Opinion: As the fast spreading Omicron threatens hospitals and previously unaffected children, ministers must decide on tougher policies, including lockdown with consequent financial compensation to businesses

Israel has officially shifted from a defensive policy in the fight against the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus to one of containment.

Thousands of Israelis continue to congregate at cultural and sporting events in confined spaces, which will likely lead to more infections and more seriously ill pat

In line to get tested for COVID
In line to get tested for COVID (Photo: Guy Morad)


Prime Minister Naftali Bennett would have opted to impose restrictions along with financial compensation to those sectors of the economy that would suffer from such a move. But he does not run the government on his own and must navigate his coalition.

After reviewing data received from the UK, health experts deducted that between two and four out of every 1,000 COVID patients, will require hospitalization, and anywhere between half and a third of that number, will develop a serious illness.

With the estimated 50,000 daily infections expected by next month, according to Bennett in his press briefing on Sunday, Israel can expect 150 new hospitalizations per day.

Hospitals will be able to handle such a number, based on previous waves of the pandemic. But unlike previous waves, the Omicron wave comes at a time when hospitals are already stretched to the limit with patients suffering with seasonal ailments. Additionally, serious morbidity caused by the Delta variant is still prevalent.

מקבלים את 2022 בבר כפרה בבאר שבע
People celebrate the New Year in Be’er Sheva last weekend (Photo: Haim Horenstein)


Meanwhile, as more Israelis enter isolation and coronavirus testing sites report endless lines, the country is plagued by denial of the dangers posed by Omicron as well as a denial of the risk that hospitals would not be able to cope with its surge.

On the other hand, there is also a call from officials and political pundits for an immediate lockdown.

While the latter at least indicates there is some recognition of the unprecedented health crisis, denial is a far more dangerous approach.
Having said that, the government must clarify its messaging to the public. It cannot describe the current health crisis as a war while allowing mass crowded events to continue taking place indoors.

תורים במתחם דרייב אין בדיקות PCR קורונה בראשון לציון
A line of care in front of a COVID testing center in Rishon Lezion (Photo: Reuters)

The government cannot transfer responsibility for public health to the people. It must take steps to reduce morbidity.

There are those who have decided not to receive the coronavirus vaccines but the price of overcapacity in hospitals will fall on the rest of the population. Among the unvaccinated are also children aged 0-5. During previous infection wave, children managed to avoid serious illness from coronavirus but they are now at greater risk.

Lockdown should only be considered if the surge in hospitals is too high or if data from other countries indicate such a surge is expected and the likelihood of such a scenario will become evident over the next few weeks.

Since late fall, 1,849 people, 605 of whom are children and 124 are pregnant women, were hospitalized with flu and not COVID.

Last winter, thanks to the coronavirus health restrictions, including social distancing, the flu did not spread or cause serious symptoms.

חיסון קורונה לילדים במודיעין
A child getting vaccinated in Modi’in (Photo: AFP)


The public has access to the flu shot at no cost and Israelis would do well to receive one, regardless of their COVID vaccination status.

But the government cannot rely solely on people’s sense of “personal responsibility”. It must create rules which to follow. If you want the public to change its behavior – it needs to see that the government lead by example.

Within the next week we will be able to look at New York, London and Paris and know a lot more about the new variant and make decisions accordingly. Until then, one should act, again, with composure and discretion. And a little encouragement from government ministers will not hurt.

As reported by Ynetnews