Former minister Yuval Steinitz from Likud tells Ynet that Health Ministry experts assume Omicron is less dangerous without scientific data to prove it, calls on government to implement a ‘flexible’ lockdown to save country

A former government minister said on Sunday that Israel was on the verge of a “catastrophe” in the wake of rising COVID-19 infections and was taking an “insane” gamble with the lives of children by not implementing stricter measures.

Former Energy Minister Ynet Steinitz from Likud, now part of the Opposition, told Ynet the government’s argument of not wanting to implement a lockdown due to economic instability is flawed since economy would also suffer if the country is overwhelmed with contagion.

תור בחדרה לבדירות קורונה
People in long line to be tested for COVID in Hadera (Photo: Elad Gershgoren)


“I disagree with Health Ministry’s experts, whom I believe are towing the line for the ministers,” he said. “This government has given up the fight and has opted for mass contagion model, based on dangerous misconceptions.”

Israel on Sunday logged more than 17,000 new cases of coronavirus and has seen a substantial rise in serious morbidity and hospitalizations.

“These experts assume that the Omicron variant causes a less severe illness, because it does not embed itself in the lungs, and may not cause long-COVID,” Steinitz told Ynet.

“But there is no foundation to support this assumption and there may be millions infected,” he said.

ריאיון אולפן עם יובל שטייניץ, הליכוד
Former Energy Minister Ynet Steinitz from Likud (Photo: Kobi Koankas)


“Even if there are fewer seriously ill patients that in previous waves, there will be hundreds of thousands of teenagers with long-term health issues. The experts assume that this will be a short wave that will peak quickly and drop off to let us resume our lives, or that there will be herd immunity,” Steinitz said.

He said there is no scientific proof to support assumptions that once someone is infected by Omicron, he or she will not be protected from getting re-infected within months.

Steinitz warned of another covert assumption held by ministry experts that Omicron will push the Delta variant away, thereby leading to less hospitalizations.

הצוותים הרפואיים בבית חולים שיבא
A coronavirus ward at the Sheba Medical Center on Saturday (Photo: Yariv Katz)


“Once again there is no scientific data supporting such an assumption and the fact that the public is not restricted in any way and that PCR testing is less available could result in more patients unaware of their illness, and we will see more of both variants causing morbidity.”

The member of the Opposition called to implement a “flexible” lockdown. “We have to reduce contagion immediately before catastrophe strikes,” he said adding that there must be legislation requiring Israelis to vaccinate.

“Even if there is no enforcement of such a law, it will increase vaccination rates considerably,” he said.

Steinitz also said some schools must be shut down to reduce mass contagion and the risk to children.

חיסוני ילדים בבית ספר אל זיתון בבועינה נוג'ידאת
A child receives the coronavirus vaccine in a school in northern Israel last week (Photo: Efi Sharir)


“Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton foiled efforts to vaccinate children en masse unfortunately, but kindergartens and elementary schools – at least – should shut down,” he said. “There is not one classroom without an infected. Some are asymptomatic so they will surely infect others who are not vaccinated,” he said.

Steinitz referred to data from the United States, showing a rise in serious illness and death, among children.

“One out of 10 kids infected with coronavirus will suffer from long-COVID, which means one hundred thousand kids with long-term health problems – if we see a million infections. On the one hand the government refuses to legislate compulsory vaccines and on the other, it sends kids into highly infectious classrooms after failing to convince parents of the need for pediatric vaccines,” he said.

חיסון קורונה בנתניה
Coronavirus vaccines (Photo: AFP)


“Israel is lagging behind in vaccination rates after leading the world,” Steinitz said. “I see other countries such as Britain and the U.S. who have given up, but I also see countries such as Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and Austria who had succeeded in achieving higher rates of vaccination.”

Steinitz said the public would comply with the government even if it decides on unpopular steps. “Raising a white flag means millions of infections, unknown deaths and long-COVID cases,” he said.

Steinitz bashed the coalition of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, claiming the premier had no power to impose his authority because he only had six Knesset seats to back him.

“I call on the prime minister to ignore politics and save the country,” he said.

As reported by Ynetnews