Coronavirus: Do health experts think the lockdown will work?

The lockdown is a 'disaster for the country and the economy'

BORDER POLICE patrol a nearly empty city center during a partial lockdown in early April (photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
BORDER POLICE patrol a nearly empty city center during a partial lockdown in early April
(photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
A total lockdown is death for the economy and was not necessary, according to several health experts, including coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu.
“I recommended tightening the restrictions,” Gamzu said Thursday during a tour of Jerusalem. “The government made a different decision – and I respect it.”
He said the morbidity is worrying - Israel has hit nearly 7,000 new patients per day in the last few days, and more than 40 people died in the last 24 hours.
“It is very, very worrying,” Gamzu said. “Less could have possibly been closed, however. It does send a message to the public. If the government got to a place that it implemented such a total lockdown of the economy, it shows that the outbreak is really widespread.”
Prof. Zeev Rotstein, the head of Hadassah Medical Center, called the lockdown a “disaster for the country and the economy.”
He told The Jerusalem Post that it will leave families without income, self-employed workers without their businesses and even salaried employees without their jobs. He said it would also leave families alone on the High Holy Days.
“The question is whether the lockdown is justified with the number of infected people,” Rotstein said, explaining that while it will prevent gathering, what it won’t do is prevent undiagnosed sick people – especially in overcrowded haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Arab neighborhoods – from spreading the disease within their own homes.
The Health Ministry has reported that infection spreads the most within nuclear families.
He said a short lockdown would have less economic damage, but with the high rate of infection it will not have the needed health impact. A longer lockdown will reduce daily patients, but “the price is enormous.”
Economic hardship can lead to higher rates of suicide, domestic violence and violence in general, among other challenges, health experts have warned.
Rotstein said that with such high infection rates, anything we do now might be just “a drop in the bucket.”
Moreover, he said he feels that while a very intense lockdown is being planned now, a lot of elements do not appear to contribute to reducing the infection rate.
“Why are they shutting down the airport?” Rotstein asked. “How is that connected to reducing the infection rate? On the contrary, people who plan to go abroad get tested. If they are found positive, they isolate themselves and therefore the number of spreaders is reduced.”
He said there are too many aspects of the lockdown with little or no epidemiological effect or that are too complicated, such as the decision that people can demonstrate but only in groups of 20 and not more than one kilometer from their homes.
This “unfortunate chaos” could lead the public to disrespect the directives, which would make the lockdown ineffective.
Cyrille Cohen, head of the immunotherapy laboratory at Bar-Ilan University, expressed similar sentiments.
He said that Israel needs the public to follow the rules in order to reduce infection, but he has little faith that this will happen because “people have lost trust in the government and its decisions.”
He said that the government’s lack of standardization has caused disillusionment. Citizens learned that those who shout loudest in the Knesset, and who are part of a sector that is well represented in the Knesset Coronavirus Committee, will get more.
“Everything has become political, not health based – that is the difference between the first and second closure,” Cohen stressed. “In the first closure, people believed that the government meant well. Right now, people do not trust.”
But the country is closing anyway. As such, said Rotstein and Cohen, the biggest question is what will happen after the lockdown: what other measures the country will take in order to prevent a third spike and closure.
“I hope that Prof. Gamzu and the other decision makers will use the days of quarantine to build an exit strategy, so maybe we can break free from the horror of coronavirus,” Rotstein said.
“I did not hear from our government any new policy for after the lockdown, I did not see any plan for changing the future,” Rotstein stressed. “How are we going to identify the superspreaders, isolate them and not all the people in the country next time? This is what bothers me.”
Cohen echoed his remarks: “I am very wary about the day after the lockdown – that we will not learn from our past mistakes,” he told the Post.
When the country reflects on how it handled this war, Israel will understand that its actions “caused an acute crisis in the public and a civil uprising,” Rotstein warned.
Added Cohen: “It’s a mess.”