Sever Plocker
Sever Plocker
Photo: Shem Olam
Passengers on a public bus flouting mask-wearing orders

As coronavirus makes its comeback, Israel must look abroad for solution

Opinion: After the government's ill-advised and unfounded decisions led to a sharp uptick in coronavirus infections, we must examine what other countries who've managed to successfully reopen their economies did

Sever Plocker |
Published: 07.05.20 , 23:55
Three weeks of euphoria saw Israel plunge into the current miserable state of its coronavirus crisis.
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  • In three weeks of recklessness in the month of May, the government surrendered to the "people's protests" and quickly lifted all restrictions from educational, commercial, entertainment and economic activities - thus opening the floodgates to a massive spread of the virus.
    לא מקפידים על עטיית מסכות בתחבורה הציבוריתלא מקפידים על עטיית מסכות בתחבורה הציבורית
    Passengers on a public bus flouting mask-wearing orders
    The Finance Ministry believed that releasing the economy would restore business activity to pre-epidemic glory while eliminating the need to transfer billions to support the unemployed, the collapsing businesses and the self-employed who all lost their livelihoods.
    These ill-advised and unfounded decisions were grounded in random data, hunches and internal power struggles within government ministries and between one another.
    However, we can still change the future - to that end, it is worth carefully examining other countries that have lifted restrictions and did not relapse into infection rates seen at the peak of the pandemic.
    The key to their success is focus, focus, and again, focus.
    אכיפה לבישת מסכהאכיפה לבישת מסכה
    Police officers enforcing mask-wearing orders
    (Photo: Shalev Shalom)
    Most of these countries did not make mask-wearing compulsory in open areas and perform a relatively low number of coronavirus tests. So what DO they have? Quick and efficient detection of outbreak sources and immediate crackdowns on them.
    As of today, we know that about 85% of all infections occur in a small number of confined and crowded areas: event halls, clubs, bars, nursing homes, factories with crowded production lines, mass gatherings on narrow streets, houses of prayer, small grocery stores and public transportation – all of these cases must be taken care of.
    This means reviving some restrictions on buses, especially during evening hours, and freeing up lanes for bicycles and scooters. The buses themselves must be equipped with security cameras.
    This means prohibiting gatherings of more than 20 people and directing law enforcement to crack down on forbidden gatherings, mass events and supermarkets.
    בדיקות של נגיף הקורונה ברחובותבדיקות של נגיף הקורונה ברחובות
    Conducting a coronavirus test in Rehovot
    (Photo: AFP)
    This means sharply reducing the number of coronavirus tests – 10,000 a day should suffice – and concentrating around outbreak-prone sites to expedite results and detection of carriers, especially super-spreaders.
    This means conducting serological tests for finding coronavirus antibodies according to scientific sample methods, unlike the current approach which checks for antibodies in people giving blood tests at their local HMOs.
    The government statistician and head of the Central Bureau of Statistics, Danny Pfeffermann, called this method "comfort over efficacy."
    קורונה נגיף קורונה בדיקות סרולוגיות בדיקות דםקורונה נגיף קורונה בדיקות סרולוגיות בדיקות דם
    Serological test for coronavirus antibodies
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    Focus is the name of the game also in our financial policies: ensuring long-standing and generous support for businesses, salaried employees, and the self-employed in industries that are going to see a slump for many more months to come, instead of just handing out money without any discernment to accompany it.
    The government should listen to the famous saying frequently attributed to Albert Einstein: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."
    It is time for Israel to try a different approach.
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