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Israel's post-pandemic health disaster

Opinion: Before we start rebuilding our lives without social distancing, we will have to wade through the destruction and devastation left by virus that decimated already dilapidated and dysfunctional health and welfare infrastructure

Hadar Gil-Ad |
Published: 12.17.20 , 23:31
Vaccine season, scheduled to begin in Israel next week, will herald the beginning of the end of the pandemic.
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  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already announced - with great excitement - that he will be the first citizen to get the shot on Saturday night, followed by a host of politicians who will never pass up a great photo op as we head into yet another election.
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    Without any doubt, this is the exhilarating news that we have been waiting for throughout these long months. But before we start rebuilding our lives without social distancing, we will have to wade through the destruction and devastation left in the wake of a coronavirus pandemic that struck already lean, dilapidated and dysfunctional health and welfare systems.
    Health comes first, which is why life during the pandemic has made us all push aside everything that is not urgent. Like on the battlefield in war, we can't stop and contemplate non-vital issues until an armistice has been called, providing us with the much-needed peace and security that will allow us to examine the wreckage for the first time.
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    עסקים סגורים בירושלים
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    A man walks past shuttered business in Jerusalem during the pandemic
    (Photo: Amit Shabi)
    Once this health threat is no longer hovering above our heads, we will be tasked with addressing all we have forsaken: The collapsing economy; the hundreds of thousands of unemployed; the broken families; the citizens who tumbled into poverty; the elderly who have lost a reason to live; the children who have forgotten how to learn. We are a hurting nation with withered systems that struggled even before the pandemic.
    No skilled screenplay writer could have come up with a better Hollywood plot: In the shadow of a looming election, a vaccine arrived in the nick of time to save the people of Israel from a dreadful virus.
    But societal problems are also an election issue. Where is the vaccine to heal the open wounds of the many Israelis who have lost their livelihoods and/or loved ones in the pandemic?
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    אילוס אילוסטרציה דכאון חרדה קורונה
    אילוס אילוסטרציה דכאון חרדה קורונה
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    The data shows Israel is facing an unprecedented catastrophe of mental health.
    Mental deterioration, anxiety, stress, depression and suicidal tendencies all became symptoms of this accursed virus, but no one is rushing to provide special wards hotels or ministerial committees for those struggling mentally. They will have to seek relief from a starved and neglected healthcare system.
    Even before the pandemic, the waiting times for the publicly-funded psychology service ranged between six and 14 months. And the Health Ministry has just decided to hammer in the final nail in its coffin and make further budget cuts.
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    בנימין נתניהו ויולי אדלשטיין בקבלת המטוס שמגיע עם החיסונים נגד קורונה לישראל
    בנימין נתניהו ויולי אדלשטיין בקבלת המטוס שמגיע עם החיסונים נגד קורונה לישראל
    Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greet the first batch of coronavirus vaccines to arrive in Israel
    (Photo: Shmulik Davidpour)
    We are fast approaching the moment when we wake up in a post-pandemic world, but we cannot give blame the virus for the mayhem left in its wake.
    This is not what reality should look like in a post-coronavirus era, this is what long-standing neglect looks like. This is what a country whose government abandoned the welfare and mental health of its plooks like.
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