The New Reality
Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told the French TV channel BFM TV that the Coronavirus would be with us “For many years to come.” But he also said that the Pfizer anti-Covid pill Paxlovid “changes everything,” as a new way to fight serious illness, by reducing hospitalizations and deaths in vulnerable people by almost 90 percent. According to Bourla, the public could expect to receive a yearly booster to keep the Coronavirus at bay, except in the immunosuppressed, who would receive a booster every four months. Bourla also said that Pfizer would release a new vaccine in March designed against Omicron and similar variants. Pfizer is not the only company offering an anti-Covid pill or a new vaccine against Omicron. Moderna has announced they too have a pill and are at work on an anti-Omicron vaccine.
Israel currently has 1,792,137 recorded cases of Covid, with 8340 deaths, 253,103 active cases, more than 900 people were hospitalized in mild or moderate condition, some non-covid cases, 498 serious and of them 100 on ventilators. The daily cases reached 65,000. Most of the new cases are Omicron but there are still a number of Delta cases every day.
The USA still leads the world in infections. According to ncov2019.live/data with 67,631,191 cases with 874,321 deaths and 23,591,203 active cases. Worldwide there are 332,001,132 cases, with 5,565,957 deaths, and 56,975,775 active cases.
As of now Israel has the dubious distinction of having the world’s most daily Covid infections per capita. According to Nachum Ash, Israel’s Health Ministry director general, speaking on Israel’s Army Radio, the Omicron wave is expected to peak in a week or so and then fall drastically, but until then, even though the “illness is less severe, the system is very strained, especially emergency wards.”
Ash spoke out after the government said that as of Wednesday the mandatory quarantine for those testing positive will be shortened from seven days to five days. Ash thought that shortening the quarantine period was dangerous since those likely still infected would be able to mix in the general population and spread the virus. He admitted, however, he understood the public pressure on the government to keep the economy open and allow normal activity.
Some pundits point out that Israel is in a virtual lockdown with nearly 200,000 students and citizens in quarantine. Stores are showing a marked decrease in sales and restaurants are nearly empty. PM Bennett has issued a statement that said that “the goal of shortening the quarantine was to enable the continued functioning of the economy and activity as much as possible while continuing to maintain public health.”
Israel’s health ministry also announced that they would grant approval to those ‘essential workers,’ mainly health workers in labs and hospitals, who wanted to return to their jobs even if they had positive covid tests but were asymptomatic. The ministry set rules for those ‘essential workers.” They had to travel to and from work in private vehicles, maintain a distance of at least 10 meters (30-feet) from other workers, eat separately.
Meanwhile, Israel began administering a fourth vaccine to those over 60 and/or those at risk. However, recent research done at Sheba hospital has shown that the fourth dose has a limited effect against Omicron. The researchers did find that the fourth dose increased the antibody levels to those seen after the third vaccine. Health officials have said that the third vaccine’s efficacy begins to wane after four to five months. Some pundits point out that with Delta still infecting people the fourth shot would help them avoid serious illness.
Health Ministry official Sharon Alroy-Preis told Israel Televisions Channel 12 Monday night that the ministry still advises those over sixty to get the vaccine but that the ministry would not advise the government to administer the fourth dose to the general population. Other experts have already said they question to efficacy of the fourth dose and recommended waiting until the new Pfizer vaccine that will target Omicron is available in two months time.
The Health Ministry also announced it would began to distribute 25-30 million free antigen testing kits to relieve the pressure on the PCR testing sites, that have been overwhelmed until now with the labs unable to keep up with the demand. According to the Health Ministry those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid and were exposed to a confirmed Covid patient can now, for the first time, take a rapid home test.
According to the Times of Israel, the government will distribute some 2.5 million antigen tests to geriatric hospitals, 450,000 kits to needy families, each family to receive 20 tests kits each, and 25,000 to seniors, who will receive three kits a week for three weeks.Children under 18 will receive six testing kits each during the first two weeks of distribution. . As of now, only those who are sixty plus and people at risk can get permission to take a PCR test Those who test positive using the antigen test will have to self-quarantine.This even though the antigen tests have not been proven to be completely reliable.
