Fear of the Unknown

New daily Corona infections again top 500, raising fears that Israel is entering a fourth wave. But things are different than last year

Is new Corona panic justified?
Mahaneh Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Somehow we seem to be back at almost the same point we were a little over a year ago when the coronavirus began to spread across the country. In the first wave in April 2020, the record number of new infections per day was around 700. The country was in a panic. It was primarily the fear of the unknown that ultimately led to the limitations. But that was just the beginning. We all know what happened next. A year later we celebrated the end of Corona. But we seem to have rejoiced too soon. 507 new infections were reported yesterday, the highest number in three months.

I didn’t think I’d be writing about Corona anymore. And I was happy for that. We have enough other issues here to deal with. But Corona has found its way back into the news, it has again become one of the main topics. Health experts who became household names last year are once again appearing on our television screens.

Today the Knesset’s so-called “Corona Committee” will meet to discuss the next steps. Some old restrictions might be reinstated, and some new ones imposed for the first time. Is it really starting all over again? Not necessarily. Because not everything is as it was last year. Five-and-a-half million Israelis have been vaccinated against COVID-19, so even with the new outbreaks, hospitalization rates remain very low. The number of seriously ill people is staying in the double-digit range. This time it is the so-called “Delta” variant from India that is spreading. According to our Ministry of Health, the Pfizer vaccine is “only” about 60 percent effective against this variant, but is 93 percent effective in preventing serious illness. So is this new panic justified?

Everyday life at the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv. Will the fear of the Indian variant lead to new, old restrictions?

There is no answer to that. Nobody can say how the situation will develop. What you can say with certainty is that Corona is here to stay. We just have to get to know it a little better. In Great Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday declared July 19th “Freedom Day.” On that day, any remaining restrictions will be ended, with the UK returning to where it was before the Corona crisis began. Corona will then be treated like any other treatable virus. The number of new daily infections in the UK is in the tens of thousands and nobody cares anymore. Maybe that’s the right attitude? Time will tell.

I personally think that efforts to combat Corona should be limited to our international airports in order to prevent the import of further variants. I think it will go in that direction. There’s also talk of a possible third vaccine dose.

I’ll wrap up there, at least for the time being. Life here in Israel is completely normal right now, everything is open, there are no restrictions. So, let’s stay optimistic.

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