It’s difficult these days to discuss almost anything of importance other than the expansion and handling of the coronavirus pandemic. As of this writing, 427 Israelis have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, an increase of 90 cases since yesterday. While some of them are severe, most of the cases were said to be mild. To date, there have been a handful of recoveries. Thousands have been placed in isolation.
The latest Guidelines from the Ministry of Health, that were last updated this morning, set forth the “dos and don’ts” for the moment, as part of a mandatory lockdown.
No sector remains unaffected, including the IDF, which announced that there have been half a dozen cases of soldiers, who were diagnosed with the disease. Almost 4,300 soldiers and civilian employees of the IDF are in quarantine. Two government Ministers and an additional two members of the Knesset are also presently in quarantine. And, notwithstanding the steps taken by Prime Minister Netanyahu, that are designed to curtail activities in both the government and private sectors during the present health crisis, emergency regulations still have not been signed and government employees were directed to report to work today as usual. There is still considerable confusion over how the new guidelines are to be implemented and the economic consequences resulting from them. It is estimated that some 70 percent of employees in the private sector are remaining at home. A violation of directives of the Ministry of Health can result in receiving a fine of NIS 5,000 (approx. US $1,335).
In addition, the present interim government approved the taking of cyber measures that would allow the General Security Service (Sha”bak) to track people who came in contact with the virus, in order to track and, hopefully, prevent its spread. The clear purpose and goal of the emergency regulations that allow for the gathering cell phone data is two-fold: to locate and warn potential victims of the virus and also to enforce quarantine orders. Both are designed to curtail the time that a person who was exposed to the virus can continue to walk about freely and potentially endanger others. The hope is that this would ultimately help to reduce the spread of the virus. The regulations (for those who read Hebrew🙂 explain who will be tracked, how surveillance will be carried out, who will manage it, how long the information can be kept and who will have access to it.
Considerable upset and serious concern have been voiced within the political system and by experts dealing with the protection of privacy over the use of technological means to track civilian members of the population. The primary argument is that at least for the present, there is no oversight by the Knesset or the public. Obviously, applying sophisticated “spyware” against private individuals, something that is usually kept for use against the war against terror, increases the risk that sensitive information might fall into the wrong hands. The right of privacy is a protected, fundamental right in Israel and a violation of that right should only be allowed first and foremost for the benefit and protection of the public and, to the extent possible, in a limited fashion. The thought that immediately arises is that such “invasion of privacy” might continue after the cessation of the emergency, or worse, that the information gathered during the coronavirus crisis would be used for other purposes. There is also no provisions for imposing sanctions for wrongful use of the information, even by those entrusted with the responsibility to gather it. This is a continuing issue and will need to be followed. The situation is constantly changing.
From the present looks of things, we could well be facing a total, mandatory lockdown. It could be later today, or tomorrow. It depends on the speed of the spread of the coronavirus. If it continues in its present course, there will be a need for a call-up of reservists, and, particularly, those serving in the Home Front Command, to help enforce the lockdown and to help the Police and Health Ministry in different ways.
Original estimates from the Ministry of Health were that we would be facing the crest of the wave of coronavirus illnesses in mid-to-end April. Now, the “guesstimates” are end of May or June. This is a potential nightmare from almost every perspective. May it be that it will pass sooner than expected, rather than later.
Attitude definitely makes the difference in how Israelis (and non-Israelis alike) are responding to the health crisis. Some panic, other are somewhat more relaxed. And, while the coronavirus is definitely not a laughing matter, some try to overcome the increasingly problematic situation with humor. We can take all the precautions that are prescribed by the authorities, but there is one thing that has proven effective over the millenia: “A joyful heart is good medicine….” (Prov. 17:22) Watch a movie that makes you laugh. Read a book with a happy ending. Try to be innovative, without being insulting.
Attached are three examples of humor found on the internet. There are multitudes of them around. Find some that make you laugh out loud.
You’ll be surprised how it takes the edge off. Try to help and encourage someone else that is struggling with the situation (Isaiah 35:3; Prov. 16:24).
As for the politicking in the midst of
the coronavirus crisis, that is a joke of a different sort, but no one is laughing. It will be dealt with separately.
Give someone a smile😄, by email, WhatsApp, Skype, even telephone (remember what that is?). It can go a looooong way. It can even become (you should forgive the expression) viral!
[Give] attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. (Prov. 4:20-22)
Seek the welfare of the city where [you now live], and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7)
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.