'Time is running out' as Israel prepares to shut borders; 5th coronavirus wave strikes


Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned his country of a 5th coronavirus wave whilst the Health Ministry on Sunday recommended that the government classify Italy, the United States, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Morocco, Portugal, Canada, Switzerland and Turkey as “red” states and place them under a travel ban, reported the Jerusalem Post.

Bennett said that the 5th wave has started with Omicron cases  leading the transmissions at an exponential rate.

“We were the first in the world to close the entry to Israel to foreigners,” Bennett said in his opening remarks. “We needed to buy time and keep the variant as far away from Israel as possible. The time we bought is running out.

“Omicron is already in the country, from the Knesset to kindergartens, and it is spreading fast,” the prime minister noted. “The numbers are not high yet, but it’s a highly contagious variant, and at the rate of doubling every two to three days, as we see all over the world, it can be said that the fifth wave has begun.”

Israeli authorities, reports Jerusalem Post, have been concerned because the drive to inoculate children ages five-11 has been proceeding slowly. As of Sunday morning, only 7% of children turning five in 2021 and 13% of those between six and 11 had received at least one shot, out of an eligible population of over one million.

The numbers have been especially low in communities from a low socioeconomic status, as Bennett noted.

“In cities with a high socioeconomic level, such as Ramat Hasharon and Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut, we see that the vaccination rate among children is over 30% child – which is a great start,” he said. "However, in places like Netivot, Tiberias and many Arab localities, we see a fraction of a percent: 3%, 2% and even less. It bothers me a lot."

“We are fortunate to live in a country that cares for everyone, and we, the Israeli government, take care of making vaccines accessible and buying them in every way, but in the end, you parents have a responsibility,” the Israeli Prime Minister added.