THE PROBLEM IS NOT THE QUARANTINE

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By: Yuval Nemirovsky 

Over the past few days, a video of the owner of a falafel stall went viral across Israel. 

The video saddened even the least sensitive person. The owner of the stall breaks down in tears when he understands that the quarantine law prohibits him from opening the business. In tears, he explains to the reporters that he had never asked for help in his life, that he always worked to feed his family and now he cannot do it because of the quarantine.

The video was shared by thousands of people. Many of them blame the state for quarantine policies that hit the economy and the jobs of many people in Israel. It hit so hard until reaching the number of almost a million unemployed people.

The hardest hit was to independent businesses, those owners of small and medium businesses, such as beauty salons, restaurants, flower shops, and services in general.

Businesses that employ a small number of workers and move a small capital each month.

These people, the business owners, pay taxes but still do not receive unemployment insurance.

A great majority of people asked the state to intervene and help the economy. Which should definitely happen!

Others, advocate of free market and extreme capitalism, ask the state to end the quarantine as they argue that the destruction of the free economy will bring destruction and starvation of citizens. And they are correct as well!

However, the criticism of the quarantine policies and putting the economy before human lives in the balance is an error of the system.

Quarantine and social distancing policies save lives. This is a fact that. We do not have the necessary tools to fight the coronavirus directly in the field of health systems, hospitals and science. It will take time until a vaccine is prepared to know scientifically how to fight the virus.

So, the criticism should be towards the economic system and government policies in a normal situation. Let me emphasize that the extreme policies of quarantine and social distancing are saving lives in Israel and we can also see this reflected in the low number of deaths relatively to other countries in the world.

The criticism of the economic system should, therefore, be on government policies in a normal situation. For example, without the cornavirus, removing the owner of the falafel stall from a free and competitive market in which it could lead his business to fail. 

In such a scenario, I strongly doubt that so many people would have shared the video and been saddened because he had to close his business. And that is a real problem in our values and moral!

If we are already capable of creating, with our minds, institutions, societies, and countries that help us live a “civilized life”, then these tools should take care of us during our lives. They should take care of us during times of crisis and also during “normal” days.

It is impossible to continue thinking that a system of free capitalism, without intervention and help from governments to people who pay taxes, can continue to be viable in the future.

It is impossible to continue thinking that a health system can behave like a free and competitive market. A health system must be of the highest level and with well-paid health professionals at the service of every citizen. It is a nonsense to become an auction of services such as the United States today, a country that is suffering a high number of deaths due to the cornonavirus.

It can only be viable, a country that preaches a free education system of the highest level. Teachers that today are indispensable and had to adapt themselves to what the situation required so that the classes can become virtual.

Only a country in which people cares about the other, that knows how to quarantine when the government has ours back covered. A society where people ensure that the vulnerable will not be infected, whether they are from their families or not.

Preaching in favor of “not letting today’s economy die”, in favor of eliminating quarantine policies, is irresponsible and is not understanding the truth of the real problem.

We want a vibrant economy, and for that, governments must provide us protection whether during coronavirus times or not.

We hope that we can fight the virus and that we can return to “normality”, but I hope we do not forget the lesson and fight to change these economic policies that left us in a bad position during the coronavirus crisis.

Chazak Veematz!

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