West Jerusalem, Israel – In the 32 ° C (89.6 ° F) heat of an Israeli summer, parents and children waited – some patiently and others less – in a line outside a testing station for their children’s turn to receive the newly approved Sofia COVID-19 test.
Some planned to go to a water park, others to a museum, and others just to eat. But the children, aged three to 12, had to take a coronavirus test first to do so.
Since August 20, “Green Passes” are compulsory to enter restaurants, public swimming pools, museums or any other public place outside the parks. The pass is issued to people who have received two doses of the vaccine or who have recovered from the coronavirus. But unlike in the past, children who are not eligible to be vaccinated must also have the pass.
“It’s difficult,” said Shira Elkin, who winced when she had to surround her frightened and crying four-year-old to allow the doctor to take a swab sample from inside her nose. “But I understand it’s important and I’m ready to make the effort.
Rapid test results arrive in 15 minutes, but they are only valid for 24 hours and some parents have found themselves standing in line for more than an hour and doing so for consecutive days since the start of the process. the requirement.
“If they make us do this every day, I’ll pull out my hair,” said Tamar Cohen, who was waiting with her husband and two young daughters. “It’s ridiculous. We can’t stand in line every day.
The demand is the latest and most draconian in the Israeli government’s battle against the Delta variant, which has hit Israel hard. The rapid spread of the variant took the Israelis by surprise.
Israel was one of the first countries to vaccinate the majority of its population and by March most Israelis had already put COVID-19 behind them.
In June, the mandatory mask requirement was dropped completely and the only restrictions remaining were on entry and exit. Now the infection rate has risen to 5.4% and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said he will take whatever steps he can to reduce the rate and avoid going into a fourth lockdown.
Health experts say there are two main reasons the Delta variant hit Israel so hard. On the one hand, the Israelis were flouting mask requirements, which were reimposed at the end of June. Now the police are fining those who do not wear face coverings.
The other reason given for the high infection rate is that most Israelis have been vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, which data shows is less effective than the Moderna vaccine against the virus.
“It is true that Moderna protects people better against infection, but the two vaccines are almost equivalent in effectiveness against serious diseases,” said Professor Cyril Cohen, associate dean of life sciences at Bar University. Ilan and member of the Ministry of Health’s opinion on the coronavirus vaccine. plank.
“It’s important so that our hospitals are not overwhelmed.
“The right call”
In addition to requiring tests for children and anyone not fully immunized, Israel will require all teachers to have a Green Pass to work. Israel has also imposed stricter guidelines regarding entry into the country.
Foreigners are not allowed to enter without having received a special permit and without passing numerous tests. Israelis are not allowed to travel to “red countries,” such as Spain, Brazil and Mexico, without permission from a special committee. Those already in the red countries, as well as Israelis in “orange” countries, such as the United States, France and Germany, must be quarantined upon their return to Israel, even if they have been. vaccinated.
Additionally, the country has started offering a booster vaccine for residents aged 60 and over – even before the government approves it. Since then, Israel has approved granting the recall to anyone aged 40 and over.
“If you were to ask me two months ago when we only had 100 cases a day, I would have said we didn’t need to go with a booster,” Professor Cohen said.
“But in the meantime we’ve gone from 100 cases a day to 8,000 cases a day and I won’t be surprised if in a few more days we see more than 10,000. We had no choice but to make a reminder. I would have preferred more data, but I think we made the right choice.
More than 1.3 million Israelis out of a population of 9.3 million have so far received three doses of Pfizer, but there have been “breakthroughs”: some people have been infected with the coronavirus despite receiving three injections.
The third jab raised ethical concerns. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, urged rich countries, including Israel, to send the doses to poor countries which cannot even provide a first vaccine for their citizens.
In neighboring occupied Palestine, only 9.2 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, while in Israel 60.1 percent have received at least two vaccines.
In an opinion piece in the Haaretz daily, Dr. Zohar Lederman, an Israeli bioethicist and intern at the Corona emergency room at Rambam Hospital, suggested that Israelis resolve the moral dilemma by donating $ 5. , the price of a vaccine, at gavi.org. “The process takes exactly a minute and it can save a life,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, around one million eligible Israelis aged 12 and over have not been vaccinated once. People who oppose vaccinations in the country are loud and sometimes violently.
“Someone called me Hitler today on social media,” said Professor Cohen, who posts videos in an attempt to explain what’s going on in Israel and convince Israelis to get vaccinated.
A person opposed to the coronavirus vaccines told him ‘we will all die because we have been vaccinated and now we will not have to fight to take our land because we will all be dead and the country will be served to the Palestinians on a plateau Cohen said.