Israeli prime minister urges citizens to be vaccinated as Delta strain spreads

Naftali Bennett says vaccine refusers endanger health and freedom of all Israeli citizens

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday called on hundreds of thousands of citizens who have not yet been vaccinated against the coronavirus to have the shot.

Mr Bennett's appeal on national TV came as new infections climbed sharply in recent weeks.

It was the latest sign of concern in a country that was a world leader in vaccinating its people. Just a few weeks ago, Israel lifted almost all remaining virus restrictions.

But the highly contagious Delta variant has forced the government to reimpose measures, including an indoor mask mandate, and urge Israelis to postpone long-awaited vacations abroad.

Israel's new coronavirus cases have risen in the past month, even though more than 56 per cent of its 9.3 million people have received two doses of the vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech.

Most of the new coronavirus infections are of the Delta strain, which has spread even among those vaccinated.

Earlier on Thursday, the country’s coronavirus cabinet recommended travel bans to the UK, Turkey, Georgia and Cyprus to restrict entry of new infections.

The recommendation is expected to be formally approved next week.

The Health Ministry recorded 1,336 new cases on Thursday. By far most of the new cases in the past month have shown only mild symptoms, but at least 73 people have had serious cases of Covid-19.

That is well below the more than 1,000 serious cases treated each day at the height of the pandemic, but up from 19 in mid-June.

“Our challenge is clear: all Israelis who can get vaccinated, should go get vaccinated,” Mr Bennett said. “Vaccine refusers are endangering the health, surroundings and freedom of all Israeli citizens.

"They are endangering our freedom to work, the freedom of our children to learn, the freedom to celebrate festivities with the family.”

Updated: July 22nd 2021, 10:52 PM