Corona ‘czar’ Gamzu to present strategic plan by Tuesday

IDF to play ‘significant role’ in contact tracing • Death toll continues to rise

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein meets with Sourasky Medical Center CEO Ronni Gamzu on July 20, 2020 (photo credit: MIRI GATTENYO/ICHILOV SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein meets with Sourasky Medical Center CEO Ronni Gamzu on July 20, 2020
Only days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein appointed Prof. Ronni Gamzu to serve as the country’s coronavirus commissioner, Gamzu has said he will reveal a strategic plan for fighting the pandemic by Tuesday.
Several parts of the plan were revealed by Hebrew media on Sunday night and confirmed by a source in the know to The Jerusalem Post.
However, later, Gamzu himself informed the Post directly that his plan "is away from concluded," meaning nothing revealed is quite accurate yet. 
Still, here are some aspects that are under consideration:
The first is that the IDF will be taking a more central role in managing the coronavirus crisis.
Netanyahu said Sunday morning he supports Gamzu’s request to have the IDF deeply involved with or even run epidemiological tracing of coronavirus patients.
“During the week, Prof. Gamzu will present an action plan for severing the chain of infection, and the IDF will have a significant role in this important mission,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “I asked Prof. Gamzu to also present a long-term national action plan for routine life in the time of coronavirus, and he will present it to the cabinet and afterward to the public, of course.”
Gamzu told the Post he made such a request, but he was still “waiting for a final decision.” He did not clarify what that meant.
Other parts of the plan include: There will be no numerical criteria for restrictions, and there will be uniform and transparent criteria for all restrictions. Additionally, changes will be made in how information is delivered, with all public messages likely being disseminated only from the coronavirus control center at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer.
Shortly after the plan’s highlights were revealed, the Health Ministry informed the public that a group of doctors at top hospitals throughout Israel would be appointed to a committee called “Magen Israel,” or “Protectors of Israel,” which would inform Gamzu if the hospitals are getting overwhelmed by the number of coronavirus patients.
Sources present at Gamzu’s first Zoom meeting in his new role, which was held Sunday, told N12 he arrived “in good spirits and motivated.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his predecessor, Naftali Bennett, wanted the Defense Ministry to take a greater role in managing the coronavirus crisis.
Last month, during a meeting of the coronavirus cabinet, Gantz’s office disseminated the following message: “The Home Front Command is a system that was created to act in situations just like what we are in. We demand moving to a model in which decisions are made by the cabinet, the Health Ministry sets regulations, and the Defense Ministry is the operational actor.”
Moving epidemiological tracking to the Defense Ministry is a change of methodology. Until now, the Health Ministry has been reluctant to cooperate on this project, despite having only 27 nurses trained for the efforts and reportedly breaking down under the pressure.
Although reports have varied, the country appears to have only successfully completed epidemiological tracing for 10% to 30% of people who have been infected with the novel coronavirus.
Testing and tracing have been run under the tight control of the Health Ministry since the start of the pandemic, specifically under Prof. Sigal Sadetsky, head of Public Health Services. She stepped down last month, accusing the Health Ministry and the government in her resignation letter of being plagued by frivolous, unsubstantiated and populist decision-making.
On Sunday, N12 reported she would be replaced by Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, deputy CEO of Carmel Medical Center. The Health Ministry told the Post that the appointment was not yet official.
Netanyahu made clear last week in announcing Gamzu’s appointment that the Health Ministry would lose direct control over certain aspects of dealing with the virus.
Last Thursday, Netanyahu said Gamzu’s foremost task would be to figure out how to cut off the chains of infection.
“For this purpose, he will be given all the powers in three areas – testing, investigations and isolation,” Netanyahu said. “He will manage the isolation of carriers and patients who have been identified to interrupt the chain of infection.”
Even then, the prime minister said, the IDF would play a central role.
Gamzu met with Gantz over the weekend to discuss using discharged soldiers to help with tracing. They would be available full time and have a background in data management from the Intelligence Corps or the IAF, Ynet reported.
“The second wave of the coronavirus is hitting the entire world, including Israel,” Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting. “We are continuing to act with full force to block the spread of the pandemic.”
“But I would like to emphasize – there are no magic solutions,” he said. “Without personal responsibility from every one of you, citizens of Israel, there will be no possibility of blocking the virus. I must say that I see an improvement in behavior, but more needs to be done. Wearing masks, maintaining personal distance, hygiene and avoiding gatherings, will defeat the pandemic.”
On Sunday, the Health Ministry reported that 1,106 people were diagnosed with the novel virus over the past 24 hours – among the lowest number of new patients in recent weeks. However, some 15,471 people were tested – nearly 10,000 fewer than on prior weekends.
At press time, some 303 people were in serious condition, including 98 who were intubated.
The death toll rose by eight people since midnight on Sunday, reaching 468 at last report.