Israelis must face the reality of the pandemic in order to stop it

Written by on October 1, 2020

If the public isn’t following the guidelines, something must be done to make them comply – even if it means closing synagogues for Sukkot and curbing the ongoing protests against Netanyahu.

Israelis, wearing face masks for fear of the coronavirus, shop for grocery at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on July 14, 2020. Israel has seen a spike of new COVID-19 cases bringing the authorities to reimpose restrictions to halt the spread of the virus (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Israelis, wearing face masks for fear of the coronavirus, shop for grocery at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on July 14, 2020. Israel has seen a spike of new COVID-19 cases bringing the authorities to reimpose restrictions to halt the spread of the virus

(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

 The coronavirus pandemic in Israel is in full force and gaining momentum, and sadly, the country is becoming desensitized to the tragic trail of dead it is leaving in its wake.

The daily loss of life that we’re hearing and reading about is astounding. Each day, more than 40 Israelis are dying of corona. Imagine if each day, road accidents or terror attacks claimed 40 victims. Would anybody stand for it?

Yet, with the victims of corona, we hear the number and manage to block out the human suffering and tragedy behind each individual, as well as the hundreds who are in serious condition and, if they survive, will likely have long-lasting or even permanent side effects.

According to Professor Ran Balicer, a Clalit executive and member of the Health Ministry’s pandemic response team that advises coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu, research has shown that only 12% of those who have fallen ill were expected to live less than six months before they contracted corona, and 20% were expected to live up to a year. That means that a clear majority of those who have died during the pandemic could have lived much, much longer.

To prevent the runaway COVID train from continuing to wreak havoc and claim many more lives, there has to be an immediate change in all of our mindsets. The cavalier attitude that some Israelis take to the pandemic must stop – right now.

One change must be the idea that placing the country in a two- or three-week lockdown is going to be a panacea that will enable a reset to the skyrocketing number of Israelis getting infected – close to 9,000 on Wednesday, another record. It’s going to take much more than that.

That’s why it was important and commendable for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say during the coronavirus cabinet meeting Wednesday that it could take between six months and a year for the country to exit from the coronavirus closure. Israelis need to hear the harsh truth, not a candy-coating of the situation.

It was also encouraging that the cabinet seems to be seriously discussing an exit plan that will enable the country to slowly emerge from the closure while decreasing the possibility of another spike in infections.

According to the Post’s Maayan Hoffman, the reopening of the country will be based on data and not dates.

We also applaud Gamzu’s suggestion to substantially increase fines for violating closure regulations, including events and parties, and on opening schools from NIS 5,000 to 50,000; breaking isolation from NIS 5,000 to 10,000; and failing to wear a mask in a public place from NIS 500 to NIS 1,000.

Enforcement is the linchpin in making the restrictions effective, although there is an increased police presence on the roads at exits and entrances to cities and some neighborhoods, anecdotal evidence points to a near-total lack of interest in checking whether travelers are indeed included in the list of those allowed to be in transit during the current shutdown. Postings on social media show highways in the center of the country nearly as crowded as they are in normal times. That also needs to change immediately.

With the Sukkot holiday beginning Friday night, the likelihood that extended families and friends are planning to travel to be together for meals is high. They will be putting themselves, and the rest of us, in danger.

At Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz clashed with Netanyahu after Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz called to restrict the exit from homes to 100 or 200 meters.

“We’re driving the public crazy,” warned Gantz.

“You will not tell me what we are driving crazy or not,” Netanyahu shouted at Gantz. “If the lockdown is not working, it is not working.”

In this case, we agree with Netanyahu. If the public isn’t following the guidelines, something must be done to make them comply – even if it means closing synagogues for Sukkot and curbing the ongoing protests against Netanyahu.

We are in a crisis situation, and only if we internalize this and change our behavior, will we be able to confront the horrors of the pandemic and begin to save the lives of all those nameless victims who for the most part, are just numbers in a radio report or on a printed page, and they deserve to live.

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