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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Israel’s success in the fight against coronavirus is up to us

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Israelis are great at cutting corners. Making Kombinot to get around restrictions and circumvent obstacles, passing on the right, doctoring figures on taxes – whatever it takes to get their way and avoid being freiers.

Unfortunately, every time we try to cut corners regarding the pandemic, it turns around and bites us in the backside.

On Wednesday, the number of serious cases of virus infection surpassed 400, a high in this fourth wave that the country has seen since March 2020. The number of infected was above 5,700 for the third day running.

The government, spearheaded by the corona cabinet, is continuing to ramp up nationwide restrictions to stem the rising rates, in an attempt to avoid a shutdown of the country ahead of the holidays next month.

In the latest set of restrictions, unvaccinated people – from age three up – will be required as of August 18 to present a negative COVID test before entering swimming pools, gyms, academic institutions, sports and culture events, conferences, museums, libraries, restaurants and hotels.

The tests for children up to 11 will be paid for by the state, whereas anyone 12 or older will be required to fund the screenings on their own.

Further restrictions were also approved regarding the number of people at gatherings in closed and open spaces, all in a desperate attempt to derive a formula that will level off the pandemic without forcing the economy to shut down, as was done in the three previous  waves of the virus.

Between the draconian measure of closing Ben-Gurion Airport and the economic devastation caused to businesses, both small and large, the previous attempts have revealed a ‘throw everything at the wall and see what sticks’ mentality that is untenable as we go forward.

The frustration and uncertainty how to combat this current wave of the aggressive virus – in which the number of serious cases is drastically lower than the previous waves due to the high levels of vaccinated citizens – was reflected in Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s unfortunate statement earlier this week 

“We have to know how to accept severe cases and also to accept deaths, because this is a pandemic and in a pandemic people die,” she said during an interview on Channel 13 news. “It’s happening all over the world right now.”

Coming off as callous, Shaked was forced to retract and clarify her comments. But the essence of what she was saying should be considered. There needs to be a balance between fighting COVID with all available measures and keeping the country going.

Ultimately, it’s not going to be up to the government to create that balance, it’s going to be up to us. It’s time to stop cutting corners and running the ‘Kombinot’ for which we are infamous.

Every person needs to take responsibility. If you’re one of the million or so Israeli adults who has yet to get vaccinated and you’re medically eligible, then go get vaccinated. Now.

If you’re in an office or an elevator or a supermarket or a store, put on a mask. Stop bellyaching that it’s uncomfortable, or that you’re so depressed about returning to the dark, old days of the pandemic that you thought were behind us.

Taking these simple measures, if done collectively, will even off the rising tide of infection and even reverse it. And we won’t have to go to a shutdown, close up businesses again and shutter the airport.

Israelis are so fed up with the concept of a lockdown, it’s unlikely they’ll even heed the call if another one is made – a prime example of our penchant for cutting corners and not following the rules.

Nobody wants to spend the holidays without their extended families, without their grandchildren or grandparents.  And nobody wants to see another lockdown, which appears more likely with every passing day.

There used to be a popular and effective ad campaign in the US in which Smokey the Bear solemnly declared: “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

Unfortunately, we don’t have anyone in Israel we can fully trust like Smokey, but his plea can still be heeded. Only our actions can prevent corona. 


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