Jan 25, 2022

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The Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus is currently spreading around the world and has arrived in Israel leading to tightening of the border controls, closing off entry ban for noncitizens, and increased quarantine for incoming travelers, which was extended last week until December 22. 

Bennett warns children at risk from Omicron

There are currently 55 cases of Omicron reported in Israel, 42 fully vaccinated and 13 partially or unvaccinated. The ministry also said it was waiting on the test results of another 51 cases in which there was a “high suspicion” of Omicron.

Bennett warned at the cabinet meeting on Sunday that children can be affected by the Omicron variant.

“Just this week in England, two middle school students died from Omicron; one was not vaccinated at all and the other was partially vaccinated,” Bennett said, apparently referring to the cases of 15-year-old Harry Towers and 14-year old Mohamed Habib, reported in Britain this week. “In Israel, too, children are being harmed,” he added. “The way to protect them is to vaccinate them. Do not waste a moment, take them today to get vaccinated.”

It is important to note that neither of the cases cited by Bennett died from the Omicron variant having contracted the disease before the variant arrived in England. There have, in fact, been no deaths in England reported from Omicron. Bennett later tweeted a correction.

Shabir Madhi, a virologist in South Africa where Omicron was first detected, said on Sunday that most children hospitalized currently are hospitalized for other reasons, and happen to test positive for COVID-19 as well.

Israel has also expanded its vaccination program to include children aged 5-11. The Health Ministry said Sunday that some 111,000 children in that age group have been vaccinated with at least one shot. The government is beginning a program of vaccinating children in schools. 

Israel is also preparing to administer the fourth round of boosters. starting with the immunocompromised.

Bennett garnered criticism when his wife and four children left on an overseas vacation last week in contravention of travel restrictions.