Israel Declares War On Corona

By  Rolene Marks

When Israel started to enforce very tough measures in response to the growing Coronavirus pandemic, many thought the country’s leaders were suffering from a case of “coronoia”. Fast forward several days, and that the numbers grow around the world and it seems like no country is immune, Israel’s strict measures, first criticized by the global media and citizens alike, is now being lauded.

Israel, recognizing the threat of the Covid-19 virus almost at the outset, acted with almost military precision. This was done against the background of coalition discussions after Israel’s March 2nd election. Israel has demonstrated its magnificent crisis management capabilities.

A country that is used to adapting quickly to changing conditions, we have survived intifadas, wars and waves of terror and this has built a strong, resilient survivalist culture.

Years of dealing with threats means we have become accustomed to quickly adapting. Israel is also a country where the majority of citizens has served in the army and is accustomed to taking orders and following accordingly.

Israel’s response has exhibited the best of the country – and its spirit. Declaring war against the virus, the government with its relevant ministries, has employed all mechanisms that one would in a decisive military campaign. Counter-terror technology, the military and the extraordinary Magen David Adom have all been deployed to ensure that Israel’s citizens have what they need; that the response is quick and efficient and that we can maintain monitoring on the virus. The end goal is clear – flatten the curve.

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Prepared. Workers at Sheba-Tel HaShomer Hospital near Tel Aviv wait for Israelis who were under coronavirus quarantine on the cruise ship, Diamond Princess, in Japan, February 20, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Tight restrictions now mean that we can get a firm handle on this global pandemic and hopefully recover soonest.

The first major restriction put in place was enforcing a rule that anyone, regardless of where they came from and including Israeli nationals, had to self-quarantine for 14 days upon entry into the country. Crowds were restricted to no more than 100 (since reduced to ten), and schools closed until after Passover.  This drew widespread criticism from the global media who saw this move as somewhat draconian but days after, as the virus continued to spread, most saw Israel’s response as the right way to go about beating this virus and are now appealing to their governments to follow suit.

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No Kidding. An empty classroom in Ashdod following the closure of schools, kindergartens, universities and any gatherings of over 10 people. (Photo: Marina Schneider)

The man that many say is responsible for Israel’s rapid and responsible response is Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, the Director General of the Health Ministry. The first non-doctor to head the ministry, this economist who many call “Barsi”, has introduced this aggressive policy not only to slow the entry of the virus into Israel, but to ensure that the country’s health infrastructure does not become overwhelmed and many are applauding him.  Other countries have taken note.

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New Reality. Following Israel’s introduction of a blanket quarantine policy for anyone entering the country, an empty airline check-in counters at Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

Some of them have.

New Zealand has followed Israel’s self-quarantine on entry example and South Africa, has restricted crowds to no more than 100.

Over the past weekend, it was announced that Israel would go into partial lockdown. All leisure activities like theatre, movies, restaurants and malls would be closed. No more than 10 people at a gathering and if possible, work from home. Social distancing at 2 metres is also recommended. Not touching is completely uncharacteristic for the hot blooded, tactile Israelis who mostly feel that invading one’s personal space is totally okay because we are all family!

Israelis are getting creative! Restaurants are finding ways to change their business models to deliver instead of shutting completely; kids are online schooling and faced with the prospect of having to talk to each other (heaven forbid!) a number of Israelis have been caught standing on their balconies, singing to their hearts content. This shining example of resilience was started in Italy – and it is hard to compete, but it really is proof that there is an Eyal Golan song for every occasion!

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In High Gear. An employee of Rambam Medical Center in Haifa moves equipment to a special wing being set up at the hospital to treat the coronavirus, February 29, 2019. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Like many countries, the pervasive panic over a potential shortage of toilet paper has sent many storming the supermarkets. While we have been reassured, we have no shortage of anything, including a decent roll of 2/3 ply, many are frightened that they will not survive the great bog roll shortage of 2020. It’s loo-paper-geddon! Personally I believe stockpiling whisky would be more effective – it is medicinal!

One of the greatest lessons in all of this has been the realization that we are all in this together. Israel and the Palestinian Authority are jointly working together to save lives and contain the virus so that our respective populations remain safe and through the COGAT unit of the IDF, disinfectants, sanitisers and medical supplies continue to enter the Gaza Strip.

Keeping morale high (Petach-Tikva/Israel, 16.03.2020)

As China recovers and the eye of the storm moves westwards, all we can do is pour ourselves a Quarantini (it is just a martini – only drunk alone), wash our hands multiple times and be grateful for a government who has set a shining example on how we win the war against Covid-19. It can be done.

 

 

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*Feature Picture:Miguel MEDINA / AFP

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