Omicron: in Israel, commotion against the new variant

The Israeli army was put on alert on Saturday, November 27, to find around 800 people suspected of having been infected with the new Omicron variant of Covid-19. On this Shabbat before Hanukkah, the media immediately went up in flames, awakening fears of a new wave, as the Jewish state believed itself to be out of the Covid episode.

→ EXPLANATION. Omicron and vaccination: the questions raised by the new variant

Since then only two cases of the variant have been confirmed. A dozen suspected cases have been identified, without this causing major concern for the time being. The first observations show that the variant, if it is more contagious, is not more virulent.

Two weeks ago, the Israeli health authorities had repeated a similar scenario with rigorous military logic, the arrival of a variant more contagious and seriously affecting children, called Omega. They decided in conclusion that it was crucial to spot the new variant as soon as possible, and to respond immediately in a forceful way.

Reaction time, a victory in itself

Saturday evening, after an extraordinary meeting of the interministerial cabinet in charge of the pandemic, the government therefore announced radical measures, including the closing of the borders. For the experts, this reaction time is a victory in itself. "We have made a lot of progress over the past few months," said Nadav Davidovich, director of the school of public health at Ben-Gurion University and member of the government's expert council. We have improved on genetic sequencing, contact tracing and also on sharing information with other countries. »

Omicron : en Israël, branle-bas de combat contre le nouveau variant

Entry into the territory is prohibited for non-residents at least until December 13. The others will be quarantined before showing two negative PCR tests. This closure will frustrate some families, who had no doubt planned to meet for the Hanukkah celebrations, which began on Sunday.

Above all, it will have an economic cost: Israel had bet a lot on the return of tourists after the reopening of its borders on November 1 . But the government “prefers to make a mistake and compensate tourism professionals afterwards, rather than take the risk of seeing the whole economy collapse,” Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov told a TV news channel. Reshet 13.

Infected people traced electronically

The other measure taken by the government is more controversial. The cabinet urgently authorized the electronic tracing of people infected by the Shin Bet, the internal intelligence service. This is a measure that many oppose, and which risks damaging the capital of confidence of the government which nevertheless needs it. In the country of all-vaccine, more than a million people still refuse to take the third dose, although it is available to all adults. The vaccination campaign for 5-11 year olds, which began last week, is also struggling: more than half of households do not yet want to vaccinate their children.

→ ANALYSIS. Covid-19: Israel wants to show that the third dose of vaccine works

While most tourist reservations have been canceled, the new restrictions have not prevented departures: more than 23,000 people flew from Ben-Gurion airport on Sunday. The routine of Israelis is less and less affected by the pandemic – the announcement of the new variant quickly gave way to the headlines of the Iranian nuclear negotiations which began Monday in Vienna.