Omicron: Help global vaccine rollout to stop new variants - opinion

If we fail to recognize that the world is akin to a small village, we do so at our peril.

 TRAVELERS ARRIVING at Ben-Gurion Airport head toward the COVID testing area. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
TRAVELERS ARRIVING at Ben-Gurion Airport head toward the COVID testing area.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

How ironic that just as we were about to celebrate the festival of lights, Hanukkah, something totally beyond our control reared its head to darken the mood.

As you are all no doubt aware, another COVID variant, Omicron, originating in South Africa, has been discovered, causing havoc once again. For those who aren’t planning to go anywhere for the holidays, it’s nothing more than a minor irritation. For others however, particularly those here in Israel who had planned to travel to spend the holiday with family and friends, this latest development has come as a real blow.

Plans have been thrown into disarray, leaving many scratching their heads, wondering what best to do. Should they take that flight, knowing that there is a possibility that they may struggle to get home? Should they play safe and stay put, despite the financial losses which would undoubtedly be incurred?

We thought that the conundrums of the last two years had all but disappeared. Now, sadly, they are rearing their ugly heads again.

Quarantine, isolation, bidud... words that had become part of our everyday vocabulary were fading fast from our memories and stability and calm in  the past few months seemed to be setting in. 

A passenger tries to find a flight as several airlines have stopped flying out of South Africa, amidst the spread of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron, at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 28, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/SUMAYA HISHAM)A passenger tries to find a flight as several airlines have stopped flying out of South Africa, amidst the spread of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron, at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 28, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/SUMAYA HISHAM)

We could be forgiven for thinking that things were getting back to normal as the success of vaccination programs across the globe became apparent. It was a welcome relief from the horrors of the pandemic, almost.

After nearly two years of zoom, fear, loneliness and even death, the world seemed to be getting back on its feet. For us, here in Israel, it’s been all too easy to become complacent about COVID. The government has “got our backs.”

We were the first country to roll out the vaccination program; the trail blazer, the envy of other nations. People marveled at its efficiency and its effectiveness.

Of course, the fact that Israel is a relatively small country with closed borders helps, but this didn’t dampen our smugness. Many of us failed to appreciate that our own homegrown success wouldn’t be enough to keep the wolves from the door. The fact that billions of people across the globe have not been so fortunate would, as we are now seeing, have a profound effect on our tiny country.

Across Africa, for example, the vaccination rollout has been sparse and in some areas, almost nonexistent. It’s all very well lauding the achievements of our own government, however, if we fail to recognize that the world is akin to a small village, we do so at our peril.

It is not just those citizens who will suffer as a result of a severe lack of vaccines available to them. Granted, their misery far outreaches ours in terms of lack of medical facilities, lack of economic support and ultimately loss of life, however, we are not immune to their suffering, simply because we have been vaccinated.

For as long as the pandemic is allowed to flourish anywhere in the world, variants will flourish too and we will all be affected by it.

The writer is a former lawyer from Manchester, England. She now lives in Netanya where she spends most of her time writing and enjoying her new life in Israel.