Nadav Eyal
Nadav Eyal
Photo: IBA
Tel Aviv residents emerge from a six-week lockdown

Israel's leaders are out of ideas

Opinion: There is no logic to decisions made by ministers who would rather fall back on revert failed solutions than promote the coronavirus vaccinations and come up with creative ways of safely reopening schools

Nadav Eyal |
Published: 02.10.21 , 23:24
What exactly did the Israeli government do to prepare for the day after lockdown?
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  • It should have come as no surprise that after lockdown there would have to be a tempered exit strategy, so why was one never prepared?
    7 צפייה בגלריה
    הקלה על מגבלות הסגר בתל אביב
    הקלה על מגבלות הסגר בתל אביב
    Tel Aviv residents emerge from a six-week lockdown
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    An intra-ministerial committee was established and tasked with preparing strategy. It is safe to assume some ideas were developed and even presented to ministers.
    But at the end of the day, the same indecision and chaos that was exhibited after previous lockdowns reappeared as the country emerged from its third closure and the government once again relied on little more than improvisation.
    Israel's death toll per million exceeds that of Austria, which also begun emerging from a long-lasting lockdown.
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    בנימין נתניהו ויולי אדלשטיין
    בנימין נתניהו ויולי אדלשטיין
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein
    Austria's decision to end its restrictive measures came about not because of political or public pressure and not because of an extensive vaccination effort. It came about because the measures worked and morbidity fell thanks to the public's behavior.
    Austrians exhibited faith in their government, followed the rules and were not bombarded by cheap populist rhetoric.
    Schools there will be subject to constant testing of staff and students for COVID-19 as part of a fixed pre-prepared program.
    7 צפייה בגלריה
    קורונה אוסטריה וינה תור ל זארה אחרי הסרת הגבלות
    קורונה אוסטריה וינה תור ל זארה אחרי הסרת הגבלות
    Austrians queue outside a clothes store in Vienna during the coronavirus pandemic
    (Photo: AFP)
    In Israel, however, the only preparations that we have seen are of PowerPoint presentations to ministers, time after time.
    Israel is a high-tech superpower but offers nothing but archaic solutions.
    Even the much-touted certificate given to people who had received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine is a printed out piece of paper.
    Couldn't they come up with a digital certificate that could be easily scanned to allow those immune to the coronavirus to participate in economic, cultural and other activities? A digital certificate could even help track outbreaks of the disease.
    And what about finally establishing a national database of those who were sick, recovered, vaccinated and so on using artificial Intelligence?
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    A school in the Haredi settlement of Modi'in Illit operating in violation of coronavirus restrictions
    A school in the Haredi settlement of Modi'in Illit operating in violation of coronavirus restrictions
    A school in the Haredi settlement of Modi'in Illit operating in violation of coronavirus restrictions
    (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
    Israeli children are suffering because of the ministers' lack of vision. Some European countries are keeping their schools closed not because of the spread of the virus but because they know the schools themselves are a source of infection.
    A quick review of morbidity in Israel's Haredi communities - where schools were illegally opened by decree of local religious authorities - is confirmation of that fact, as the number of cases within them soared to dangerous heights.
    Israel has the benefit of a strong vaccine rollout. Let's give credit where it's due - to the government, the health funds or anyone else that deserves it. If only our leaders knew how best to use this unique advantage over so many other countries.
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    חיסון קורונה בהוד השרון
    חיסון קורונה בהוד השרון
    A man receives his coronavirus vaccine at a facility in Hod Hasharon
    (Photo: AFP)
    Opening schools in municipalities with low rates of COVID-19 could motivate other localities to step up their vaccination efforts. But the government is missing this opportunity to boost vaccination numbers as well.
    It is allowing localities with a middling rate of morbidity to open their schools. This will surely be followed by cities with high infection rates getting the go-ahead to reopen and any municipality that has some political sway.
    There is no logic behind the decisions being made by this government and the lack of logic does not end there.
    Education is for the most part an indoor activity that should take priority over other sectors.
    Schools cater to a set population that is locally based, unlike malls or large business complexes that draw in the public from near and far, including areas with both low and high levels of infection.
    But this government, rather than giving precedence to reopening schools, opted to open malls and gyms first. After all, children lack the political power of business owners.
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    הפגנת בעלי העסקים בת"א בדרישה לפתוח את חנויות הרחוב
    הפגנת בעלי העסקים בת"א בדרישה לפתוח את חנויות הרחוב
    Business owners protest in Tel Aviv over coronavirus restrictions
    (Photo: Tal Kirschenbaum)
    The coronavirus pandemic is a challenge for all governments around the world. It is also managed differently in different countries.
    Schools in the UK are closed, in France they are open and in Austria they will open soon. The question is not which government is most successful in its strategy, it is which government tries to achieve success, which leaders are working on new solutions when the old ones fail.
    This work is more than preparing PowerPoint presentations and data-laden graphs.
    Real world solutions include proper safety measures, more testing, smaller classes, even construction of outdoor facilities to enable kids to study in the open air - something that Israel with its temperate climate can make good use of.
    7 צפייה בגלריה
    לימודים באוויר הפתוח בערבה התיכונה
    לימודים באוויר הפתוח בערבה התיכונה
    A high school class is held in the open air in southern Israel
    (Photo: Central Arava Regional Council)
    The solutions could be additional manpower for school and the use of digital means to track contagion among students and educational staff.
    New Zealand and perhaps Taiwan aside, there are no geniuses governing most countries. But there are certainly those who do try and try again to come up with new ideas, something Israel's leaders never do.
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