“IT will be shameful for the Jewish community and we will all suffer for it,” cautioned ABC health reporter Dr Norman Swan, referring to the harmful effects that could result if groups within the Australian Jewish community do not adhere to social distancing measures.
Turning to Israel as an example, he lambasted the country’s ultra-Orthodox community, who have “behaved appallingly”.
“Bnei Brak in Tel Aviv is a major hotspot of COVID-19 … We really have to conform to the rules in Australia and not feel that we are above them because [populous Jewish areas] will become hotspots,” Swan told The AJN.
“It will be terrible for the rest of the Jewish community if one part of the Jewish community is brought into disrepute.”
While the NSW government has imposed a 90-day lockdown commencing last Tuesday, and national jobseeker and tele-health arrangements are currently effective until September 30, Swan said, “If you put a testing regime in place, and if we are strict with quarantine and as a community we obey that, then we could actually get this under control in four to six weeks down to very low levels,” he said.
“My worry about the government’s policy is that they’re not showing us what the medium-term plan is, and if the medium-term plan is that it’s going to be like this for the next year, that’s unrealistic.
“People won’t be able to cope and it doesn’t have to be like that,” said Swan, with the proviso that state governments – Victoria in particular, as well as NSW and WA – are acting with appropriate urgency.
“It will never be normal until there is a vaccine, but we could get back to some kind of economic activity sooner than you think, but it requires a lot of infrastructure,” he said.
Part of that infrastructure includes extending the testing regime to anyone with COVID-19 symptoms – a policy now implemented in Western Australia and in most areas of Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Lamenting how families will be apart for Pesach, Swan’s words of warning carry particular resonance.
“I don’t think any of us will be going out to seder night. It’s just not worth the risk when we have elderly relatives who would be there and they would want to see their grandkids.
“It’s not going to happen – I think there will be a few virtual seders.”
While we may all exclaim, “Next year in Jerusalem” with extra emphasis this Pesach, Swan is looking forward to “next year with chicken soup and my family around”.