found in travelers returning from England, South Africa, France, the United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Hungary, the United Kingdom, Namibia and Italy. 11 people had gotten infected from travelers who had returned from England and South Africa, whereas eight of the cases was because of community spread. 

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