Corona in Israel: Incompetence, Stupidity and Lack of Trust

With the start of the supply to Israel of the Corona vaccine, there is hope that the crisis may be coming to an end and that our lives can return to normal (as far as “normal” is possible here). But the vaccination process is going to take months at least and there are serious questions being raised that have no real answers and may seriously impact the mass vaccination and possibly derail it all together. The safety of the vaccine is still a big unknown, in particular as far as long-term effects are concerned, the impact on frail or unhealthy persons is still unclear, and the vaccination of children is questionable. Moreover, how long will immunity last after vaccination? Forever? Will it need yearly renewal similar to the flu vaccination? Or is it shorter still?

In other words, the Corona virus is still with us and will be for quite some time. For the virus to disappear as a result of lack of hosts (herd immunity), 60-70% of the population will need to be vaccinated (at least) and immune to the disease. At this point in time, more than 50% of Israelis have expressed doubts about vaccination, especially under young people the trend is to “wait it out”.

The Israeli government has procured both the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, based on novel m-RNA technology, as well as the product from ASTRA-ZENECA, which was developed using well-established vaccine technologies. The latter should thus be with less uncertainties regarding safety, but will Israelis have a way of deciding which vaccine they want or can get?

However, before all these issues become prominent and important, the current situation regarding the virus in Israel is of immediate concern and appears to be rapidly deteriorating into disastrous proportions with more than a thousand new infections daily and peaks of almost two thousand new infections.

And, after having dealt with the corona crisis for 10 months now, mostly with measures either designed to serve Prime Minister Netanyahu, his political allies such as the religious parties, or both, the Israeli government has now turned to approaching the crisis with the best way they know how: with incompetence and stupidity.

The decisions made (and sometimes just as quickly undone) clearly show that most government members have no inkling how to handle a crisis of these proportions, but they still are eagerly demanding that their approach is the best. On Monday, Health Minister Edelstein (who is a disgrace to the remnants of democracy in Israel) declared on the radio that Shopping Centers would not reopen and that a curfew would not be imposed. A couple of hours later, the Corona cabinet decided not to decide on the shopping center issue, but to impose a night curfew. It took only 24 hours to have the latter decision turned mute because of legalities, and within 48 hours a decision was made that shopping centers would reopen. The shopping center decision was based on the fact that a “pilot” was conducted the week before, whereby it became very clear that crowd control in enclosed shopping centers could not be properly managed, also because of serious errors made in the planning of the experiment. But the disastrous failure of the opening of the 15 shopping centers around the country, yielded the apparently obvious decision to open all of them. Alternative measures for the foiled attempt at enforcing a night curfew are still not decided upon, while they are meant mainly to prevent crowding during the Hanukkah holyday, which starts tomorrow!

This is only a small fraction of the stupid decisions made by incompetent people, which will have serious consequences for the rise in infections, serious ill patients and deaths we will be seeing in the coming weeks.

But politicians are also indirectly to blame for the deteriorating situation. The simple basic rules to prevent spreading of the virus, wearing a mask, social distancing and personal hygiene, are still to a large extend ignored by Israelis, Jews and Arabs alike. While in situations like public transportation, the rules are strictly enforced, in more private settings, the rules are often ignored or only loosely adhered to. This extremely serious problem is seen also in Western Europe, where people are also tired of the limitations on their lives and governments are struggling to convince the population of the importance of these restrictions. But, while the trust of the population in their government in Western Europe, after 10 months of Corona is still 60-70%, in Israel less than a third of the population believes the government is handling this crisis in a proper way. The lack of trust is a direct result of the inability of politicians to handle this crisis and with every failure, the mistrust of the Israeli population will grow.

A government that isn’t (or can’t be) trusted will never be able to convince the majority of the population of the importance of measures that they will propose, and this is reflected in all areas of activity, and not only in the Corona crisis.

The Dutch Prime Minister, Rutte said this week in a Press Conference on the Corona Crisis: “already we have this year almost ten thousand empty chairs at the Christmas table”.  While in Israel the number is smaller, three thousand memorial candles instead of Hanukkah candles is something to reflect upon.

The Festival of Light will this year be a dark reminder of the price Israel pays to the Corona virus.

I hope you found this article interesting and I welcome any comments you may have.

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