Record-High Infection Cases and Long Queues: Is Israel Losing Control Over COVID-19?
08:31 GMT 10.01.2022 (Updated: 14:26 GMT 10.01.2022)
On Sunday, Israel registered more than 17,000 new cases of coronavirus. According to estimates, the current wave of the pandemic will see two to four million Israelis infected.
Up until recently, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett thought he'd had the coronavirus pandemic under control.
From October to mid-December, the number of daily cases was relatively low, rarely exceeding 1,500 patients per day, and it seemed to many that the booster shot had done the trick.
Then came the Omicron variant, which quickly turned the situation upside down. Within weeks, the strain, which is believed to be more infectious than the original virus -- had spread within Israel.
To detect those patients, Israel operates dozens of drive-throughs as well as permanent detection centres across the country. But they can barely cope with the daily flow of people there.
In recent days, local media have shown how bad the situation was. Long queues out of detection centres have become a daily occurrence; the frustration of many Israelis, who have been forced to wait for their turn for six to eight hours, has become a common phenomenon.
Local authorities have tried to take the pressure off those detection centres, and Israelis were asked to resort to home antigen tests. Those vanished from the shelves of pharmacies within hours, prompting many Israelis to try their luck online.
Internet websites in Israel offer a variety of those tests but their prices are ridiculously high, ranging from $23 each to $612 for a set that contains five tests.
The black market is also trying to grab a slice of the cake, and recent reports suggest that the absence of tests has made the industry blossom. Meanwhile, authorities are struggling to contain the situation.
Confusion Is Dominating
However, what the authorities have also failed to contain has been the confusion of the public. In the past couple of weeks, coronavirus regulations have changed several times. Such was the case with the policy of testing for COVID-19. Such was the situation with the education outline that failed to address the concerns of parents, and such was the case with the admission of tourists into the country.
That confusion has only added to the already existing frustration of the masses that's now only growing.
Sunday's poll -- conducted by Channel 12 -- revealed that 63 percent of Israelis felt the current government had failed in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Bennett and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman got exceptionally low rates, with 62 and 66 percent opposing their policies.
Bennett is aware of that alarming trend. On Sunday, he released a statement on his official Facebook page, trying to calm the masses.
"First of all, I understand your frustration and I hear you," he wrote. "But I want to explain to you a couple of things so you will have a better understanding of what's going on".
The post then goes to explain that the Omicron variant is much more vicious than other strains that Israel has seen so far. He has also detailed a list of achievements of his government, including millions of vaccines, anti-COVID medications and a boost for local hospitals and medical centres.
But as numbers keep growing, many doubt that the soothing words of the Prime Minister will calm the masses.