Medical experts give Ronni Gamzu’s coronavirus plan an A+

'The Jerusalem Post' asked three top health experts how they would grade Gamzu’s plan – and all of them gave it top scores.

Ichilov director-general Ronni Gamzu. (photo credit: MIRI GATTENYO/ICHILOV SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Ichilov director-general Ronni Gamzu.
(photo credit: MIRI GATTENYO/ICHILOV SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Despite public opposition to Prof. Ronni Gamzu’s strategic plan for stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the head of the National Security Council, the country’s new coronavirus commissioner managed to get his plan passed by the coronavirus cabinet late Wednesday night. 
This victory bought Israelis at least two weeks without a country-wide lockdown. It also formalized his role as the professional who will take Israel on a strategic path toward conquering corona.

But what do medical professionals think of the plan?
 
The Jerusalem Post asked three top health experts how they would grade Gamzu’s plan – and all of them gave it top scores.
 
Cyrille Cohen, head of the immunotherapy laboratory at Bar-Ilan University, told the Post that Gamzu avoided what would have been an unwarranted and ineffective lockdown.

Israel has tried lockdown and it did not work long term, he said.
“I hear a lot of people saying put lockdown in effect now and end” the spread of the virus, said Cohen. But he noted that if nothing else changes, then within two weeks of lifting the lockdown, Israel would be back where it started with regards to the infection rate – and even worse off from an economic standpoint.
 
Furthermore, he said that if one looks closely at the data, it is correct that “we are seeing a kind of flattening of the curve.” He said Gamzu is looking not only at the total number of new patients but the number of critical patients.
 
“Right now, the hospitals say they are able to maintain this – it’s not the best, but they can maintain it,” Cohen said.
 
Hadassah Medical Center head Zeev Rotstein said that the number of severe patients is on the decline, as is the total number of patients. In addition, the infection ratio continues to descend below 1. On Thursday, he said it was around 0.8, meaning that 10 infected people will infect only eight other people.
 
“Under this observation, no more restrictions are needed,” Rotstein said, with an emphasis on “more,” meaning he would not advise lifting any of the remaining restrictions. “Calls for closure from the government are not justified,” he said.
 
Rotstein noted, however, that the number of patients in Jerusalem is less satisfactory, as well as the infection ratio, which stands at around 1.5 in the Holy City.
 
“We have to guarantee each other’s safety,” Rotstein said to the residents of Jerusalem.
 
He said that if any part of the population was reluctant to be screened then it could lead to entire neighborhoods being declared red instead of green.
 
“I appeal to the rabbinate and the leaders of the local population: Encourage your people to perform more and more tests and follow the directives. Not doing so is violating the Bible’s rules to be careful and help each other,” Rotstein stressed.

 
TACKLING NON-COMPLIANT neighborhoods or those with high levels of infection is also part of Gamzu’s plan.
 
His “traffic light” program creates a system for labeling coronavirus levels in different parts of the country, color-coding municipalities like traffic lights: green, yellow, orange and red. His idea is to let the municipalities take a more active role in managing their constituents and partnering with the Health Ministry and the IDF to stop the spread of infection. This program was also approved and is expected to go into effect on September 1.
 
“We do see, based on the data, that there are hot spots – and those hot spots are fueling a lot of cases in Israel,” said Cohen.
“Therefore, the idea of trying to be more targeted – the ideas of the traffic light dogma – is a good thing.”
 
Cohen said, however, that he believes such a plan could be complicated to implement. Israel is a small country and there are politics involved in putting restrictions on some communities and not others.
 
“It is a good plan, but I am not sure how applicable it is,” Cohen said.
 
Rotstein said that he hopes that since Gamzu is working to get buy-in from municipal leaders, they will be encouraged to push their communities to go from red to green.
 
Moreover, he said that pushing off a closure will help to achieve one of Gamzu’s most important and pressing goals: gaining the trust of the public.
 
“It is very important to gain more confidence from the people of Israel,” he said, noting that removing “illogical” weekend restrictions would also build trust.
 
Will the infection rate go down?
 
Arnon Afek, deputy director-general of Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, said yes and that “things are changing.”
 
Like Rotstein, he said that “we are trying to recreate an agreement with the public about the importance of doing all the right things to prevent this lockdown. I hope the public understands the need to cooperate to prevent a lockdown.
 
“Blaming the public is not the right way,” Afek said, “but we need the public to collaborate in order to prevent infection.”
 
He added that “we are not sure we will not need to implement a lockdown,” but if it comes to that, he wants the people of Israel to know that the government and the country’s medical professionals “did our utmost to prevent it.”