שרית רוזנבלום
Sarit Rozenblum
Photo: Dana Kopel

Omicron arrival spells trouble and Israel must be ready

Opinion: While the effects of the new COVID variant remain somewhat of a question mark, the government must not settle for minor restrictions and cancel all flights immediately as well as any upcoming Hannukah events

Sarit Rosenblum |
Published: 11.28.21, 23:42
The recent global panic, sparked by the discovery of the Omicron COVID variant, is based on very little actual facts and a whole lot of fear.
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  • It will take us a few weeks to discover whether the new coronavirus strain is really more infectious and dangerous than previous variants, and whether it is actually resistant to COVID vaccines we currently have available.
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    Illustration
    Illustration
    (Photo: Yotam Fishbain)
    What little we do know about Omicron might indeed spell trouble in our future.
    We know it carries several never-before-seen mutations, which may enhance its virality and make it more infectious than previously known variants.
    The contagion rate in South Africa, where the variant was first observed, has recently seen a serious spike, which only serves to exasperate the fears of the variant’s enhanced infectiousness.
    We also know that medical professionals in southern Africa reported a spike in the hospitalization of people in the 20s and 30s, some of whom have previously recovered or have otherwise been vaccinated against the pathogen.
    These troubling news may signal that Omicron has some level of immunity against the currently available vaccines, which itself may herald the end of the global vaccination effort.
    On the bright side, the majority of those currently hospitalized in South Africa due to the new variant are those who have not been vaccinated at all - which may prove the vaccine is at least partially effective against Omicron.
    Either way, the prevalent uncertainty surrounding the new strain obliges us to prepare for the worst case scenario.
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    קורונה זן חדש אומיקרון בדיקה גרמניה
    קורונה זן חדש אומיקרון בדיקה גרמניה
    Headline in NY Post warns of new variant
    (Photo: Reuters)
    If Omicron is indeed as dangerous as many fear, the price we would all pay for resting on our past laurels would be much higher than the price we may pay for being overly cautious.
    After all, imposing restrictions and taking preventive measures - such as banning travel to so-called “red” countries in Africa - might not be enough to avoid another medical apocalypse.
    We must act now and not waste a single minute, if we are to avoid another economically destructive lockdown.
    Among the measures the government must implement as soon as possible is hermetically sealing Israel’s skies, or at the least greatly reducing all flights not only to the country but also from it.
    Meanwhile, the greatest tool we have for preventing infections and COVID-induced health complications remains the vaccine - even if Omicron proves somewhat resistant to it.
    The booster campaign may also play an important part in fighting against Omicron, as it will probably offer at least some protection against the new variant.
    This is why, now more than ever, every Israeli must contribute to the national fight against COVID and get fully vaccinated.
    On the personal level it will help protect those we most care about, on the national level it will help create a protective layer which will aid us in maintaining our day-to-day life.
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    חיסונים נגד הווריאנט החדש של קורונה
    חיסונים נגד הווריאנט החדש של קורונה
    A woman receiving the COVID vaccine, and illustration of Omicron
    (Phot: Yariv Katz, AFP)
    The week-long holiday of Hanukkah that begins on Sunday, is a bonanza of live shows and performances for children, which take place all over the country and attended by thousands.
    The government must figure out the best way to handle these events, which are potential infection hotspots. We cannot simply let our youngest and most vulnerable population be exposed to Omicron outbreaks, while we hide behind the pseudo protection offered by the Green Pass.
    Cancelling social gathering could avoid use dealing with dozens, or even hundreds, of new infection chains.
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has called on all the parents to vaccinate their children, in order to allow them all to “go out and celebrate Hanukkah.” What Bennett is selling though, is a dangerous illusion.
    Even the children who were vaccinated in the first week of the pediatric vaccination campaign will not be completely immune to Omicron.
    In an emergency such as the one we may soon find ourselves in, all non-essential events and venues must be shuttered, with affected businesses properly compensated.
    Because when the dust of the Hanukkah festivities eventually settles, we may find ourselves unprepared to deal with the damage.

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