COVID-19 vaccine
COVID-19 vaccineiStock

Gabi Barbash, the former director-general of Israel’s Health Ministry, called on the Israeli government to apply extreme sanctions on unvaccinated Israelis, saying such measures should be used to effectively forced to get the COVID jab.

Speaking with Radio 103FM in an interview released Monday morning, Barbash – who headed the Health Ministry from 1996 to 1999 and in 2020 was tapped to join the government’s coronavirus committee – argued that the new ‘Omicron’ variant may not be as mild as it appears, despite claims from doctors in South Africa and data regarding infections with the variant.

Barbash noted that the Omicron variant is, according to preliminary data, far more transmissible than either the Delta variant or the original strain.

“The data we have shows that it doubles every three days; during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic we were talking about it doubling every week or 10 days, so this is a fast rate.”

“Nobody can say that this variant leads to milder illness,” Barbash continued. “Biologically, I see no reason why illness from this variant should be any different from illness caused by the other variants.”

But doctors in South Africa, where Omicron was first identified, have reported that infections with the variant have presented milder cases in general than other strains.

Dr. Angelique Coetzee, the physician who first discovered Omicron, called the variant “extremely mild”, while the World Health Organization noted that no deaths have been confirmed among Omicron patients.

Barbash suggested that the data from South Africa could be skewed by the large number of younger people infected with Omicron.

“The population which is getting infected the most in South Africa is in the 20-40 age cohort; this is an age group that aren’t for sure going to die, but despite the reassuring messages from [South Africa], I wouldn’t be so certain.”

The former Health Ministry chief went on to call for sanctions on the unvaccinated which would be intense enough to force them to get vaccinated.

“We have a situation in which there are people who choose not to get vaccinated and who endanger everyone, and in my opinion this is an unacceptable situation, and the only way to deal with it that I know of is to force them to get the vaccine, no choice. That doesn’t mean to force the needle in, but to create a situation with conditions that will make people understand that if they don’t get vaccinated their lives will be limited.”

“These people should stay at home; let people who aren’t vaccinated infect the people they live with. The vaccine is the only way to deal with the coronavirus, there’s no other way.”