Tonight, in what seems to be increasingly routine, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett went on television to talk about the COVID-19 pandemic. He talked about giving a fourth vaccination to the elderly and to limit vaccination checks.
He did this with a show of complete confidence as if everything is completely under control.
Except, with predictions that a third of Israel’s population will soon become infected with the Omicron variant, everything is anything but under control. With hours-long line ups at testing sites, and with people suddenly becoming carriers of Omicron en masse everywhere, we are living in unprecedented times. It is as if Omicron is the new common cold. The government has decided that after two years of fighting the pandemic, that the best outcome will be for a large portion of the population to become infected with it. All one needs to do is read the headlines, with many pointing to a “mass infection model.”
What should the government do? First of all, lockdown is not a curse word. Sometimes, one needs to lockdown even briefly. Is it truly better for the population as a whole to get sick all at once, because the government has abandoned all under 60-year-olds to infection? Should the economy become so paramount that a major portion of the population must now become sick just so it can continue to function? In the schools, the right of students to learn frontally has now become ideological. “It is bad for the children psychologically to learn via Zoom,” say some experts and parents. Some business owners are threatening strikes if more restrictions are placed. However, there is still a pandemic around us….it kills people, makes them ill. Sometimes one needs to take measures to reduce infection.
Second, the government should have clear directives that do not change every few hours. The government shouldn’t be afraid to do what is in people’s general interests. Instead, we are seeing slogans rather than real action against the new variant.
Third, a focus on preventative safety should be at a forefront, and is sorely lacking. As a teacher, my role is to teach students frontally, in class, and to walk around to see that the students are working. The new rules, including now a lack of testing means that I will enter a classroom everyday not knowing which of the students might have the Omicron variant. There is no special PPE given to me when I enter the workplace, so I need to rely on my own resources to go out and acquire it. To not go to school is not an excuse and will subject me to disciplinary action. However, it seems society as a whole has completely become oblivious that there is a major pandemic raging all around us. If someone becomes infected I guess it is G-d’s will…but so will basic common sense. Everyone using proper preventative measures will still reduce the rate of infection. Finding N95 masks is not an easy task, with most masks being non medical grade. This should be changed, and fast.
The Swedish model of business as usual failed. Even if most will likely survive, make no mistake, COVID is not a simple common cold and many people’s health will be affected.
Israel is about to be swamped with COVID-19. Like in the movie World War Zombie where Jerusalem was able to keep the tide at bay through the great wall, it was breached leading to mass infection. It seems we are on the precipice of a similar outcome to COVID.
This is a time when the straightforwardness of Netanyahu comes as a relief. For all his faults, he knew when and how to act. This is missing now from the government.
We may have spent two years going through lockdowns, through mass closures, through Zoom, and draconian limitations. We have become the poster child of Pfizer and the first to mass vaccinate. Suddenly the government has decided with the flood gates open, to let the population largely fend for themselves. Israel may very well become the first country to reach “herd immunity” with all its side effects.
May G-d help us, for many are about to get sick.