Opinion: With spiking cases, the new government must take immediate action to prevent further spread of the virus, but Israelis must also show great personal responsibility, especially those planning to travel abroad
A woman wearing a face mask in the northern town of Binyamina where dozens of coronavirus cases have been reported(Photo: Shamir Elbaz)
Israeli news media’s reporting on renewed coronavirus outbreaks in recent days seems eerily familiar to the early days of the pandemic.
Once again, news organizations speak of cities impacted by rising infection rates as government ministries shift the blame from one another and hundreds of Israelis are ordered to self-isolate.
The pandemic rages on and gives way to the emergence of new variants that seem to be gaining ground around the world.
Israel is not immune to the effects of the Delta variant, which is far more contagious than the UK one and will likely spread much faster now that social distancing measures have been lifted.
Three million Israelis who have yet to get vaccinated against COVID-19 could be especially susceptible to further outbreaks, with children’s health being a prime concern.
Health authorities have repeatedly failed to counter the risk posed by returning travelers who have contracted the virus abroad.
The previous administration’s populist decision to revoke the indoor mask rule, alongside the scrapping of other restrictions and Israelis’ nibbling wanderlust, may once again put the country in the grips of the pandemic.
However, there are some fundamental differences between June 2021 and the initial outbreak of the pandemic in January 2020.
Chief among them is the fact that two-thirds of Israelis have already received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine. This should prevent severe illness that could strain the health system’s capabilities, but other manifestations of the pandemic may still re-appear.
The new government must take immediate action to prevent the virus from spreading further and put into place adequate prevention measures at Israel’s primary gateway — the Ben Gurion International Airport.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who called for a zero-infections policy in the early days of the pandemic back when he served as defense minister, must now prove he is prepared to call the shots and enact a much-needed aggressive response in the face of the emerging danger.
The country’s virus testing apparatus must be bolstered after dedicated testing sites were shut down, and strict quarantine policies must be reinstated after vaccinated or recovering Israelis were exempt from self-isolating, even after coming into contact with confirmed patients.
Bennett must hike up fines for breaching quarantine substantially and limit travel to countries with high infection rates.
But no less important is personal responsibility on the side of each Israeli. While the country enjoyed a sense of normalcy in recent weeks, the virus continued to wreak havoc all around the world.
A family in the Jordan Valley quarantines together after coronavirus cases spiked in the area
People who travel abroad must understand that being vaccinated does not provide absolute protection from the disease. A growing number of people who received both vaccine doses have become infected.
Regardless of their international destination, Israelis must understand that they and their children may be exposed to infection, especially from the highly transmissible Delta variant. However, if they do choose to travel abroad, self-isolating upon their return must be the first consideration on their minds.