A renewed nationwide lockdown appears to be the only way to slow the rapid spread of coronavirus in Israel and avoid a health disaster, a top health expert said on Tuesday.
Israel in recent weeks has seen a massive resurgence of COVID-19, with new daily cases topping nearing the 2000 mark and the contagion climbing to an alarming 7%.
"I represent a group of researchers at Ben-Gurion University, and mathematically, we are only three weeks away from a total collapse," Prof. Dov Schwartz, former chief scientist for the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, told Ynet.
"We currently have 80 patients connected to ventilators, a number which doubles every ten days, meaning we will have 320 patients on ventilators within three weeks if we keep [the spread] at the same pace."
Prof. Schwartz explained that the issue is not ventilator machines, which he says Israel has enough, but the lack of manpower needed to operate them.
"A ward with 20 ventilated coronavirus patients requires 20 doctors and 90 nurses. We thought that towards the winter we will be able to train additional staff, which we recommended the government adds, but now it seems to not be possible."
A nationwide lockdown, he explained, would be like giving "Paracetamol to an ailing child," meant to treat the initial symptoms of an illness.
"Lockdown is the right mathematical option, it has been proven as an effective method to minimize the number of those contracting the virus and patients in serious condition," he said.
He said a general, nationwide lockdown is preferable but if the government wants to maintain parts of the economy open, only essential industries must be allowed to operate.
"If there is no proof the place is harmless, it should not be open! Therefore: no pools, no restaurants, no synagogues and no gyms," he said.
He added those under the age of 67 should be allowed to go to work, with a nighttime curfew imposed on weekdays from 8pm and lockdowns during weekends - from Friday morning to Sunday morning.
Prof. Schwartz added that the only right way to reopen the school system is holding classes in small groups.
"During the two weeks the classes were divided into small separate groups, we saw a decline in patients. But the minute we brought all the kids back, disaster happened," he explained. "Anyone who says this has nothing to do with the schools is wrong. Schools are virus hotspots."
In addition to a nighttime curfew and weekend lockdowns, Prof. Schwartz believed that Israel's older population should voluntarily "stay at home for the coming month."
"One option," he added, "is to legislate, with the other being the country's leaders telling the people that this is the only way to save Israel."