Coronavirus cabinet to review Ronni Gamzu’s plan

IDF announces Coronavirus Command to start operating Thursday * Edelstein tells hospitals, health funds to start hiring new medical personnel

Jerusalemites wearing face masks for fear of coronavirus  walk on Jaffa road in the City Center of Jerusalem on July 12, 2020. Israel has seen a spike of new COVID-19 cases,  cabinet ministers imposed new restrictions on public gatherings in a bid to stem the rising infection rate of the coronavirus (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Jerusalemites wearing face masks for fear of coronavirus walk on Jaffa road in the City Center of Jerusalem on July 12, 2020. Israel has seen a spike of new COVID-19 cases, cabinet ministers imposed new restrictions on public gatherings in a bid to stem the rising infection rate of the coronavirus
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
The coronavirus cabinet is set to convene Wednesday to vote on a framework for stopping the spread of the virus, as the IDF finalizes plans to open its Coronavirus Command and hospitals begin hiring new state-funded doctors and nurses.
The strategic plan was to be prepared by the Health Ministry under newly appointed coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu, however he said that the plan would only be partial as he continues to learn more and consider the best options. The plan is definitely expected to include the lifting of weekend closures on stores and malls. It should also have suggestions for how to better manage the country’s “red zones," some of which Gamzu visited on Tuesday.
Speaking Tuesday at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that the ministry’s stance is that there is no value in maintaining partial closures.
“There is no such thing as a half-pregnancy,” he said, reiterating a statement made the day before. “If there is not a full closure on the weekends, there is no point in partial restrictions.”
At the same time, the IDF announced that its Coronavirus Command, led by Brig.-Gen. Nissan Davidi, will begin operations on Thursday in an attempt to cut the chain of infections and bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.
The Coronavirus Command led by the Homefront Command will include other bodies in the military, Defense Ministry, Health Ministry as well as local municipalities and an advisory group of experts assisting Gamzu.
On Monday IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi approved the plan of the command, following discussions with Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir and the head of the Homefront Command Maj.-Gen. Uri Gordin.
It will be led by Davidi, who Gordin said “is the right man for the job” as he previously served as the chief logistics officer for the Homefront Command and other logistics-related roles. While he was supposed to retire from the military, he was nominated by Gordin and Kochavi and the nomination was approved by Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Under Davidi, the command will operate at a national level to assist in breaking the chain of infections by improving the country’s testing capacity, and at the same time streamlining and connecting all various government bodies and civilian organizations into one system operated by the Health Ministry.
Gordin told journalists on Tuesday that while municipalities had a minor role during the first wave, they will now have a significant role in stopping the virus.
It will also shorten laboratory processes, perform assessments and analyses of the virus for policymakers and oversee the epidemiological surveys to identify those who may have been in contact with confirmed coronavirus patients in order to quickly get them into quarantine.
According to Gordin, the command will reduce the time of the investigations from five days to a maximum of 36 hours.
The Command will include centers, complexes including a sampling center, isolation center, hotel command center, assessment complex, information system, testing center, and an epidemiological investigation center. A central command room will also be set up with the aim of being able to provide a complete picture of the virus in the country.
With the amount of information that the command will have, “it will be a game-changer,” Gordin said, explaining that the digital data system will make it quicker and easier to manage.
It will be established in two stages. First, in the short term, it will run based on the existing capabilities of the IDF and civilian bodies. Then, a headquarters will be established ahead of the winter and possible third wave of the virus.
According to Gordin, there are over 1,000 reservists currently playing a role in the Homefront Command’s response to the virus and on Sunday, Gantz approved the call-up of 3,000 reservists, mostly from the Homefront Command to assist in the formation of the Command and other aspects of the military’s pandemic response.
“We hope we will get to the winter with a lower infection rate so that we will not need to impose a closure, and I think we can do this with the Command and our system,” Gordin said. “We can break the chain of infection.”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a tour of the IDF Home Front Command headquarters in Ramle with Gantz.
“I was deeply impressed by the industrial enterprise here for cutting the chain of infection,” Netanyahu said. “Great efforts are being made here. There is full coordination with the Health Ministry and, of course, with national coronavirus project manager Prof. Ronni Gamzu. They are working together, coordinating with mayors, and trying to create something that in my opinion does not exist in the world – the ability of cutting [the chain of infection] at a very high level, with a very great scope.”
The visit came on the same day that hospitals and health funds were told they will be able to start hiring new doctors, nurses and support staff in preparation for the winter when they will be faced with treating patients suffering from the flu and COVID-19.
“Today, we will start allocating the 2,000 nurses, 400 doctors and 700 workers to the hospitals and health funds,” Edelstein said at Wolfson.
A decision to beef up the medical system was announced two weeks ago by the Health and Finance ministries. Until now, the hospitals have not formally received notice that they could begin hiring these workers.
Already, there are 761 coronavirus patients being treated in Israel’s hospitals, the Health Ministry reported on Tuesday. Several of the hospitals’ internal medicine and coronavirus units are operating over capacity. The expectation is that in the winter, around November, when flu season begins in Israel there will be even more people in need of treatment.
There were 1,802 people diagnosed with coronavirus on Monday, the Health Ministry said Tuesday, out of 23,490 people who were screened – an around 8% infection rate.
There were 342 patients in serious condition, among them 99 who were intubated. Some 559 people have died.
Edelstein said that “after careful work done by the staff at the Health Ministry, today we will start informing hospitals and health funds about the allocations… This reinforcement is extremely significant and is one of the largest in recent years.
Out of the 2,000 nurses, some 450 will be allocated to the health funds and children’s care centers known as Tipat Halav in Hebrew. The rest will go directly to the hospitals to reinforce both internal and emergency departments.
Some 40% of the doctors will be hired to work in inpatient departments. The rest will serve in EDs, intensive care and pediatric wards.