Bennett calls for defense establishment to be responsible for corona fight

Bennett releases corona plan to do 30,000-50,000 tests to identify virus carriers quickly in order to restart the economy

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett at the Defense Ministry on February 25, 2020. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett at the Defense Ministry on February 25, 2020.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has called on the government to transfer the responsibility of fighting the coronavirus from the Health Ministry to the IDF and defense establishment, as he released an exit plan from the virus, which has had a significant impact on the economy.
“We are in a war,” he said Sunday. “The IDF is a bulldozer and that’s what we need to fight against this virus.
“The Health Ministry has not been built for this kind of emergency. They are smart, good and dedicated professionals, but the ministry specializes in healthcare, not emergencies and logistics. Therefore, I am convinced that the responsibility for establishing and operating the testing system must be transferred to the security system.”
Bennett said the Health Ministry has not been built to handle the logistics needed to battle the virus, writing in his plan that “this whole logistics system is too complex for the Health Ministry to execute.”
In the plan, released on Sunday, Bennett recommended that the nationwide lockdown be changed after Passover so that the at-risk population continues to self-isolate while the rest of the population returns to a sense of normalcy.
He called for the immediate ban on the elderly population from leaving their homes and for the responsibility for the battle against the virus to fall to the IDF and defense establishment.
The plan also recommends increasing the number of coronavirus tests and providing quick answers to identify those infected with the virus and quarantine them quickly, saving the economy from collapse.
Comparing Israel to a “large forest” and the virus to a fire, Bennett states that “it is clear that this forest will burn. The forest has a mission: that the forest burns in a very controlled and consistent war, without losing control of the fire.”
“The controlled fire method in the State of Israel, as in the rest of the world, will eventually reach a situation where most of the population is infected with the coronavirus and then recovers from the virus, and then most of Israel's citizens are immune. In this situation, the epidemic is over.” he wrote.
As the elderly are at a significantly higher risk of dying from the virus, Bennett’s plan urged the elderly population to remain indoors and isolated and cared for-both mentally and physically. While the majority of the elderly remain in their own homes and can be cared for by their families, the responsibility of seniors in geriatric facilities must fall to the Home Front Command.
He called for a widespread ban on the elderly population from leaving their homes because “the alternative is the continued lockdown of Israel as a whole and the future of all Israelis. This decision should be implemented as soon as possible and should be renewed once a week.
“Every effort must be made to prevent infection in these patients, as infection is death,” he wrote.
As part of Bennett’s national action plan to overcome the coronavirus epidemic, a central body will be established to provide regular information to the public as “there is currently a lack of order, multiplicity, contradictory and vague explanations.”
The central body will receive instructions from the Health Ministry and coronavirus cabinet and will provide official media interviews, prepare videos and advertisements in all relevant languages and provide targeted ads, education and information for all segments of the population such as the ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors.
In addition, officials will establish binding rules of conduct for the public that will be renewed every two weeks.
“The public must be reminded that compliance with the regulations is essential to our health, and is an alternative to a total lockdown of the State of Israel,” the plan said, adding that “adhering to these regulations will allow a rapid reopening of the economy and the education system.”
The plan also called for establishing an extensive testing system to identify those with the virus, carrying out thousands of tests a day on a regular basis. According to the defense minister, once 30,000-50,000 tests are being done per day, there will be the ability to detect those infected with the virus and send them to quarantine hotels within hours of being checked.
The government has ordered the Health Ministry to carry out 30,000 tests within two weeks.
Once tests become routine and any family doctor can refer individuals for a check and those found positive are moved to isolation, “we will reopen schools and businesses in Israel. Life will return to normal. People will return to work. Everyone will adopt the rules of remoteness and hygiene,” he wrote. “We will not be blind.”
According to Bennett, those being tested for the virus wait up to five days to receive their result, something that must be done within hours to prevent the continued infection of the individual’s environment.
Coronavirus can survive on surfaces and continue to infect people who come into contact with those surfaces for up to several days. The plan stated that the virus likely also has an “aerosol feature,” where a coronavirus “cloud” is created and remains airborne in a room where an infected individual has been. But, if the room is ventilated, then the cloud will disperse.
With 85% of carriers being asymptomatic, thousands, or even tens of thousands, could be carrying the virus and infecting their environment and family without knowing it.
As part of the fight against the virus, in addition to the large number of groundbreaking Israeli initiatives, there is a plan to import an entire coronavirus laboratory to Israel, which can carry out 17,000 tests a day.
As the virus can mutate and change, the plan also urged international cooperation and sharing of knowledge with other states.
“We must learn from all over the world, and unlike ordinary wars with our enemies in the Middle East, no secrecy is necessary. On the contrary, the more we share, the more we learn from the world, the more successful we will be in the campaign,” Bennett wrote.
The plan also emphasizes that every measure to "flatten the curve" of coronavirus infections has a price, with every decision requiring a cost-benefit analysis. It is incorrect, Bennett said, to take every action that slows the spread of the virus.
While closing the education system comes at a high civilian price and shutting entertainment centers has a medium to high price, Bennett said both are necessary at this time to halt the outbreak. Closing export or manufacturing factories, however, has a "very high" price and is not deemed worthwhile.
Although the plan refrains from listing decisions required immediately to support the millions of citizens either laid off from work or whose businesses are about to close, Bennett said the government "must take drastic, bureaucracy-free measures to place cash immediately in citizens' pockets." Rather than government-backed loans, he said, grants must be given to affected workers.
Bennett, a former hi-tech entrepreneur, said decision-makers at all levels – from the government to low-level ministry workers – all belong to the public sector and therefore "do not sufficiently understand the life of the private sector." He believes that now is the time for the public sector, which survives courtesy of taxation paid by the private sector, to provide assistance.