(August 9, 2020 / JNS) About two weeks ago, I accepted the responsibility of heading the effort to reduce coronavirus morbidity in Israel. Many had warned me beforehand that the Israeli public would not cooperate, that politicians would constantly interfere with my work, and that I should demand that my jurisdiction over the matter be outlined in writing.
I was glad to learn that these fears have been disproved, and I find that everyone is cooperating with me in full. But I am first and foremost proud of the public’s response and cooperation.
For the past two weeks, I have been trying my best to lower the coronavirus attack rate—the number of people infected by a single confirmed carrier—to below one, thus reducing morbidity without imposing a lockdown.
It is important to note that no country has tried to counter this kind of morbidity rate without shutting down public activity. Not even Sweden, where morbidity rates are lower than Israel’s but COVID-19 mortality is far greater.
By following and observing the Health Ministry’s directives, the public has been able to see the daily tally of confirmed coronavirus cases stabilize at 1,500-2,000 cases. But getting that number down to a few hundred cases requires greater effort, and without all of us making this effort we simply won’t be able to do it.
This endeavor is likely to take several weeks and it will prevent a lockdown, but it requires all of us to observe directives very carefully.
I strive, against all odds, to reduce morbidity without imposing a lockdown, while encouraging the public’s cooperation and increasing its confidence; by integrating the IDF’s amazing capabilities to train thousands of people to conduct rapid, in-depth and advanced epidemiological investigations; by focusing on cities with high morbidity rather than shutting them down and giving local authorities the necessary responsibility, and be increasing municipal and police enforcement.
The rationale that drives me is humane and simple: instead of ordering a top-to-bottom lockdown, encouraging order for the bottom up.
The public has to have the confidence that this can succeed, because this is the only way for us to defeat the coronavirus. In order to succeed, every sector in society must do its part—give a little for the country’s sake.
The Arab sector must take control of the epidemic in Arab townships. It must comply with social distancing directived and forgo large parties.
The ultra-Orthodox sector and its leaders, spiritual and political alike, must speak out and demand that the mass gatherings and celebrations held in clear violation of coronavirus directives stop because they mean the loss of human life.
The general public must serve as an example for full compliance with Health Ministry directives. I pledge to ensure they remain logical and fair to all sectors, taking into consideration their various needs.
As for the protests taking place nationwide: such rallies are the heart and soul of democracy and every Israeli seeking to protest can go out and do so. But while the coronavirus outbreak is raging protesters must be cautious—wear face masks properly and observe social distancing as the locations allow.
Every gathering, legal or illegal, bears the potential to cause mass infections. The coronavirus does not differentiate between a wedding and a demonstration.
The politicians on the right and left who, despite the occasional jab, have faith in me, must continue to place reducing morbidity and economic recovery as a top priority.
All the politicians I spoke to this week, including the prime minister, are reluctant to impose a lockdown. They understand the socio-economic impact and the ongoing economic damage, but they fear what not taking the proper steps against this disease will do to our national resilience and global standing.
This is a wake-up call to the Israeli public. Let’s make the effort and defeat the coronavirus. We deserve to get back to our normal lives as soon as possible.
Professor Ronni Gamzu is Israel’s Coronavirus Project Coordinator.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
Support Jewish Journalism
with 2020 Vision
One of the most intriguing stories of the sudden Coronavirus crisis is the role of the internet. With individuals forced into home quarantine, most are turning further online for information, education and social interaction.
JNS's influence and readership are growing exponentially, and our positioning sets us apart. Most Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas. JNS is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.
During this crisis, JNS continues working overtime. We are being relied upon to tell the story of this crisis as it affects Israel and the global Jewish community, and explain the extraordinary political developments taking place in parallel.
Our ability to thrive in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters. Monthly donations in particular go a long way in helping us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make during these challenging times. We thank you for your ongoing support and wish you blessings for good health and peace of mind.