Coronavirus lockdown: Life-saving or lunacy?

“Lockdown is lunacy,” Prof. Yoram Lass, a member of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, told The Jerusalem Post. “It's impossible to stop a virus by government decree.”

A man wearing a mask walks inside a shopping centre after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government announced that malls, hotels, restaurants and theaters will shut down from Sunday, in an escalation of precautionary measures against coronavirus, in Tel Aviv, Israel March 15, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
A man wearing a mask walks inside a shopping centre after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government announced that malls, hotels, restaurants and theaters will shut down from Sunday, in an escalation of precautionary measures against coronavirus, in Tel Aviv, Israel March 15, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
A government cannot stop a virus, a former Health Ministry director-general said. What stops a virus is natural immunity.
Lockdown is lunacy,” Prof. Yoram Lass, a member of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, told The Jerusalem Post. “It's impossible to stop a virus by government decree.”
He said that viral pandemics come to an end after the virus spreads throughout the population and those exposed create antibodies. When enough of the population is immune to COVID-19, “the chain of infection is broken and in that way the virus comes to a halt."
While the government has espoused hysteria over the last six weeks, most recently slapping a near closure on the entire country, Lass believes that it is wrong to shut down Israel over the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
“You will be amazed to know that every year, 17,000 Italians die of flu,” Lass told the Post.
In Israel, he said, less than 130 people died of flu last year.
Italy, he explained, is known to have high morbidity in respiratory problems, more than three times any other European country. In the US, about 40,000 people die in a regular flu season. So far, around 16,000 Italians and less than 11,000 Americans have died from coronavirus. 
"I won't say how many people will ultimately die from coronavirus,” Lass said, but he said that when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compares COVID-19 to the “Black Death” plague that struck Europe in the Middle Ages, killing 50 million people, or 60% of Europe's entire population, that is “psychology prevailing over science.”
Some 350 people die per year in car accidents in Israel, Lass said. “If we stopped driving, we would save lives. Should we save them?”
He said the same holds true of people who die in plane crashes or even in the IDF.
“Soldiers are killed - should we dismantle the IDF in order to save their lives?” he asked.
He said that no states shut down between 2009 and 2010 when as many as 1.4 billion people across the globe were infected with swine flu, as many as 575,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Protection and Control.
Lass believes that the panic today is a result of two factors and the first is social media: “The brainwasher is Mark Zuckerberg,” he said referring to the CEO of Facebook. Though he said that Facebook is not the only problematic social platform.
“This is the first pandemic, which is real like many we had before, that is happening on the social networks and it has become inflated, it has reached a level of monstrous hysteria,” he told the Post.
In Israel, he said, this hysteria is compounded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who he said is locking everyone else up so he can be free.
“Coronavirus saved Netanyahu’s political life,” Lass charged. “He was a morbid politician and now he is talking about the black plague instead of giving everyone the real facts – the facts that I am telling you. It is in Netanyahu’s self-interest that we not open back up.”
But he said that “the economic damage is worse than the health damage.”
Hagai Levine, associate professor of epidemiology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hadassah Medical Center and head of the Israel Association of Public Health, said that he agrees that a full lockdown is not best for Israel.
“Surveillance is key to being able to make informed decisions and we don’t do it,” he told the Post. “In Israel we don’t have enough tests, we don’t test the right patients and we don’t have good surveillance.”
The result he said is a policy of “better safe than sorry – but at some point, these actions can cause more damage than the coronavirus itself.
“Quarantine is one size fits all,” he continued. “This is not an optimal solution.”


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