Health Officials: End Flight Bans, Let Israelis Catch COVID

Top epidemiologist says quarantine no longer effective policy, suggests herd immunity through exposure to weaker Omicron variant

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: Coronavirus
Passengers wait in line for a COVID test before boarding a flight.
Passengers wait in line for a COVID test before boarding a flight. Photo: Nati Shohat/Flash90

After nearly two years of rapid and repeated lockdowns, invasive quarantine enforcement and what some would call coercive vaccine campaigns, some top health officials are now saying it might be time to simply let Israelis catch COVID-19 and move on with life.

“It might be time to consider a policy of letting people get infected,” Prof. Itamar Grotto said on Sunday in an interview with Israel’s Kan public broadcaster.

Grotto was lamenting the constant quarantining of school children every time one of their classmates tests positive for coronavirus.

Prof. Grotto’s suggestion echoed earlier calls to let the coronavirus run its course and for herd immunity to develop through mass infection. He implied that now is the time to consider such a policy given that the Omicron variant has proved to be both highly contagious, meaning quarantine isn’t an effective preventive measure, and at the same time far less severe than previous variants.

See: Why is Israel so Worried About Omicron?

No matter what Israel does at this point, a large percentage of the population is going to be infected by Omicron. However, Grotto said that would not lead to a spike in hospitalization rates. “We won’t see that again,” stressed the expert.

Prof. Grotto isn’t just any doctor spouting his theories. He is an accomplished epidemiologist who for the past four years served as Deputy Director of Israel’s Ministry of Health, and before that as the nation’s Director of Public Health Services.

He has been right in the thick of Israel’s battle against COVID-19 from the very start. And at this point he believes that “it has to become more of an individual problem than a public problem.”

Prof. Itamar Grotto during a press conference at the Israel Ministry of Health last year. Photo: Flash90

End the travel ban

Even those health officials who are still trying to prevent mass infection think that barring air travel is a step too far.

Walla News reported that health experts advising the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett have said that the ban on air travel to so-called “red” countries should be ended within two weeks.

Their reasoning was similar to that of Prof. Grotto, that the Omicron variant can’t be stopped from spreading by keeping Israelis confined to the Jewish state.

Currently, Israel has listed 68 countries as red, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and France. Israelis who still travel to these countries are required to quarantine upon their return even if they are fully vaccinated.

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