Gamzu to ‘Post’: Coronavirus plagued by politicians’ illogical decisions

“There is something about this corona that makes a lot of people lose judgement,” coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu told the Post.

Israel's new coronavirus czar, Ronni Gamzu  (photo credit: FLASH90)
Israel's new coronavirus czar, Ronni Gamzu
(photo credit: FLASH90)
Politicians who feel threatened that they will lose votes in a future election are making “illogical decisions” in the way Israel is fighting the spread of COVID-19, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, the country’s coronavirus “czar,” told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
“There is illogical judgment here,” he said of many of the decisions that have been made by Israel’s leaders since the start of the second wave of the pandemic. “Why do ministers have difficulty doing the right thing?” he asked. “For political reasons.”
Gamzu, who took on his role five week ago, has faced harsh criticism in recent days for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as numbers continue to climb. His efforts to stop thousands of Jews from traveling to Uman, Ukraine, for Rosh Hashanah was met with anger and even threats by haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and other leaders.
On Wednesday, for example, Likud leader Miki Zohar told KAN news that “Prof. Gamzu is sure that he has the ability to prevent Israelis from going to Uman, but Prof. Gamzu meanwhile was sure he had the ability to stop the protests. He didn’t succeed in stopping the protests.”
Zohar accused Gamzu of not taking action against the tens of thousands of people protesting against the government’s handling of the novel coronavirus crisis and corruption because he “fears the media and is scared the media will criticize him.” He added that if the professor could not stop the protests, “he needs to know he also cannot stop travel to Uman.”
Later in the day, the Ukrainian government announced that it would not accept foreigners into the country until after the Jewish New Year.
In response to the politicians, Gamzu told the Post that he sees how many politicians receive “huge pressure, almost violent,” from their constituents, and that he can understand that the politicians “need their electorate to survive.” However, he said these politicians should not let their own popularity get in the way of public health – and he believes that is what they are doing.
Israel’s politicians “are being pushed by issues that, during this crisis, should be better weighted against the harm that can be done to individuals, communities and the whole country,” he said. “Yes, you have to be sensitive to any minority, but you cannot lose focus of the issue.
“There is something about this corona that makes a lot of people lose judgment,” he added.
Gamzu added that sometimes he feels as though the politicians are saying to him, “You reduce the numbers. It is our job to do what is popular. And, if you don’t succeed, we’ll just lock down.’”
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, came to Gamzu’s defense.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who appointed Prof. Ronni Gamzu as national coronavirus project manager and holds his dedicated work in great esteem, works and cooperates with him on a daily basis and calls on everyone to do likewise,” the Prime Minister’s Office shared in a statement.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein also defended the “czar” in his remarks at the ceremony marking the opening of the new Shield of Israel headquarters in Airport City.
“I urge my colleagues not to try to ‘snip coupons’ at the expense of public health,” Edelstein said. “The decisions that come from the Health Ministry and this government are the best professional decisions."