שרית רוזנבלום
Sarit Rosenblum
Dana Kopel
Doctors working in a coronavirus ward; Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a public address

Israel has given up its battle against Omicron

Opinion: Government's standing policy of a 'mass infection model' where they virus runs rampant until everyone is infected, is irresponsible and may result in collapse of our health system if spread of new variant is not curbed

Sarit Rosenblum |
Published: 12.29.21, 23:47
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whose daughter is suspected of being infected with the Omicron coronavirus variant, was forced to break quarantine on Monday and travel to the Knesset, but not before accusing the opposition - and justly so - of playing cheap political games that are risking the public's health.
  • Follow Ynetnews on Facebook and Twitter

  • A day later, to everyone's surprise, Israel decided to revise its isolation mandate, making it so that the vaccinated are exempt from it even if they were in contact with a confirmed Omicron carrier. All they need to do now is present a negative PCR test and avoid crowded events.
    3 View gallery
     קורונה דרום אפריקה מעבדה ראש הממשלה נפתלי בנט במסיבת עיתונאים אודות הווריאנט החדש
     קורונה דרום אפריקה מעבדה ראש הממשלה נפתלי בנט במסיבת עיתונאים אודות הווריאנט החדש
    Doctors working in a coronavirus ward; Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a public address
    (Photo: AP, GPO)
    If the latest reports from the Health Ministry are true, a series of further concessions are on the agenda, including a quarantine exemption for those returning from "orange countries" - states with a relatively mild coronavirus morbidity.
    All these decisions would have made general sense if it were not for one crucial variable: the Omicron's incubation period lasts up to eight days, meaning that tests taken right after exposure might not even be able to detect it.
    Given the variant's rapid spread, it is safe to assume that the change in the quarantine policy will lead to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people walking around and unknowingly spreading the virus.
    If some feel like there is no correlation between alarm bells being rang around the world on Omicron and "the goodies" the government has decided to spoil the public with - they are not wrong.
    It is not because the current state of affairs is less worrying, but simply because Israel has decided to give up and stop fighting the pandemic.
    Bennett continues to warn that the number of cases will rise to levels "Israel has not seen before," telling us there is "no way to prevent this".
    This is not entirely accurate.
    3 View gallery
    מחלקת טיפול נמרץ קורונה בבית החולים איכילוב
    מחלקת טיפול נמרץ קורונה בבית החולים איכילוב
    Ichilov Medical Center's coronavirus ward
    (Photo: TPS)
    Even if a massive Omicron infection wave is inevitable, it is essential to do everything possible to slow its rate for a number of reasons.
    If Israel does not manage to flatten the curve, as it did during the previous infection waves, the number of hospitalizations will deal a heavy blow to the country's health system.
    Both the U.S. and the UK saw a dramatic rise in hospital admissions over the past days, both for adults and children. When our hospitals are reporting overcapacity just because of seasonal ailments, the state must do all it can the ensure wards are not filled up with COVID patients.
    Hebrew University's Prof. Doron Gazit released an assessment Tuesday which shows that even a single day where infections plateau could result in "merely" 75,000 coronavirus cases in the first 10 days of 2022 and not 175,000. Such a scenario will at least buy time for Israel's hospitals, public clinics and schools to prepare.
    The slow down of the infection rate will also allow those who have yet to get vaccinated to go and do so.
    In order to achieve this goal, it is appropriate to act quickly and resolutely, and first and foremost to limit gatherings. The state must cancel any event that runs the risk of further spreading the virus. It is inconceivable that New Year's Eve parties are being held with such a serious health threat hanging above our heads. Any other upcoming festivities must also be canceled without a second thought, regardless of whose feelings get hurt.
    3 View gallery
    מתחם בדיקות הקורונה בגני התערוכה בתל אביב, ערב יום כיפור
    מתחם בדיקות הקורונה בגני התערוכה בתל אביב, ערב יום כיפור
    A drive-thru coronavirus testing facility in Tel Aviv
    (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
    It is puzzling that before such a viral storm, which is already thundering in the doorway, no one has yet bothered to order higher education facilities to switch to distant learning. Unlike schools, where students have difficulties keeping up with the tedious ZOOM routine for obvious reasons, young people in their twenties will be able to adapt to such a change, until the threat passes.
    Even a clear and unequivocal directive to transfer private-sector workers to work from home, which is what some companies such as Google have already initiated, will reduce the rate of infection with minimal, if any, damage to the economy.
    The government's standing policy, essentially to let the fire consume the forest, or what is now called the "mass infection model", which simply means to let the disease run rampant until everyone is infected, is unreasonable, irresponsible and immoral.
    If this is indeed the case, please let the prime minister honestly convey to the public his choice - and bear personal responsibility for its devastating consequences.

    Talkbacks for this article 0