Depriving coronavirus the thriving environment of summer time

Not to recognize the potential threat of summer time during this trying period would be both reckless and irresponsible.

Tel Aviv beach in the summer. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Tel Aviv beach in the summer.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
It was Winston Churchill, I believe, who wisely pointed out that a good crisis should not go to waste. That sage advice has been often applied by business and government leaders who stuck their necks out of the box during periods of great calamity, tragedy and challenge to prove that silver linings can be found even in the darkest of clouds.
What a shame, then, if we let the current COVID-19 crisis pass – as it most surely will – without something positive resulting in the outcome.
While more proactive and focused health policy and practices would be the obvious recipients from this current malady, arguments can be made that industrial production, financial regulations and international relations can, too, find themselves making some adjustments and modifications in response to this pandemic.
And yet, now is the time – in Israel anyway – to take full advantage of this unfortunate and dangerous episode and address one area that few are willing or ready to embrace: the cancellation of Summer Time.
Summer time – or daylight savings time – is no longer as universally promoted as it has once been. The issue, admittedly, is more than a little complicated, and the pros and cons, not surprisingly, tend to be somewhat contradictory.
Even the origin of this practice is subject to speculation. Historians agree that Benjamin Franklin was only joking in his 1784 essay that the people of Paris should get up earlier in order to save money on candles, but concur that a New Zealand entomologist was the first to seriously suggest the idea in 1895 as a way of having more hours of daylight during which he could collect insects. The idea, one might therefore say, was buggy from the start.
Serious studies have been conducted in recent years to determine just how beneficial are the three official purposes of this annual spring forward – energy savings, prevention of traffic accidents and crime reduction. The statistics would suggest that although the change does indeed come with significant advantages, the evil twin cannot be ignored.
Whether you call it summer time, daylight savings time or something else altogether, the disruption to a human being’s sleep schedule can have adverse consequences, including marked degradation of both health and productivity. Indeed, the European Union has recommended – which may be promoted as a binding regulation – that the practice of jumping into summer time be abolished, which means that 2021 may be the final time that member states and affiliated countries of the EU will be required to make biannual adjustments to their clocks.
Our current situation demands that we take an objective look at what might be the adverse results of implementing summer time. Health officials have repeatedly warned that COVID-19 is particularly dangerous to the elderly as well as those whose immune systems have been compromised. How much more susceptible to the ravages of this disease would such individuals be if their bodies are further weakened by the loss of an hour’s sleep?
Bulletins are being broadcast throughout the day to maintain distance and interact with others as little as possible. It goes without saying that staying indoors is far less problematic during nightfall. It makes little sense, therefore, to extend the onset of darkness during these trying times.
With schools, businesses and workplaces either closing or adopting abbreviated hours, pressure to fulfill errands, make required purchases or ensure that monthly salaries will be paid is slowly but surely building. This would be compelling and troublesome under ordinary circumstances. Adding to the mixture biological and mental anxiety caused by the changing of the clock is a recipe for disaster.
As winter wanes comes warmer weather, and we are now facing the prospect of having to spend a greater number of hours indoors. Contrary to what is thought to be general knowledge, the use of electricity is not reduced during the period of summer time. If anything, the demand for cooling – particularly in this part of the world – is greater.  We should therefore be looking for ways to reduce the reliance on air conditioners, and having the sun set earlier than later might just be one of those ways.
Although North America has already embraced daylight savings time, Israel, as well as most of Europe, still has some time. Despite the fact that our government has been in shameful tatters for more than a year, things can still get done and laws can still be enacted.
Indeed, the spread of the very contagious coronavirus has forced our prime minister and members of Knesset to keep a vast number of foreigners from entering our country, shut down schools and universities, and impose financial penalties on those who violate the rules of quarantine.
Not to recognize the potential threat of summer time during this trying period would be both reckless and irresponsible, and emergency legislation should be taken to suspend summer time for this year at the very least.
I’ve often likened summer time to a thief that annually robs us of 60 minutes of our lives but is kind enough to return the time seven months later. This year, though, there is no place for whimsy.
Summer time and COVID-19 dare not coexist, and ensuring that it doesn’t would more than satisfy Mr. Churchill’s threshold of having something good come out of a crisis.