Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, this evening (Tuesday, 22 June 2021), visited Ben-Gurion International Airport, toured the testing facility and held an assessment regarding the coronavirus.
Participating in the discussion were the Health Minister, the Transportation Minister, the Interior Minister, the Public Security Minister, the head of the National Security Council and the national coronavirus project director, as well as representatives of the Israel Police, the Population Authority, the Airports Authority, Ben-Gurion International Airport and the Finance Ministry.
Prime Minister Bennett: “We just concluded a tour of Ben-Gurion International Airport, alongside a discussion and assessment of the situation together with the Health Minister, the Transportation Minister, the Interior Minister, the Public Security Minister and the professionals who have been taking part in the fight against the coronavirus for many months.
I would like to update you on several points:
The spread of the Delta variant is currently accelerating throughout the world in many countries, with a rate of infection that is much higher than we have known.
It infects at a 50% higher rate and I regret that we are also seeing that it is starting to spread in the State of Israel, including infections in the community in which we cannot always locate the source.
This variant infects much more quickly than the variant we are familiar with, the original coronavirus. Another characteristic of the Delta variant is that it also infects people who have been vaccinated. We have found that even some people who have been inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine have been infected. We know that the vaccine still has effect, a significant effect, but it is still possible to be vaccinated and infected as well.
We have seen in other countries, in Britain for example, a significant increase in the hospitalization of children. Therefore, in light of this preliminary data, and I say that at the moment the information is very, very preliminary, we have made the initial decision to treat this as a new outbreak, and our goal is to cut it off, to take a bucket of water and pour it over the fire while the fire is still small. To cut if off early and strongly, and be very transparent with you, the Israeli public, because you deserve to know everything.
Because the government is just starting out, and a corona cabinet has yet to be established, we have made several immediate decisions and directives, which I will immediately detail.
We are immediately reestablishing the corona cabinet which will be able to construct an action plan together with Prof. Nachman Ash, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis and Prof. Chezy Levy, the best people who have already been there.
In the coming days we will have a roadmap plan in order not to surprise you, so that you will be able to know – if the outbreak has reached a certain level, what will happen, and you will now be able to prepare with fewer surprises.
Here are the decisions and directives at this time:
- We are immediately reestablishing the corona cabinet.
- As of now, at Ben-Gurion International Airport, everyone who enters, from the moment of entry until exiting, will wear a mask without exceptions.
- 100% of the people who enter the State of Israel will have a PCR test. We are aware of, and have seen, the lines; therefore, two or three days ago we directed that the number of testing stands be increased and this has already been done. We increased the number of testing stands from 30 to 70 and we will increase it further as necessary so that the lines will not be too long.
- At this stage I would like to request:
Whoever does not need to go abroad, do not go abroad. If it is essential, that is OK but if it is not necessary – travel around Israel. We have a beautiful country. We will strengthen domestic tourism. From here I appeal to domestic tourism people: Be welcoming and see to the same prices for everyone.
At this stage we are not changing policy and the only reason is that we want to study the information before making various decisions. I will already say that there will likely be significant changes in the policy for entering and exiting the country.
Therefore, if it is possible to skip the vacation abroad, and certainly if you have not yet ordered, my recommendation is not to order.
- Vaccinations for children and young people: We are officially calling on all young people 12 and older to go be vaccinated as soon as possible.
I want to say two things here: All scientific indicators in Israel and the world show that the danger from the disease is immeasurably higher than the risk from the vaccine. There is much ‘fake news’ but we are dealing in science, in facts. In the US, approximately 2-2.5 million children have already been vaccinated and we have not seen large-scale side effects. I can tell you, as the father of children this age, I am taking my children to be vaccinated. The Interior Minister has updated me that her children have already been vaccinated.
I want to give you the picture about the inventory. The vaccines that we have will mostly expire by the end of July. This means that to complete the two vaccines, one needs to receive the first vaccine by July 9. We have enough in stock for everyone but for whoever is not vaccinated by July 9, we will not have vaccines for later. This would be a pity. Therefore, I ask, the pace of vaccinations right now is not good. Only 2,000 young people are being vaccinated a day and in order to meet our goal we need 20,000. In simple language, I am calling on parents – go out immediately, coordinate with your HMO, you already know the procedure, go and be vaccinated so that you certainly manage to receive the first dose before July 9. As a parent, I am not waiting; I will do this tomorrow. Because if the first vaccination is not administered by July 9, we will be unable to vaccinate because of the expiry date.
- On behalf of the professionals, I recommend: Let us go back to wearing masks in closed places. I am instructing government ministers, public leaders, to wear masks as of now in closed places. The reason that this is not an obligatory directive is that we want to see for several continuous days if we are over the 100-new-cases-a-day threshold. We are now talking about 125 but we want to see if this is a localized peak. When we see that this is continuous and I believe that this will be the case, it will then be an obligatory directive.
- Regarding quarantine, I regret that there have been massive violations of quarantine. I ask that the citizens of Israel, certainly those who have returned from abroad, be strict about the quarantine. To this end we are extending the mobilization of 270 inspectors.
- There was a loophole, that if a child violated quarantine, because he did not bear the responsibility and neither did his parents, then nobody did. We are closing this loophole. The parents of children who violate quarantine will bear full responsibility if the children are below 12. But let us not have to resort to sanctions, we are one country.
Let us not become panicky; we are in a good situation at the moment. All in all, we are saying: We will guard the borders of the country, we will tighten them. Inside the country, I say: We must do this together. Let us extinguish this so that we will be able to continue our daily routines. It depends on your conduct alone.
Lastly, because children under 12 cannot be vaccinated, and from 12-16 they have not yet been vaccinated, and until 18 as well, our main focus is on children and young people – therefore, watch them. We are starting the summer. I know that this is difficult, there will be infection here and there, but let us avoid large-scale events in closed places, as much as possible.
Use common sense. We do not want to return to the days of general lockdown or lockdowns on cities. We can avoid this. It depends on you alone. If we all look at the bigger picture and think, we will understand that poor behavior on our part will hurt others. We can defeat the coronavirus without draconian measures.
In the coming days we will give a more detailed update.