Professor Mordechai Shani
Prof. Mordechai Shani
Photo: Gilad Kavalerchik
Young people socialize in Tel Aviv without face masks during the pandemic

The cold truth about coronavirus and its successors

Opinion: Some think COVID -19 is a threat only to elderly and that similar pandemic will only appear in century from now, but second waves of viruses have targeted young and the pandemic could be just a generation away

Mordechai Shani |
Published: 06.19.20 , 18:24
As an old-timer who has spent 55 years of his life in public service in Israel's health system, I am concerned by the public complacency and the seemingly total misunderstanding of what is ahead in terms of the coronavirus pandemic.
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  • Coronavirus has not left us, and despite what some may believe, we are not in the midst of a second wave that is manifesting exclusively in the education system.
    הציבור מתקהל ללא מסכותהציבור מתקהל ללא מסכות
    Young people socialize in Tel Aviv without face masks during the pandemic
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    Unfortunately, COVID-19 will be with us for at least another year - until a vaccine is found and produced in enough numbers to inoculate everyone who wants it.
    No less than eight virus epidemics have appeared in the past 25 years, including SARS, MERS, avian flu, swine flu, Zika virus, Ebola virus, measles and COVID-19.
    This led Bill Gates to predict that a virus pandemic would appear as well as to his contention - with which I am in agreement - that every generation may encounter a new one in its turn.
    Some South Asian countries have had a strategy to deal with a pandemic in place since before the latest outbreak, having learned from past experiences. This could explain the relatively limited damage to their population and economy.
    Israel's own successful containment of the contagion was the result of a quick and successful closure imposed on the population, leading to a local death rate far below countries like Belgium and Sweden, which have a similar population size.
    But now, as all restrictions are being lifted, it is incumbent upon each one of us individually to strictly adhere to health guidelines.
     Testing for coronavirus in an Israeli lab  Testing for coronavirus in an Israeli lab
    Testing for coronavirus in an Israeli lab
    (Photo: AFP)
    Granted, humanity has come a long way since the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that infected a quarter of the world's population, which at the time was unaware of the dangers of viruses.
    But we in the modern world must still learn to live with the possibility of another novel virus outbreak or a mutation in an existing virus, as happened in 1968 with the Hong Kong flu.
    We must internalize the new reality and how our lives will change from now on.
    Some believe a pandemic will only appear once a century, and many young people believe this current pandemic is harmful only to people of a certain advanced age. They are wrong. There have been viruses in the past that have caused more damage to the young.
    The plethora of viral pandemics in recent decades has possibly been accelerated by climate change, but regardless of the cause, another will likely appear in the next generation - and the second wave of past pandemics has caused more harm to young and healthy people.
    חיטוי בית ספר "הגימנסיה" בירושליםחיטוי בית ספר "הגימנסיה" בירושלים
    Disinfecting in a Jerusalem class room after a student tested positive for COVID-19
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
    Until a vaccine for COVID-19 is found, we must all take responsibility for our actions.
    We must maintain social distancing, maintain our personal hygiene and prepare a strategy to deal with any new pandemics that may appear.
    Mordechai Shani is an Israel Prize laureate and professor of Healthcare Systems at Tel Aviv University

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