Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett claimed at Sunday’s cabinet meeting that two children had recently died in the United Kingdom after contracting the Omicron variant of COVID-19. A subsequent “fact check” by Channel 12 News found that not to be true.
Channel 12 reported that the claim was immediately dubious given that the World Health Organization had stated last week that while the Omicron variant is highly contagious, there had not yet been any confirmed deaths linked to it anywhere in the world.
What is true is that the UK is experiencing a sharp rise in infections due to Omicron.
Israel on Sunday still only had around 55 confirmed cases of Omicron, but here, too, infection rates are again on the rise. Bennett blames the millions of Israelis who are still not fully vaccinated.
To date, around 4.1 million Israelis have had three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and are therefore considered “fully” vaccinated and able to obtain a “Green Passport.” At a meeting with health officials last week, Bennett reportedly called this rate of vaccination “pathetic,” and urged Israel’s HMOs to use “all the tools at their disposal” to meet his government’s vaccination targets.
He also reportedly proposed harsh punishments for any Israelis who continue to refuse the vaccine, such as not allowing them to leave the country and even imposing a targeted lockdown.
In a statement released by his office on Sunday, Bennett fired back at those who were critical of his policies.
“The reason the situation is good in Israel is because we acted with speed and determination. They call this exaggeration? I call this responsibility,” said the prime minister. “The more we protect Israel from Omicron entering our borders, the more we can keep the economy open and allow the continuation of day-to-day life.”