Opinion: Easing COVID-19 restrictions during latest infection wave could have been right move, but these policies don’t account for children, elderly, and immunosuppressed, who simply don’t fit government outline’s mold

While most of the Israeli children can now go to school without the threat of having to enter quarantine if they come into contact with a COVID carrier, many of their peers remain at home. Not because they have coronavirus, but because physically being in class is a risk to their lives.

These kids have been stuck at home for weeks now, some even months, and others for over a year. Why? Because they or one of their family members have the so-called “underlying health condition,” which could make contracting COVID lethal for them.

כיתה ריקה בבית ספר ברחבי הארץ
An empty class in a school in central Israel


For these children, the various announcements about new outlines and cancellation of isolation requirements are nothing short of an expansion of an already open wound. A wound of loneliness and detachment from society, a growing educational gap, and a sense of neglect.

The term “at-risk population” doesn’t mean much, and apparently, not much was done to find out how vast this population really is. It includes not only the elderly and those with underlying illnesses, but also all those who live with them under the same roof.

All these people can’t take any chances, so they don’t dare to use public transportation, go to the shopping mall, and so on. Instead, they are locked in their homes, and if in previous COVID waves the public was trying to be careful, during the current Omicron one, it’s every man for himself.

יצאנו לבדוק האם שומרים על ההנחיות ברכבת חיפה
Public transportation in Israel (Photo: Ido Erez)


I agree that after nearly two years of curbs, eventually you have to examine whether the impact of restrictions outweighs the impact of the disease. During the Omicron wave, the government – and rightly so – opted to reduce the damage being done by quarantines and restrictions on movement, assuming the current wave won’t be so severe. This bet may yet pay off, but only if proper measures are taken in order to protect those who are at risk from coronavirus as much as possible.

Even though the schools are open and the quarantines are scrapped, coronavirus testing for children is only a recommendation, while the current remote learning system is only half a solution since teachers can’t provide any emotional support to children.

Teachers also don’t have any autonomy when it comes to decision-making, which makes it even harder to provide any help on a personal level. If schools could decide independently when to switch to frontal studies and when to remote, perhaps this solution could be more relevant to the current situation.

מבצע חלוקת בדיקות אנטיגן במוסדות חינוך בחיפה
Municipal authorities deliver antigen tests to a school in Haifa (Photo: Haifa City Hall )


At the moment, there is also no government body that tracks schoolchildren who contracted COVID, how they are feeling both physically and mentally, and how are they dealing with the school load amid the illness.

Instead parents receive warm recommendations from schools that ask them not to “send your child to school in the next month, due to the high morbidity”. So, they sit alone at home with no teacher of staff member asking them how they are feeling.

An elderly woman holding a facemask
An elderly woman holding a facemask (Photo: Shutterstock)


If Israel wants to ease the restrictions, it must increase awareness of personal responsibility, which includes a more effective array of tests, masks and social distancing, alongside effective information sources regarding the pandemic.

Also, a special administration should be established for at-risk groups, which would provide personalized recommendations and give specific solutions on education, transportation, and medical matters.

In this “business as usual” reality, Israel can’t neglect the elderly, immunosuppressed, and children who have been simply left behind because they can’t fit the general mold of government’s policies. And while this kind of effort will require investment of both economic and human resources, it is a necessary move, if Israel wants to “live alongside the pandemic”.

As reported by Ynetnews