Public health head quits, calls second-wave corona decisions frivolous

In her letter of resignation, Sigal Sadetsky said that the coming months ‘will be difficult and even tragic.’

Professor Sigal Sadetsky, head of Public Health at the Health Ministry (photo credit: Courtesy)
Professor Sigal Sadetsky, head of Public Health at the Health Ministry
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel should expect difficult or even tragic months ahead, as management of the second wave of coronavirus is plagued by frivolous, unsubstantiated and populist decision-making, Prof. Sigal Sadetsky wrote in a resignation letter on Tuesday.
In the letter sent to Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy, she accused the government of “making frivolous and unsubstantiated decisions, without considering their widespread and long-term public health implications.”
“Infinite time” is spent “calming the spirits” and “managing partnerships,” while the work that needs to be done in the field is relegated, Sadetsky said.
“Too much time is invested in debates, discussions, consultations and forums... while the operations and details required for the success of the various operations do not receive the proper attention,” she said, stressing that the work environment at the Health Ministry has become wrought with personal interests.
“The [coronavirus] is a deadly, cunning and agile epidemic,” she added. “I feel with a high-level of certainty... that the coming months will be difficult and even tragic.”
Sadetsky published her pages-long letter on Facebook on a day that the number of coronavirus cases diagnosed topped 1,000 and the death toll sharply increased.
According to the Health Ministry, some 1,076 people tested positive for coronavirus on Monday and between midnight and 11 p.m. on Tuesday, another 1,052 people were diagnosed.
Serious patients rose to 86 and five more people died, bringing the death toll to 342.
Six residents at a retirement house in Kiryat Bialik tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday, according to media reports.
Additionally, the government announced that the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) town of Beitar Illit is now a "restricted zone" beginning Wednesday a 1 p.m. for seven days due to its increasing number of cases – 51 new cases in the last three days, according to the Health Ministry. 
Sadetsky’s note also came as many new regulations went into effect, which she called into question. While she said that she had the “privilege” to serve in her role at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus, she also said her professional opinion is no longer accepted by the ministry, and that she feels she can no longer effectively help Israel cope with coronavirus.
Still, she offered her advice on which “urgent actions” should be taken immediately to gain back control over the pandemic:
• Reducing personal adhesion: Continuing and strengthening discipline when it comes to wearing masks, social distancing and personal hygiene
• Preventing crowds of more than 20 people
• Running educational activities in strict capsules and under the recommended Health Ministry directives
• Returning to capsules wherever possible – at work, social gatherings, etc.
• Carrying out targeted testing and contact tracing to cut off infection chains
• Caring for at-risk populations, including refreshing the Magen Avot v’Imahot (Parent Guarding) program
• Ensuring rigorous enforcement of directives
• Providing logistical support for those who need to be isolated and lack the means (such as “coronavirus hotels”)
• Maintaining city and state border closures as needed.
Opening the education system first in a limited way and two weeks later in a sweeping way... led to widespread reinfection in Israel,” Sadetsky said. “Maintaining educational frameworks plays a major role in the ability to safeguard the economy and their importance to our children. However, in the absence of conformity to corona regulations, schools and kindergartens become fertile grounds for infection.
“Israel opened the education system too quickly compared with most countries in the world. Without compatible conditions, education systems cannot be opened.
“In the first phase, Israel’s achievements were reflected in the flattening of the morbidity curve, and the measures taken were inspirational and praised by other countries dealing with the plague. In contrast, the second phase was characterized by a vital but rapid and sweeping opening of the economy carried out through cumbersome procedures.
“The move to the second phase in Israel was much more extensive and fast compared with other Western countries. The atmosphere of illness treatment and decision-making has changed fundamentally, and the results are evident in the morbidity curve,” Sadetsky said.
The government broke its promise of opening progressively and reviewing the impact of its decisions, continually moving forward even though the morbidity graph indicated the situation was getting worse, she said.
“The global experience in dealing with epidemics shows that actions and moves that are avoided due to the fear of difficult and painful decisions subsequently cost twice as much as making those difficult decisions,” Sadetsky wrote. “It was only last weekend that [the government] decided it was ready to return to preventative measures, which in my estimation is too little and too late.”
She concluded that the term “living in the shadow of coronavirus” does not mean going back to the way it was before the pandemic. Rather, it means establishing an effective coronavirus routine, which has social and financial costs.
“You can’t succeed on a mission without a cost,” Sadetsky said. “I wish that my warnings in recent weeks in various forums were unnecessary, that the conversations I had during the night were not needed, and that my assessment of the condition of coronavirus morbidity in Israel would prove to be incorrect. I wish I will have been wrong.”