Entering the third COVID-19 lockdown, it's time to reflect

Fighting COVID-19 is not a political issue. It is a public health issue.

Police officers enforcing third lockdown on inter-city roads  (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
Police officers enforcing third lockdown on inter-city roads
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
As the country begins its third closure, this is a time for reflection.
Unquestionably, we all face an extremely difficult period. Going on previous experience, the closure will help reduce the rate of COVID-19 infections and will save lives, but it comes at a very heavy social and economic price: Some small businesses will not survive a third lockdown that has come in such a short space of time; unemployment will rise; children will miss school learning time and the social interaction it brings; there will likely be another increase in mental health problems – which can be life threatening – and domestic violence.
It is important to take a deep breath and weather this storm together. There is a major difference between the closure that went into effect at 5 p.m. yesterday and the previous two lockdowns: This time, the closure comes alongside the nationwide vaccination program that has started with the elderly and the most vulnerable, and the uptake rates are impressive. The general public is waiting eagerly to be vaccinated. An end is in sight.
But in order for all this to work, every individual must do their bit. Instead of looking for a creative way to circumvent the closure regulations – even when they are frustrating – people must abide by the spirit of the rules as well as the ordinances themselves. This means not making exceptions – no parties to celebrate the New Year, no large weddings, no huge prayer gatherings and no giant demonstrations. However difficult, people must continue to wear masks, maintain social distancing rules and do everything to avoid becoming infected, or spreading infection.
It is unfortunate that we have reached this stage again. In part, it is because in the past, people did not take enough care to protect themselves and their loved ones. The scenes of people flocking to Dubai – some even holding weddings with large parties there – must be avoided. It is true that technically, there was no ban on this, but clearly, it was against the spirit of the idea of quarantine-free travel to the United Arab Emirates.
The new strain, the so-called British mutation, also means that extra care needs to be taken. It is no consolation that other countries around the world are in a similar situation and have imposed tight regulations over the Christian holiday season.
We can be thankful that Israel, despite its severe problems, has managed to purchase the necessary quantities of the vaccine. We can be proud of our public health services and the way the health funds have overcome the tremendous logistical challenges to begin efficiently providing vaccinations. Now is also a good time to applaud those medical teams that have consistently been on the frontlines.
It is too easy to stumble into despair and envisage only the bleak picture, especially when considering that the third closure coincides with the start of the countdown to the fourth elections within two years. Inevitably, the chaos caused by the pandemic will play a role in the campaigns of different parties.
We must remember that fighting COVID-19 is not a political issue. It is a public health issue. We’re in the same boat whether we like it or not – regardless of our religion, ethnicity and politics. We cannot let anybody drill a hole in that boat.
While it is legitimate to take the handling of the coronavirus crisis into account when deciding how to vote on election day, it is not legitimate to violate the coronavirus regulations because of a particular religious or political belief.
Israel, sadly, is no stranger to national emergencies, wars, and waves of terrorism. We have always pulled through with the help of a strong sense of solidarity. Kol Yisrael arevim zeh lazeh  – all Israel is responsible for each other – is a concept with deep biblical roots and is not just a slogan.
The COVID-19 vaccination could be the equivalent of the Iron Dome. It’s a game-changer, but people must still play their part – still rush into shelters when the siren sounds. Nothing is more precious than life itself. We must do everything we can to preserve it. Only with this sense of solidarity and a common goal can we hope to finally overcome this crisis.