Treasury Mulls Sanctions Against Israelis Who Refuse to Get COVID Vaccine

The Finance Ministry proposes that the unvaccinated shouldn't be eligible for government grants in case of a coronavirus lockdown

Nati Tucker
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Patient receiving a COVID vaccine booster in Tel Aviv, Israel, August 2021.
Patient receiving a COVID vaccine booster in Tel Aviv, Israel, August 2021.Credit: Hadas Parush
Nati Tucker

The Finance Ministry is considering imposing economic sanctions on people who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID. For example, in case of a lockdown, such people would not be eligible for government grants.

“These are issues that still need to be looked into, but everything is on the table as far as we’re concerned,” said the acting head of the Budgets Department, Yogev Gardos.

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According to Gardos, the ministry considered the anticipated effect of monetary enticements to attract people to take the COVID vaccination, but concluded that they would not be effective. Gardos’ remarks came in the context of the ministry’s attempt to avoid a lockdown, which would result in severe economic damage, by encouraging vaccinations. Gardos said the Finance Ministry spent 200 million shekels ($62 million) on a campaign to encourage vaccinations among various groups, including vaccinations of teens and a third shot for people over 60.

Gardos make the statement while speaking to journalists, along with other senior Finance Ministry officials as part of the efforts to avoid a lockdown. Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he vehemently opposed a lockdown. “We need to know how to manage in a routine of the coronavirus,” he said.

“This is not something new or surprising. A lockdown is the worst thing. It’s not clear whether there’s a correlation between a lockdown and a decline in the number of confirmed cases and seriously ill. But it’s clear that there’s a correlation between a lockdown and economic damage. We must prepare ourselves for life alongside the coronavirus like we learned how to live alongside the flu.”

Finance Minister director general Ram Belnikov appeared furious at the media, whom he said were spreading word of an approaching lockdown. “This serves the media. The finance minister has said he’s against a lockdown, the health minister says he’s against it, the prime minister also said so. We also think that a lockdown won’t be effective because the public won’t be disciplined. People already know the dangers of the coronavirus.”

The Finance Ministry says the Green Pass restrictions should now be imposed, along with restrictions at the airport, the obligation to wear a mask and institution of rapid testing.

The Finance Ministry also said that the Health Ministry budget had been increased by 800 million shekels to deal with the rise in Covid infections. As for the education system, the Finance Ministry presented a plan costing 200 million shekels that includes serological (blood) testing and funding rapid tests before the school year starts, and funding additional tests in “orange” cities and in classes where infection has been confirmed.

According to Gardos, at this point the ministry does not intend to exceed the budgetary framework to fund these programs. However, he added that if infection rates continue rising as they are now, changes will have to be made in the state budget to fund these actions.

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