“It will be a kind of virus radar.” It is with these few words, to say the least vague, that the Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, described the new anti-Covid weapon that the Jewish state is preparing to draw. Nicknamed “Omega”, this genetic scanner will be installed at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, the main gateway to the country, and all passengers arriving from abroad will have to undergo this examination.
“It is above all a question of blocking the road to a new variant in Israel” added the Minister for Social Equality, Meirav Cohen, in order to calm the concerns that such a machine does not fail to give rise to. The announcement of the arrival of Omega was therefore drowned in a series of other measures deployed against an epidemic which now exceeds 7,000 daily cases. Among them, the introduction for the tests carried out on the pupils of a barcode supposed to prevent fraud. Some parents declare that their children are not infected in order to avoid confinement.
Trade in false negatives
Almost half of the infections in recent days actually concern schoolchildren. Some 150,000 of them are stranded at home, sentenced to distance courses. For their part, teachers who do not want to be vaccinated, must now present regularly and at their expense a negative test.
All these measures reflect the nervousness of the authorities. “Our patience is at an end” thundered Naftali Bennett. “Refusing to be vaccinated causes death” outbid Nitzan Horowitz, the Minister of Health. The vast majority of patients in serious condition or whose diagnosis is life-threatening have not received any dose of vaccine.
READ ALSO: Covid-19: In Gaza, Hamas organizes a “health lottery” to encourage vaccination
And to try to get through the controls and limitations imposed on the unvaccinated, some are ready to use all means to cheat. A recent example struck public opinion. At the start of the week some 25,000 Jews, mostly ultra-Orthodox, returned from the traditional pilgrimage organized on the occasion of the Jewish New Year to the tomb of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav in the city of Uman in Ukraine. Among them, 1,400 cases of Covid-19 have been identified.
Orthodox and Israeli Arabs on the front line
Worse still, alerted by Check Point, one of the largest Israeli companies specializing in cybersecurity, the Israeli police detected more than 200 false negative tests presented by participants in this event when they knew they were infected. These forged documents were available on Internet sites for the modest sum of 25 euros each. According to Israeli media, the number of fraudsters may actually be higher.
This story also reflects the sociology of the country. Most of those who refuse the vaccine are recruited from the two poorest populations: on the one hand, the ultra-Orthodox Jews who represent 10% of the population and 21% of Covid cases. On the other, the Israeli Arabs, a community comprising a fifth of the population. Within these two communities, rumors and erroneous information about the dangerousness attributed to vaccines have spread, fueling visceral mistrust of the authorities. In contrast, only a small minority of secular Jews refuse for ideological reasons or in the name of freedom to submit to any measure they deem binding.
READ ALSO: Israel, champion of vaccination, overtaken by the Delta variant