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Israeli PM Urges Vaccination Amid Rise in COVID-19 Cases

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Monday, July 19, 2021. (Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool Photo via AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Monday, July 19, 2021. (Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool Photo via AP)

JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday urged Israelis who have not been vaccinated to get the shot as the delta variant continues to spread across the country.

His address came amid a recent surge in COVID-19 cases primarily among unvaccinated individuals, just weeks after the country lifted nearly all coronavirus restrictions. The government reimposed its indoor mask mandate and discouraged travel abroad due to the rise in cases. 

"Our challenge is clear: That all Israelis who can get vaccinated – will go to get vaccinated. Every citizen aged 12 and older who has no health impediment to getting vaccinated – Go get vaccinated," he said. 

 More than 56% of Israel's 9.3 million people have received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

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"The science is unequivocal: The vaccines work. They are effective and safe, almost completely for young people," Bennett said. "Those who refuse vaccines are endangering their health, those around them and the freedom of every Israeli citizen. They are endangering our freedom to work, the freedom of our children to learn and the freedom to hold celebrations with the family.

Bennett said he wants to avoid "endless lockdowns" and safeguard Israel's economy as the country continues to fight the virus. 

Earlier Thursday, Israel's coronavirus cabinet recommended travel bans to the UK, Turkey, Georgia and Cyprus to stop the entry of new infections. The recommendation is expected to be formally approved next week. Government ministers also approved reinstating the "Green Pass," limiting attendance at large events with over 100 participants to those who are vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19, or who present a valid negative test result.

The Health Ministry recorded 1,336 new cases on Thursday. The vast majority of the new cases are mild, but at least 73 people have had serious cases of COVID-19. 

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