Muslim residents of East Jerusalem won’t be allowed to visit mosques if they refuse to join Israel’s vaccination drive, the city’s Mayor Moshe Lion has warned community leaders in Arab neighborhoods.

The people in the Muslim part of the city were “indifferent” to being vaccinated against the coronavirus and needed extra persuasion to get the shots, Lion told Arab officials during a call on Sunday. A recording of the discussion was afterwards released to local media.

“Remember what I tell you, friends – whoever does not get vaccinated won’t be able to return to normal routine,” the mayor said.

If Arab residents “don’t want to be vaccinated, they won’t be vaccinated, but they won’t be allowed to enter hotels; they won’t be allowed to enter mosques; they won’t be allowed to enter schools,” Lion added.
He urged the neighborhood leaders to relay this information to their community so that people wouldn’t later be surprised when faced with the restrictions.

By taking part in the immunization, Muslims “are doing themselves a favor, they are not doing me a favor,” the mayor said.

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However, the Times of Israel paper, which reported the news, pointed out that the legality of the measures announced by Lion, as well as of any other restrictions on unvaccinated individuals, was debatable.

The call took place amid rising concerns over low vaccination rates in East Jerusalem where, according to broadcaster Kan, only 13 percent have so far received the first of two required injections of the Pfizer inoculation.

Israeli officials fear a spike in infections during the holy month of Ramadan, which starts in mid-April and will see Muslims celebrating in large groups. There are some 320,000 Arabs living in Jerusalem – more than 36 percent of the city’s population.

The unnamed Arab officials reportedly agreed with the measures voiced by the city’s mayor. “That’s the way it should be,” one of them said of the proposed bans for the unvaccinated in the recording.

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Meanwhile, Israel’s initially fast-paced vaccination campaign, which has already seen 2,130,652 people receiving both shots, has started to slow down. Despite allowing injections to everyone older than 16, only half of the planned 200,000 shots are currently being given on a daily basis.

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