יוסי ערבליך
Yossi Erblich
A massive line of people in front of a COVID testing center in Tel Aviv

Israeli public finds itself on its own in this virus wave - and it's okay

Opinion: Although the government instructed the public on what it can and cannot do during previous waves of coronavirus, Omicron brings different challenges and should keep Israelis at home on a voluntary basis

Yossi Erblich |
Published: 01.12.22, 23:18
It is popular to attack the establishment and much less so, to defend it. But the truth must be told. Despite the criticism, the government's decisions, regulations and policies in this coronavirus infection wave have been totally acceptable, especially considering its scope.
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  • For two years most Israelis followed the regulations and health mitigation instructions imposed by the government in order to avoid infection and illness from COVID-19.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    תור ארוך במתחם בדיקות הקורונה של מד"א בהבימה
    תור ארוך במתחם בדיקות הקורונה של מד"א בהבימה
    A massive line of people in front of a COVID testing center in Tel Aviv
    (Photo: AFP)
    Even when the public was not in full agreement with some of the government decisions, such as the shut down of the airport or caps on public gatherings, the people complied.
    Now, since the Omicron variant began its rampage, authorities appear to adopt policies that are in complete opposition to those implemented in previous waves.
    It may appear to some that ministers have decided to leave Israelis to their own devices. They are demanding citizens pay for their COVID tests and shorten quarantine periods, seemingly allowing those infected to spread the virus further.
    But have they?
    Over the past weekend, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) said that children who were infected by COVID have 2.5 more chance of developing diabetes, compared to those who were not exposed to the virus. But the seasonal flu, mumps or measles – all infectious diseases - are still prevalent and the government has not imposed quarantines on those suffering from them.
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    פעילות אכיפה בחיפה
    פעילות אכיפה בחיפה
    Police enforcing coronavirus restrictions in a Haifa Mall at the start of the Omicron wave
    (Photo: Police spokesperson)
    Why is that? Because people who have an infectious illness are usually sensible enough to stay at home voluntarily, and don't need the government to impose isolation on them.
    Israelis have grown accustomed to having the government tell them what they can or cannot do. Now, the leadership has tasked citizens with taking responsibility for others, and told them to rely on their common sense.
    As with the seasonal flu, people are expected to treat COVID symptoms as infectious and maintain a safe distance from others.
    Why now?
    Because until now, Israelis would not have risen to the challenge.
    Hospital capacity is the most critical component of the fight against the pandemic and the shortage of intensive care unit beds, ventilators and ECMO machines are determining factors in its success.
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    A coronavirus ward at the Sheba Medical Center
    A coronavirus ward at the Sheba Medical Center
    A coronavirus ward at the Sheba Medical Center
    (Photo: AFP)
    Hospitals are not affected by schools being shut down to keep young and otherwise health children from contracting COVID-19. Those are unlikely to require hospitalizations.
    While the earlier coronavirus variants caused severe illness, with sometimes up to 50 people being added daily to the tally of seriously ill (and certainly before vaccines were administered to the general population), there was a real need to protect our hospitals.
    But the Omicron variant does not seem to cause as much serious illness and despite being more infectious, will likely not cause hospitals to surpass their ability to provide their best treatment.
    So now is the time to tell the public to behave responsibly for its own safety.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    אילוס אילוסטרציה בדיקת בדיקה קורונה אנטיגן
    אילוס אילוסטרציה בדיקת בדיקה קורונה אנטיגן
    Antigen COVID tests
    (Photo: AFP)
    With over 300,000 tests performed across the country on the daily basis, labs are unable to provide results in a timely fashion. That is why, the government decided that people under the age of 60 and those fully vaccinated must rely on the rapid, antigen home tests.
    Each Israeli, even one who tested for COVID and received a negative result but feels poorly and shows symptoms that could indicate an illness, should behave like a responsible adult, know that there is a risk and decide to remain at home. Voluntarily.

    Yossi Erblich is the founder of Lema'anchem non-profit which provides medical assistance to Israelis in need
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