'Israel must drop to hundreds of daily coronavirus patients by September'

“We are in a situation where a morbidity of 1,600 patients a day constantly creates a burden on the health system,” Prof. Ronni Gamzu said.

Coronavirus commissioner Ronni Gamzu speaks to the press, August 6, 2020 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Coronavirus commissioner Ronni Gamzu speaks to the press, August 6, 2020
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu said that no closure is planned for the State of Israel at this stage but that if the rate of infection does not trend downwards within the next two weeks, new restrictions could be possible.
Addressing the press against the backdrop of approval of his plans – including his new “traffic light” program – by the coronavirus cabinet, Gamzu stressed that rather than “closures from above, I want order – a bottom-up partnership for all of us.”
“After consulting with all the experts in Israel, in the end, the direction is that we are currently waiting with drastic measures of restrictions out of an assessment of the state of the economy and society,” he said. “Instead of closing from above, I want order – a partnership from below for all of us. This is my message; this is the message received in the cabinet from me.”
Israel currently has a high rate of coronavirus infection – among the highest in the world per capita, Gamzu said.
“We are in a situation where a morbidity of 1,600 patients a day constantly creates a burden on the health system,” he said, noting that while the system can currently handle the situation now, Israel cannot go on this way for long.
The goal of the government is to reduce the morbidity to the level of hundreds of new patients per day by September, Gamzu said.
On Thursday, the Health Ministry reported that 1,689 people were diagnosed with coronavirus on Wednesday, plus another 1,055 between midnight and press time on Thursday. The number of patients in serious condition was 358, including 100 on ventilators.
“This is a very difficult task, but it is the goal,” Gamzu said. “It is important not only for the health situation, but also on the economic side... We must at this point give another push forward. It is clear that everyone understands the meaning of closure – harm to society and the economy – government ministers also understand this. We are waiting with drastic measures of such restrictions.”
“My message to the cabinet was fully received,” he said. “Everyone understood that we want another opportunity to reduce the rate of infection even further.”
There would be no more restrictions lifted until the coefficient of infection drops, Gamzu said.
He also discussed his “traffic light” program, which will put some of the responsibility for stopping infection in individual cities in the hands of local authorities.
“Public trust was damaged by previous closures,” he said. “So, we decided to give cities an opportunity to manage themselves and reduce morbidity. It is a complex and not a simple task. I do not know if we will succeed in it. They determine their fate.”
With the traffic-light model, there will be no more national restrictions, Gamzu said. “Rather, closures will be based on infection rates.”
“The education system may not open in red cities,” he said.
Although the plan was approved by the cabinet, many members opposed it, including representatives of the National Security Council and the prime minister, Gamzu told the press, but they decided to give the plan a chance.
When the plan was released Wednesday night, Netanyahu said: “We have a week or two. If we do not succeed in lowering the numbers, we will convene again to decide on more drastic measures.”
Gamzu reiterated Netanyahu’s statements on Thursday.
“The idea of a lockdown has not yet been eliminated, but for now it has been decided to postpone” such a move, he said. “If we do not improve; if we do not see the numbers trending downward, then this will be a clear message to Israel that, with all of our experience, we are not managing through any other means to lower the infection rate, and we will need more restrictions.
Lockdown is still on the table.”
Gamzu then spoke directly to the public, condemning large gatherings that have taken place, even in recent days.
“We see celebrations at which directives are violated; it cannot continue,” he said, adding that breaking directives is like playing a game of Russian roulette with people’s lives.
Gamzu referred to a wedding that took place in the Belz neighborhood of Jerusalem on Wednesday night, which he said has the potential for mass infection.
“It drives me crazy; it makes me angry,” he said. “I turn to the heads of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) public. Such a thing is certainly contagious. If there are seniors there, then there is a chance for people to become seriously ill.”
Gamzu said he spoke to the Israel Police and that “unequivocally” action should be taken against the wedding organizers. Rather than giving them fines afterward, he said he wants to stop these weddings in advance.
Likewise, he said, while demonstrations are a democratic right, “it is also our duty there to adopt safe behavior.”