משה בר סימן טוב
Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov
Photo: Yoav Dudkevich
Israel must enforce measures in wake of Omicron spread

Omicron is here but no need to panic

Opinion: Although Israel finds itself in an advantageous position in wake of new strain, more measures must still be taken - continuing the pediatric vaccination campaign, ensuring schools are safe and enforcing Green Pass mandate

Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov |
Published: 11.29.21, 23:20
The arrival of the new coronavirus variant is here to teach us a lesson we've already learned from past infection waves: When it comes to the battle against the virus, we cannot allow ourselves to rest on our laurels for even one moment.
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  • We must always be ready for the unexpected, and unfortunately, there is no one tool or measure that will annihilate the virus once and for all.
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    התפשטות זן הקורונה החדש אומיקרון
    התפשטות זן הקורונה החדש אומיקרון
    Israel must enforce measures in wake of Omicron spread
    (Photo: Reuters, Shalom Shalev, Motti Kimchi, Getty Images)
    And still, when it comes to all the uncertainty regarding the Omicron strain, Israel finds itself in a rather advantageous position.
    The vaccination rate among the general public is relatively high and the country's health system is experienced and prepared for any scenario, as well as the public.
    The situation may also warrant a certain level of optimism as the new variant does not appear to cause serious illness more than the previous strains, even though it is too early to call given the lack of sufficient data.
    The measures taken by the government so far are essential in ensuring Israel is protected from any surprises.
    And still, there are more steps we need to take in order to bolster our defenses against Omicron.
    The first, and most important, is the education system. We need to prepare to downsize the number of children in classes if infection begins to tick up pace among the younger age groups.
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    תלמידים
    תלמידים
    Students at a school in Bat Yam
    (Photo: Kobi Koankes)
    Out of all possible measures, this one is the most crucial. It should not be seen as some sort of a punishment, but a tool that will allow not only schools, but the entire health system, to better efforts against the pathogen.
    With Omicron reminding us that coronavirus is here to stay for the long run, whether we like it or not, Israel must make sure that when children return to schools from the Hanukkah holidays, they go back to a safe and properly managed environment.
    The government's plan to implement new air filtration technologies in classes is important, but would likely do little in the grand scheme of things.
    The second step is further accelerating the pediatric vaccination campaign.
    Although the percentage of hardcore anti-vaxxers in Israel is small, the number of those who are still hesitant and delay their children's inoculations is sizeable and they must be the first group our persuasion efforts should be directed at.
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    חיסוני ילדים בכללית, קריית גת
    חיסוני ילדים בכללית, קריית גת
    A child receives his coronavirus vaccine at a clinic in Kiryat Gat
    (Photo: Barel Ephraim)
    While there are some reports stating that Omicron is showing some level of vaccine resistance, vaccination it is still the most potent tool in preventing infections and serious illness.
    The more children get vaccinated, the more we will all be protected against coronavirus.
    Israel leaders must not refrain from using a more assertive tone in telling parents they need to vaccinate their kids, while providing data supporting its efficacy.
    In addition, enforcement of the Green Pass mandate must be policed more efficiently. Had Israel implemented it earlier during the last wave, it is likely that many lives would have been saved.
    And lastly, we should not be afraid to admit that we still don't know everything about this virus.
    We have entered a new reality that will become more clear to us only in the coming days and weeks. For now, stay safe.

    Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov is a former director-general at the Health Ministry and a guest researcher for the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University



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