Bennett Vows to Keep Israel Open Amid Calls to Impose COVID Restrictions

Jonathan Lis
Haaretz
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A medical worker in the intensive care unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Thursday.
A medical worker in the intensive care unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Thursday. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Jonathan Lis
Haaretz

Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reiterated on Saturday that "the government's policy is an open Israel,"  in light of vocal calls from the expert coronavirus panel to impose further restrictions this week.  

In a routine discussion with multiple government officials, Bennett said that he remains opposed to "quarantines, lockdowns, and more and more restrictions - this is the easy way out."

He added that he is "thinking of the ill" but also about the "economy, education, the parents that need to work and the kids that need to study." 

The prime minister also hit back against the criticism from the advisory panel by asserting: "The commander in this case is the government of Israel."

Meanwhile, the unvaccinated continued to make up 70 percent of Israel's severe coronavirus cases, data released by the Health Ministry on Saturday showed. Of the 694 active severe cases, just eight percent had received a booster shot, while 486 had not received a single coronavirus jab.

Israel also recorded 694 severe cases on Saturday, the first time the figure has dipped under the 700 mark in over a week. Of this number, 221 patients are on ventilators.

Meanwhile, 69 percent of new severe cases that were logged – 47 out of 68 – were among the unvaccinated, who make up only about 17 percent of Israelis who are eligible to receive the vaccine. Only seven percent of the new severe cases were in those who received booster shots.

The R number, representing the average number of people who will be infected by a coronavirus carrier, was at 0.91. An R number below 1 means an outbreak is shrinking. The number is calculated based on data from an average of data from the previous 10 days.

The death toll meanwhile rose to 7,641, with 12 deaths recorded on Friday – below the average number of deaths per day over the past month, which stands at 22. Six of the 12 were not vaccinated, and the other six had received two doses of the vaccine. So far, 3.18 million people have received a booster shot in Israel. On Saturday, the number of active cases decreased by several hundred to 63,112.

Earlier this week, a panel advising the country's coronavirus cabinet told officials they must impose more restrictions on the public, according to minutes from a meeting. The minutes said that despite the hope that the third vaccination drive would halt the disease’s spread, the experts thought it was "not possible and not reasonable" for the government to continue on its present course. Members of the panel also criticized the coronavirus cabinet's policy of assessing the severity of the pandemic based virtually entirely on the number of severe cases.  

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