Coronavirus cases on the rise worldwide
On the 24th, the United States reported 45,500 cases, the highest number of cases in a single day after a prolonged streak of stagnating rates of transmission. Similar trends seem to be popping up throughout the world, and although most governments are hesitant to call this the "second wave" as economies continue to suffer from coronavirus and approval ratings plummet worldwide, Israel's government does not mince words.
"From a three-week period in which we were seeing 20 [new] patients a day, and things seemed to be improving, we are gradually increasing. When you look at it, it looks like the beginning of a wave," said Prof. Siegal Sadetzki in an interview with Ynet (Prof. Sadetzki is the Head of Public Health Services at the Ministry of Health).
Prof. Sadetski went on to point out that the major issue facing the country is nonconformity to social distancing regulations, something multiple Israeli officials have singled out, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself. Thankfully, the issue seems to largely be one of proper education regarding mask wearing, social distancing, and the effects these measures have on transmission rates. Certainly, mask wearing in Israel does not seem to carry the same political weight that it does in the United States. Still, as businesses have opened and Israelis returned to relative normalcy, many have begun to improperly wear masks in public places, or worse, forgone wearing them at all.
"If the public does not stick to wearing masks and social distancing, we will be bringing back a full closure," said Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting this past week. In the past month he has also warned that the government would be stepping up enforcement measures for those violating the rules, but as yet this warning of harsher enforcement hasn't materialized any noticeable change.
With over 600 cases in a 24-hour period this week, such change seems sorely needed. In response to this surge, the government has fast tracked a plan to restore cellphone tracking measures put in place at the beginning of the crisis. These measures were put in place temporarily months ago but lapsed for legal reasons. Once renewed, the Shin Bet would be permitted to contact trace COVID-19 carriers using cellphone and credit card data in order to get a better picture of who could be infected. This method has proven extremely effective for S. Korea, which despite not having any major shutdowns has largely controlled the spread of the virus through its country. Given Israel's high-tech familiarity and reputation, it is unsurprising they are going a similar route.
With the earliest vaccines expected in 2021, Israel like all countries remains in a holding pattern, fighting to maintain economic activity while slowing the spread of the virus through government policy. With a relatively low infection rate compared to the larger world stage, so far it seems to be succeeding relatively well.
Which is unsurprising, really. Despite how much Israeli's love to complain about their government, everyone agrees: it outperforms in a crisis.