Senior health official: 20,000 Israelis could die of coronavirus

Health Ministry's deputy director warns if the epidemic isn't stopped in time, the spread might spin out of control; health authorities order half a million coronavirus testing kits to better map spread across country

Sivan Hilaie|
A senior official at the Health Ministry on Sunday estimated that up to 20,000 Israelis could die from the coronavirus if the spread of the disease spins out of control.
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  • "Some of these people would have likely died from other diseases due to their underlying health conditions," said Health Ministry Deputy Director-General Prof. Itamar Grotto. "That number [potential 20,000] would be added to the annual mortality rate in Israel, which is about 40,000 people a year."
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    פרופסור איתמר גרוטו
    פרופסור איתמר גרוטו
    Health Ministry Deputy Director Prof. Itamar Grotto
    (Photo: Alex Gamburg)
    Grotto also asked the public not to panic over the COVID-19 pandemic, saying there's more chance of dying if you skipped your daily dose of medicine because you were afraid to go to the pharmacy.
    Prof. Grotto said the number of new diagnoses in Israel has reached on average 200 a day. Since that number appears to be stable, the Health Ministry decided Saturday to order new coronavirus testing kits that are based on blood tests. The new kits provide a quick diagnosis and better map the outbreak in Israel.
    According to Grotto, however, these tests are less reliable than the widely-used ones and will be used in addition to the original testing kits.
    The tests will be used to sample the population according to experts' consideration and will also be administered to people who do not exhibit any of the symptoms related to the virus.
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    אמבולנס בכניסה לוולפסון
    אמבולנס בכניסה לוולפסון
    Medical teams in protective gear outside Wolfson Hospital
    (Photo: Avigail Uzi)
    In addition, Grotto said that if the number of cases in Israel rises sharply, all medical teams will be provided with special gear in order to continue their work and not enter self-quarantine even after being exposed to patients carrying the virus.
    The Health Ministry also announced Sunday evening it is set to launch an app that will help to locate coronavirus carriers and their whereabouts before being diagnosed.
    The app will be based on the Shit Bet security agencies data and the Health Ministry epidemiological reports and will be available for iPhone and Android users.
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