Because Israel does not randomly screen people, the country cannot easily and quickly enough identify and separate the infected people who are asymptomatic, so they continue to spread the disease.
The head of the Israeli Society for Infectious Diseases, Miri Weinberger, warned earlier this week that Israel is “about to lose control.” But according to several other senior-level health experts, it’s out of hand right now. The government must immediately examine its policies and make changes.
For starters, we still don’t really know how many Israelis have the virus, because although Health Minister Yuli Edelstein increased the number of people screened per day, those people tested are still a self-selected group. Those who have been tested decided they wanted to have a test performed and then approached their practitioners and asked for authorization to be screened, meaning they had reason to assume they might have corona.
“If you are dealing with a preselected group like this, then you should anticipate a high percentage of them will test positive,” Prof. Zeev Rotstein, Hadassah-University Medical Center’s director-general, told The Jerusalem Post.
On Wednesday morning, of those who were tested, more than 4% tested positive, which is considered high. However, with the lower number of tests taken during the first wave, the percentage of positive patients was actually higher then.
To better understand what is really happening here – what percentage of the population is infected and the prevalence of the disease – the Health Ministry should organize a random sampling, Rotstein recommended.
Moreover, because Israel does not randomly screen people, the country cannot easily and quickly enough identify and separate the infected people who are asymptomatic, so they continue to spread the disease.
Those who go to their physicians likely have already been sick for four or five days because they have some symptoms. By this point, they have already infected many people.
Worse, all discipline has been lost. Pictures of people walking, eating and dancing together with no masks can be found readily on social media. Summer camps are open without guidelines in place.
“Everyone thinks it won’t happen to us,” Rotstein said, because they see only numbers; they don’t see intubated patients.
While it is true that younger patients are at lower risk for developing a severe case of coronavirus, what the medical community is afraid of is that these patients, who are asymptomatic, will visit their parents and grandparents and put them at risk.
“If they infect their high-risk relatives, here is the beginning of catastrophe,” Rotstein said.
Why aren’t Israelis following the regulations? There are too many, they are too confusing, and they have resulted in an economic and social disaster for the country. The total lockdown that began in late March and lasted until after Passover destroyed Israel’s economy, leaving nearly 25% of people – mostly young people – out of work.
The airlines remain shut down. Cultural performers are starving. Trying to follow the Health Ministry’s regulations might have resulted in short-term gains, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that doing so killed or is killing probably as many or more people than the disease itself.
And at the same time, while Greece and the European countries are opening their skies and touting around 25 new cases per day, Israel is at around 700.
This has undermined the public’s trust in the Health Ministry and its directives.
Instead of blaming the public, Rotstein said, the Health Ministry should sit down and reconsider its policies before the virus in Israel spins out of control.