Israeli PM cites Omicron deaths of two British teenagers which never happened

Israeli PM cites Omicron deaths of two British teenagers which never happened
Israel PM Naftali Bennett claimed two British teens had died from Omicron in a bid to encourage a vaccination drive among Israeli children. However, the two UK deaths occurred before Omicron was first detected.
2 min read
14 December, 2021
Fifty-five Omicron cases have been confirmed in Israel so far, and 50 more are suspected [Getty]

Israel's prime minister has inaccurately claimed that two British teenagers died after contracting Omicron, even though their deaths happened before the new Covid-19 variant was detected, according to local news. 

Naftali Bennett said in a cabinet meeting Sunday that "two middle school students in Britain from the same class died of Omicron", the highly transmissible coronavirus variant surging around the globe. 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the first patient death from contracting Omicron Monday, the day after.  

"One wasn't vaccinated at all, and the other had apparently been partially vaccinated," said Bennett, in a bid to encourage Israeli children to get their jabs. 

In reality, the deaths of 14-year-old Mohammad Habib and 15-year-old Harry Towers occurred in October. The first known confirmed Omicron case was from a specimen collected on 9 November, according to WHO. 

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Both British teenagers attended St John Fisher Catholic College in Newcastle-under-Lyme and caught Covid-19. 

"The prime minister discussed the deaths of the two British schoolboys, who contracted Covid-19 and passed away shortly after," read a response from Bennett’s office to Haaretz

The office stressed that Bennett meant to refer to the coronavirus generally, not specifically the Omicron variant, the newspaper reported. 

Fifty-five Omicron cases have been confirmed in Israel so far, and 50 more are suspected.  

Some cases appeared without a known source of infection, indicating that the variant is spreading through the community, Israeli ministry of health officials said Monday. 

Bennett has pushed for a further vaccination drive given the rapid spread of Omicron, which he called “very worrisome”. 

Already, Israel has one of the highest vaccination rates in the Middle East, with 64 percent fully vaccinated and 46 percent receiving an additional booster dose.

Israel imposed a strict travel ban on the entry of all foreigners in an attempt to stem Covid-19 infections in November. On Sunday, the country added the UK and Denmark to its "red" list of countries Israelis are forbidden from visiting due to concerns over Omicron. 

New Omicron infections in the UK are around 200,000 a day as of 13 December.