COVID-19 vaccine
COVID-19 vaccine iStock

Israel’s Housing and Construction Minister pushed back Monday on criticism of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and rejected calls to impose a vaccine mandate, suggesting such a move would be ‘fascistic’.

Speaking with Radio 103FM Monday morning, Minister Ze’ev Elkin (New Hope) said Israel remains in a better position vis-à-vis the pandemic than many other countries.

“Our situation is much better than other countries. To prevent getting to the infection percentages in foreign countries, we’re going to continue to bar air travel to the relevant countries. Perhaps in two or three weeks it won’t be relevant.”

“The coronavirus isn’t a religion or ideology, it is a matter of mathematics. Once the infection rate here will be the same as it is in closed countries, there’ll be no reason to close [the skies], because it’ll be the same risk level for infection. So long as the infection level here is lower, it wouldn’t be right to reopen [air travel], because that would increase the infection rate.”

Elkin pushed back on claims the government flip-flopped on coronavirus policy.

“There wasn’t a single decision which was rescinded; there were ideas which were publicized in the news as major headlines, but which after some discussion, we went with other proposals. That’s legitimate. Things that were brought before the cabinet were decided upon almost unanimously.”

The minister ruled out vaccine mandates, saying that the government does not have the right to choose for individual citizens whether to receive the vaccine or not.

While Elkin said mass vaccination would prevent a fifth wave, requiring vaccination would be ‘fascistic’.

“Only if three million Israelis boost their vaccines can we get out of this wave.”

“We can’t take the citizen’s place in deciding whether to protect his life or not. We aren’t a fascistic country. We can’t take people off the street and force them to get vaccinated. You can’t force someone to protect himself.”

Elkin went on to acknowledge that most of the new restrictions imposed Monday would likely have little effect on curbing the pandemic, but defended the policies, saying the government is working to ‘protect citizens’.

“The experts say that the vast majority of the restrictions make only minor contributions to reducing infection, and come at a great economic cost, so what do we get? We are protecting the citizens; that’s why we’re using the Green Pass system, under which we tell people who are vaccinated that they aren’t restricted, he can get in with the pass. People who aren’t vaccinated either need to pay to get tested or live with the restrictions.”

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