Israel’s Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, announced on Friday November 26, 2021 that the country is on the verge of a state of emergency after three people tested positive for the new ‘Omicron’ variant of the coronavirus.
This announcement comes just two weeks after Israel held the world’s first war games exercise preparing for the possible emergence of a deadly variant of the COVID virus named “Omega” in the practice game.
The new real life B1.1.529 variant recently named Omicron by the World Health Organization (WHO) is currently found in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel, and Belgium, where there is only one confirmed case.\
South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla is calling this mass panic a “kind of knee-jerk reaction, [that] really doesn’t make sense.” He stated that this was a variant to be watched, not to jump to conclusions and panic over.
According to a report put out by the UK Health Security Agency on November 26, 2021 this new variant is under investigation and presents a large number of mutations.
“It has a large number of mutations which are likely to be biologically significant, and which may change the behaviour of the virus with regards to immune escape, transmissibility, and susceptibility to some treatments.” – SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and variants under investigation in England
It is still unknown how contagious and severe this variant is at this time.
Besides announcing a travel ban to and from African countries, it is unclear what further measures will be taken by Israel if it does go into a state of emergency.
During the “Omega” drill war-game exercise led by Prime Minister Bennett, that took place just a couple weeks ago, they explored the following:
- Restricting gathering, events, curfews and tourism.
- How to roll out mass testing and booster jjabs.
- Enforcement of quarantine.
- Responding to disclosure on the internet.
“Now we see a variant that spreads faster and requires us to respond faster. We’ve been working together with other world leaders and now’s the time to act fast, early, hard and strong.” – Prime Minister Bennett
Great levels of fear were used in the past when discussing COVID-19 and new variants. The overall infection mortality rates of previous strains still remains low. With variants such as Zeta and Theta being completely de-escalated by the WHO and longer under monitoring.
Perhaps the messaging of fear could be reduced for this variant until we know if it presents more severe disease than previous strains.