To stop coronavirus, wear a mask and follow restrictions

The situation is dire – and nobody seems to know how to deal with it.

A mask is produced on Israel's first production line for N95 masks (photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
A mask is produced on Israel's first production line for N95 masks
(photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
The situation is dire – and nobody seems to know how to deal with it.
On Wednesday, 966 people in Israel were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. It was not only the highest number of patients recorded in one day since the country began to reopen from the government-imposed shutdown more than a month ago, it was the highest number of patients since the pandemic reached the country in February!
On May 4, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the easing of many restrictions that were in place – including a 100-meter limit on movement from home and reunification of first-degree relatives – it came with a caveat.
“Returning the economy, and the public and private arenas remains dependent on you, the citizens. It depends on your discipline and responsibility,” Netanyahu told the nation in one of his televised addresses. He added that should there be 100 new daily cases of infection – excluding individuals arriving from abroad, outbreaks in retirement homes and those living in towns or cities defined as outbreak hotspots – the easing of restrictions would be halted.
As the number of new cases spirals – the head of the Israeli Society for Infectious Diseases, Miri Weinberberger warned that Israel is “about to lose control” – the government has indeed put the brakes on further easing restrictions and has, in fact, walked back on some regarding numbers of people allowed to gather.
The rise in coronavirus rates has also affected virtually every facet of life in Israel, and for Israelis. Once, only a couple of months ago, Israel was being praised for its containment of the plague and seen as an example for other countries.
This week, the European Union opened its borders to tourists from 14 countries – including Rwanda, Georgia and Tunisia – but labeled Israel a “red country,” excluding Israeli passport holders due to its high COVID-19 infection rate.
At the same time, the National Security Council warned that if the current infection rate continues and the pandemic isn’t contained, then Israel will not open its skies on August 1, as had originally been targeted. Israel’s national airline El Al has canceled all flights amid the financial crisis spurred by the March shutdown and the continuing pandemic.
Another troubling, but seemingly necessary, move – approved by the Knesset Wednesday night – reinstates surveillance by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) of citizens infected with coronavirus. The program, which was ended three weeks ago, will resume for 21 days, during which the Knesset Intelligence Subcommittee is slated to approve a long-term bill to regulate the issue.
According to the regulations, Shin Bet surveillance can be activated either for a specific infected person who the Health Ministry is having difficulty tracking, or for broader use any time the number of infections the day before rose to at least 200 people.
As we creep steadily back to the dark days of March and April, the questions arise of how we got to this point and what we can do about it. The ongoing tug of war between health and finance officials has prompted indecision and paralysis. If the Health Ministry had its druthers, the country would be back in full shutdown mode until the number of patients has diminished considerably. But the Treasury warns that the economy’s collapse – which sparked massive unemployment and destroyed thousands of businesses and livelihoods – can’t be repeated.
With the lack of clear direction and a cohesive plan to combat this alarming spike in the number of coronavirus cases, it appears that the only way out of his recurring crisis is to take the virus by the reins and the masks by their straps.
Everyone from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the World Health Organization insist that face masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 – and that the more people wear masks, the better off we all are.
So put on a mask when you go outside, and adhere to social distancing and hand hygiene. Regardless of the government’s chaotic policy, it’s the Israeli public’s lack of discipline that is playing a large role in letting coronavirus continue to flourish.
Personal responsibility can go a long way to solving problems when the government seems incapable of doing so.