A Thought or Two on the Corona Crisis.
Barry Newman…originally from New York and recently retired from high tech as a Technical Communicator. Currently providing guidance to non profit organizations on the preparation of requests for grants and financial assistance, and struggling to learn the intricacies of social media.
It’s only a matter of time before we stop asking when this pandemic madness will end and embrace the dangerous assumption that it won’t. With each statistical update broadcast each morning, the day draws nearer when what has been termed the “new reality” will no longer be new, and the restrictions that we are now enduring turn commonplace. And though we’re pretending to go about our day-to-day lives routinely, confusion and not routine would be a better definition of the current situation.
Adding fuel to already burning fire is the recklessness of those we’ve entrusted to get us through this nightmare. Both the Prime Minister and President shamefully mocked the initial lockdown rules that they endorsed by having outsiders at their respective seder tables (Sedergate?). And once the spring lockdown brought the virus under some control, Mr. Netanyahu heedlessly threw open the marketplace, beaches and event venues and encouraged us all to go out and eat, drink and be merry. With predictably disastrous results.
No more than a few days passed before the second wave of the virus appeared right at the outset of summer, and it became woefully evident that effective public policy was not merely inadequate, it plainly didn’t exist. The two Health Ministers that shared the spotlight during this crisis – neither of whom have the professional qualifications required for such a position – have done nothing more than scratch their heads and promulgate pointless statements. Professor Gamzu, the “Corona Czar” is highly regarded for his professional expertise and administrative skills, but lacks the aggressiveness to go toe-to-toe against the political sharks that are swimming in his waters. And the word unity has all but disappeared from the Israeli vocabulary. Instead, with summer waning and autumn approaching, anarchy has become the current buzz word as the recent curfew regulations that have been imposed on specific cities and neighborhoods are more likely to bring about frustration and anger rather than results.
Not that any of this is surprising. Prudence demands that we lock ourselves down until a vaccination is perfected and globally distributed; since there is no way of knowing when that will be, such action would be impractical if not economically suicidal. At the other end of the spectrum is the Swedish decision to ignore the virus and let the chips fall where they may, with no disruption to educational, cultural or entertainment facilities. Based upon the current rate of infection, the Israeli medical system would soon be crushed under this paradigm.
What we’re left with, then, is an approach based on trial and error with the hope that one of the arrows will hit its mark and the virus will be, to some extent anyway, contained. No mathematical modelling or quantitative analysis, though, can accurately predict when that might even conceivably happen. Insofar as there is neither a proven and reasonably non-intrusive means for effectively controlling this pandemic nor a point where we might expect to see some light at the end of the tunnel, we can indeed be thankful that a greater degree of conflict and chaos has not yet erupted. This, of course, does not excuse the absence of responsible management and intelligent decision making, but at least there has been only sporadic incidents of urban strife and violence. Thus far.
In the opening days of the pandemic, actions to contain the virus taken by governments throughout the world – including Israel – were viewed as exaggerated and draconic, even violations of basic civil rights. It did not take long before that assessment was modified and the restrictive actions were regarded as necessary and practical. Politics, unfortunately, overrides sound policy making and those at the helm in battling this invisible enemy are too easily caught in the web of coalition threats, special interests and budgetary constraints and demands. The painful courses of action will inevitably have to be taken, but not before serious damage has been done to our medical and social infrastructure. Just how quick we’ll be able to regain our strength and economic viability depends, obviously, on the extent of the damage…and how ready we are to make the necessary sacrifices and adjustments.
Back in April, Yuval Carmi, a falafel shop owner from Ashdod, was paraded before the cameras with tears in his eyes and a wallet empty of cash, depicted as a victim of the heartless lockdown. Our current situation is far graver than the one which devastated Yuval and hundreds like him. But unless we overcome the reluctance to come together and share the burden of combating this horrible pathogen, rivers will quickly fill to capacity from Yuval’s flowing tears.