With so many children testing positive for Covid, many of their classmates then obliged to enter quarantine. This scenario occurs regularly in Israel’s schools so that a class infrequently gets to have a continuous series of in person classroom meetings. According to observers, this situation has caused many children to avoid quarantine by simply staying at home and monitoring the class on Zoom rather than risk yet another round of quarantine forcing them to miss their after school activities like dance, soccer, judo, chess, or whatever.
“School and quarantine is yet another aspect of the New Reality of living with Covid,” said a pundit. “Add that to the normalcy of seeing people in masks who are neither the Lone Ranger nor a thief robbing a liquor store.”
The pundit then gave an example of the new normal and related the story of a Best Buy clerk in Los Angeles who explained why there were no smart watches on display sitting on the several dozen empty black velvet pedestals spread across a long wide table.
‘A guy came in wearing a mask, as is mandatory in the store, and sunglasses,’ said the clerk. ‘This is LA after all. He was wearing a baseball cap and looked like a student, with a hoodie and jeans and sneakers, a backpack over his shoulder. He went straight to the smart watch display, snatched all the watches, dumped them in his backpack and ran out the door. Turned the corner and disappeared before anyone could even chase him.’ Masks, yet another new reality to get used to,” the pundit repeated
Arrow Missile Test
Israel has launched another test of the Arrow 3 long-range anti-ballistic missile system. The test, done Tuesday morning, fired the missile into the atmosphere where it intercepted and destroyed two long-range incoming test missiles. Some pundits see this test as Israel showing the Iranians, who have frequently threatened Israel with total destruction, that Iranian long-range missiles decimating Israel were quickly becoming a negligible threat.
Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 interceptors are already operational as part of a multi-layered system to destroy incoming missiles in the atmosphere and in space, that include the Iron Dome missile defense system and David's Sling, designed to intercept enemy planes, drones, tactical ballistic missiles, medium to long-range rockets and cruise missiles. Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi both were pleased with the test. Gantz said this test shows Israel’s superior technological abilities “that are preserving Israel’s ability to defend itself against growing regional threats.”
Kochavi said that this advanced technology is “providing one of the best multi-layered defense (systems) in the world.”
Former PM Benjamin Netanyahu (left) Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit (right)
Former Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu has made the headlines again. His defense team has reportedly been in contact with Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit seeking a plea bargain for the three felony indictments against him.
According to the media reports, Netanyahu, who is already on trial for one of the cases of corruption, will admit to ‘moral turpitude,’ that will force him out of politics for several years, receive a suspended jail sentence and do community service instead. The deal was reportedly brokered by former Supreme Court Justice Aaron Barak.
Outrage was expressed widely over the plea bargain. However, one opinion in Ynetnews said that rather than a long-drawn out trial that would last for several years, this plea bargain would end the circus around the trial and allow the country to heal.
But Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister and former Minister of Defense, speaking on Israel TV on Monday night, thought that if Attorney General Mandelblit accepted the terms of the plea bargain it would be a black mark on Israel’s democracy. Barak pointed out that Netanyahu could still eventually return to politics. On previous occasions Barak has said that Netanyahu was a threat to Israel’s democracy. Other critics within the judicial system thought that Netanyahu had broken the law and should stand trial and be punished like any other citizen not given a light plea bargain deal.
Some legal experts say the plea bargain would be too complicated to accomplish even though Netanyahu has reportedly agreed in principal to the concept. According to news reports, the plea deal would require complex considerations. Some sources said that the indictments would have to be changed. Emi Palmor, a former director general of the Justice Ministry, told Channel 12 tv news on Tuesday, that it was hard to see how the complicated changes could be made quickly, noting it took years to investigate and assemble the case.
Attorney General Mandelblit’s term ends on January 31, 2022. Netanyahu reportedly thinks he would get a better plea bargain with Mandelblit than with his successor, current State Prosecutor Amit Aisman. The two sides are reportedly still negotiating the deal.
Another new reality may be on the horizon, besides living with the Coronavirus, travel restrictions, quarantines, masks, PCR and antigen tests. Israel may soon be living in a reality without Benjamin Netanyahu.