Israel can deal with coronavirus without lockdown

Opinion: There are three simple steps for managing a normal life while coping safely with the pandemic without destroying the economy, starting with clear enforcement of health regulations for everyone, regardless of sector, religion or politics
Gilad Sharon|
The coronavirus will remain with us until there is either a vaccine or a cure - and this could take six months or a year or even more.
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  • Until that happens, we must all learn to live with it; refraining from behavior that could cause more contagion while still managing to have a normal life and conduct regular economic activity.
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    תל אביב
    תל אביב
    A deserted highway outside Tel Aviv during lockdown
    (Photo: Reuters)
    The country simply cannot be shut down for months and not even for weeks. It could cause economic ruin, with millions of people out of work and a slew of bankruptcies.
    Fewer people may die from COVID-19, but they will have little to live for as they suffer from isolation, loneliness and financial despair after their life's work is lost.
    Shutting everything down as this government has done is not managing the crisis, especially when the medical professionals – the people you would expect to call for harsh measures to curb the spread of the virus - are opposed to the move.
    The political leadership are the ones who should adopt a broader view that considers both health and economic factors. How have the roles become reversed?
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    מרכז קניות ביג ירכא
    מרכז קניות ביג ירכא
    A deserted shopping center in northern Israel
    (Photo: Shamir Elbaz)
    There are three simple principles to living with the virus:
    1. There must be one clear set of rules that applies to all sectors of society, without backtracking and hesitations.
    If something is shuttered, it must be shuttered completely, and if something is opened it must be allowed to operate within health guidelines.
    The same rules must be applied to synagogues, sporting events, demonstrations, weddings or concerts - regardless of political affiliation or ability to exert pressure on decision-makers.
    We must not pit the right to worship against the right to demonstrate. If health measures are observed, both should be allowed to take place.
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    הפגנה מחוץ לסיור של אדלשטיין, אוחנה ומוטי כהן
    הפגנה מחוץ לסיור של אדלשטיין, אוחנה ומוטי כהן
    People in Tel Aviv maintaining social distancing as the protest measures legislated against their right to demonstrate
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    2. There must be smart use of technology. Every place of business, restaurant, stadium and so on must be required to install cameras to live stream to dedicated state-funded control centers that must be established. Anyone seen violating restrictions should be immediately shut down and fined a considerable sum of money.
    Coronavirus testing technologies that can give credible results within 30 minutes are already available and even quicker testing methods are soon to follow, allowing any venue to require people to be tested before entering thereby further reducing any risk of contagion.
    This could be applied anywhere, in open settings or indoors, in markets, swimming pools, hotels or demonstrations.
    If these methods are adopted, people infected by the virus could quickly be identified, isolated and investigated in order to track possible additional infections.
    Paying for these tests would pose less of a financial burden on the government than unemployment benefits or carrying the cost of quarantine for hundreds of thousands.
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    Police enforce lockdown in Tel Aviv
    (Photo: AP)
    3. There must be strict enforcement of health regulations by police or other authorized personnel.
    A dedicated force should be assembled to ensure compliance by all. The same force could staff the control centers charged with monitoring the feeds from the many additional cameras installed, using existing technology that is able to sound the alarm over any violation, such as regulations on overcrowding, without human intervention.
    Thus the coronavirus crisis can be managed and we can all learn to live alongside it in relative normality while protecting our health without destroying our economy.
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    אכיפה בחופי תל אביב
    אכיפה בחופי תל אביב
    Police officers enforce health regulations on Tel Aviv beach
    (Photo: Ynet)
    A total lockdown of the country is nothing more than a desperate attempt to combat the virus at an impossible cost.
    The pandemic began more than six months ago and since then the government has mostly wasted valuable time. By choosing a clear and productive path we may be able to resume some sense of blessed normality.
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