Opinion: Government opted to ease virus restrictions, claiming fifth infection wave has all but come to an end; unfortunately, Omicron’s offshoot BA.2 is lurking just around the corner, and weakest sectors of our society are going to pay the price

In the last few days, different sources with various interests have been operating vigorously to convince us that the fifth COVID-19 wave is behind us.

Based on the latest scientific data, there is some truth to it.

The number of singe-day coronavirus cases has been dropping for the second week in a row. The number of severe patients, which reached a record high last week, has also slowed down. And even hospital directors say the situation is under control. So they say, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

מחלקת קורונה ביה"ח רמב"ם
Coronavirus ward at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa (Photo: Gil Nechushtan)


Unfortunately, the reality is still far from where some officials want us to believe. Even according to the most optimistic data, tens of thousands of people are still getting infected with COVID each day, while the daily infection rate is hovering around 30%.

Furthermore, the decline in infection rate we’ve been observing in the past few days may stop altogether – based on the date received from other countries. Not to mention that COVID deaths currently average 50 on a daily basis, and may even increase.

All those who are rushing to tell us that the fifth COVID wave is behind us, may be surprised to find out soon that the pandemic is not actually going anywhere.

While hospitals across the country are experiencing a certain ease in the burden, partly because almost half of the quarantined medical teams have returned to work, the daily struggle to care for thousands of hospitalized Israelis, along with the continuous exhaustion of the staff, severely damages the quality of treatment.

בית חולים שערי צדק
COVID ward at Shaare Zedek Medical Center (Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch)


The stabilization in the number of severe COVID patients and the talks about shorter hospitalization periods, is only something that hides the fact that the prerelease of patients who have not yet fully recovered is done in order to free up beds at hospitals.

Doctors and nurses, with whom I recently talked to, are still telling about the endless number of patients who continue to arrive at COVID wards. We will never hear or know about most of those patients, the same way as we don’t hear about all the patients that spend days waiting in emergency rooms due to a lack of hospital beds or those who had their surgeries canceled due to overcapacity.

The mass tragedy that is 900 of coronavirus-related deaths since January, which is some 10% of Israel’s total toll so far – is greeted with a surprising indifference by the public. Probably because in this wave, most of the casualties are either elderly or part of the “at-risk” population.

The fact that the infection is roaming the periphery and the weaker sectors of society more than central Israel only strengthens the public’s determined decision to continue ignoring the existence of the pandemic.

The public probably prefers to invest its few remaining energy in a protest – albeit justified – over food price hikes, rather than worrying about the weakest and most fragile sectors of our society being exposed to COVID.


בדיקות במקום בידודים - תלמידי בית ספר יסודי בגבעת עדה
Schoolchildren in class amid pandemic (Photo: Elad Gershgoren)


In addition, the Education Ministry on Monday released data that showed only one-third of the parents perform COVID tests on their children the day prior to sending them to school – as required. Given that more than 21,000 parents officially reported that their children tested positive for virus following a home test, there are at least some 42,000 schoolchildren that arrived infected to classrooms.

On Monday, in a confrontation between Health Ministry’s head of Public Health Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis and the Education Ministry, Preis argued the ministry doesn’t report the accurate number of children that require quarantine.

In response, the Education Ministry said – with typical arrogance – that “there is no stricter government body than the education system, and the ministry shares all the necessary data,” adding that “any other claim is unfounded”.

The country’s top pandemic official Prof. Salman Zarka, also joined in on this premature celebration of the end of the pandemic on Monday, saying the new education outline doesn’t create more morbidity.

פרופ' זרקא בתדריך עיתונאים
Prof. Salman Zarka (Photo: GPO)


Despite the vaccines’ ability to protect against severe COVID illness, the number of Israelis getting vaccinated on a daily basis is dropping stands at less than 5,000. Even in this critical matter, the government shifted into a complete indifference mode, while the decision to roll back the Green Pass killed any incentive one might have had to get vaccinated.

This never-ending infection party is now joined by Omicron’s newest family member – the BA.2 variant – responsible for at least 700 cases in the country – most of which came from abroad. Still, the government chooses to ignore the clear risk of the new variant spreading even though its effects are still unknown.

Meanwhile, the weakest links among the population: the elderly, and the immunosuppressed are the ones who will continue to pay the price of the national lawlessness that reigned supreme in this infection wave.

As reported by Ynetnews