Opinion: 45% of new infections since start of 2021 have been among under-17s, despite schools being closed; with UK coronavirus strain showing alarming spread in minors, are we really going to sacrifice them for politicians’ ambitions?
Elementary students wear face masks in class at a school in central Israel
Israel’s coronavirus infection rate is still worryingly high, but that has not stopped the country’s elected officials from starting discussions on an exit strategy for the current lockdown.
And who is the first on the list? Our children, of course.
They are apparently a justifiable sacrifice for some quick and cheap political credit in the run-up to the March 23 elections, an event as frightening as a fourth wave of the pandemic itself.
The economy is collapsing and public faith in the governing bodies is at an all-time low, but at least we will be able to comfortably drink our morning cup of joe at the office while our kindergartens and schools are turned into slaughterhouses.
Data shows that by the time Israel saw in the new year, 45% of the country’s infections were among students or teachers. The Health Ministry this week reported a surge in infections among under-17s, which currently stands at 51,218 for that age group since the start of January, despite schools being shut.
There are data-backed fears that the UK coronavirus variant is far more prevalent among children, but this did not stop Education Minister Yoav Galant from telling municipal leaders on Monday to get ready to reopen their schools next week.
The ignored victims of this pandemic continue to suffer. Instead of officials using funds to create smaller classrooms and increase staff, they choose to direct students to learn from home, subjecting them to loneliness under the guise of “social distancing” and turning their fellow classmates and teachers into small squares on their monitors.
We are already making our kids study at home with a dilapidated learning infrastructure; are we really now going to ignore all warning signs and send them back out into the world to let them become infected?
The upcoming election and the politicians’ fervent desire to please voters have overshadowed all sensible decision-making processes.
Despite all the gains we have made with the vaccination campaign, we are still in the thick of the pandemic – bloody, bruised and more divided than ever.
Any wrong step now will push us even further away from the day the pandemic ends, from any hopes of once again savoring what we used to call normality and from saving what we have left.
Every time we thought we saw the light at the end of the tunnel, the coronavirus pulled another rabbit out of its hat.
We cannot ignore its latest trickery. The rising infection rates among our children have changed the game rules completely and demand that we rethink any lockdown exit strategy.
Hadar Gil-Ad is the Ynet welfare and social affairs correspondent