Bennett to 'Post': 15 emergency measures to save Israel from coronavirus

Remember: If you don’t have a solution for helping Israel’s citizens make a living, we’re not interested.

DEMONSTRATORS RALLY in favor of additional governmental financial aid, in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
DEMONSTRATORS RALLY in favor of additional governmental financial aid, in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Here are 15 emergency measures the government needs to take this week if it wants to end the COVID-19 pandemic in Israel, prevent businesses from closing and restart the economy.
1. Over three days, train 2,500 college students to conduct epidemiological investigations. Remove the constraint that they can only be carried out by registered nurses. Any person with a little common sense can do these investigations. It’s a shame to waste the time of registered nurses who are needed elsewhere.
2. Open the market for producing corona tests to private companies like MyHeritage, which I’ve promoted. Decide what you’re willing to pay a private company for tests, and let the magic of the private market do its thing. This way, anyone who wants to get a test can get tested.
3. Use Rehovot’s Weizmann Institute of Science method to perform 70,000 tests a day. Their method has been tested and it works. It’s cheaper, faster and more accurate. Don’t give in to rigid bureaucrats.
4. Reopen the “corona hotels.” (Four months ago, I opened 30 hotels, which provided a place for secular, religious and Arab citizens returning to Israel from abroad). Send all the people who have tested positive for the virus to stay in these hotels. Don’t let people who test positive go back home! At home, they infect all their family members and the entire neighborhood. They should only be allowed to stay home if they can truly isolate on their own (for example, single people who live on their own).
5. Establish an emergency system to put an end to the chain of contagion and appoint a project manager to be in charge. No one is currently managing the crisis. The Health Ministry has excellent staff members, but it is a regulatory agency and is not set up to execute projects. I suggest using the IDF, but a civilian body would also work. A project manager needs to be appointed today.
6. Carry out statistically valid serological surveys. We purchased two million kits that are going to expire soon. What a waste! These surveys can give us a picture of who has been tested, where they live, and how many people in Israel have been infected: 23,000? 250,000? 1,000,000?
7. Get your act together regarding public announcements. It’s a complete mess at present. Different bodies are publishing different numbers. Appoint one person to be in charge of public announcements. Hire young “YouTubers” to convince kids and teens to abide by the rules. The same goes for the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Arab communities. In short, make sure that every sector has been reached.
8. THE WORDS you use make a big difference and can cause great damage. Stop talking nonsense. For example, when you said this week, “There’s been a spike in numbers in Tiberias,” it led to a wave of cancellations of reservations that harmed hundreds of businesses, with losses of millions of shekels. Later on, it turned out that these numbers had been inaccurate. There had only been a few individual cases. But the damage was done, and the canceled holidays could not be restored. Take care when you speak.
9. Establish a central information system that will handle all of the epidemiological information, alongside the cellular information. The method the Shin Bet is currently using will collapse under the heavy load. Right now, all the data are being gathered in Excel spreadsheets or written on paper. This is basic and simple.
10. Tell the public exactly what the plan is and what the minimal conditions are for being able to reopen the country. Israel’s citizens are mature and should be spoken to in an adult manner and told the truth. Stop whitewashing everything.
11. Go out and talk face-to-face with desperate camp organizers, tourism operators and people who work in the entertainment industry. Really listen to them, understand their needs, and then construct a plan for each sector. What works for restaurants won’t necessarily be appropriate for the foreign tourism sector.
12. Make courageous decisions. Don’t be afraid. If a certain sector has no chance of recovering, say that openly, and offer a year of unemployment benefits, including free professional retraining courses.
13. Set up a “Solution Team” and authorize it to make ad-hoc decisions when the cabinet cannot; when someone flies from overseas for a funeral, when a day camp in an outdoor area needs advice, when a group of Evangelical Christians is willing to take COVID-19 tests pre-flight, when outdoor weddings are being planned, etc. Be open-minded and willing to take responsibility for decisions.
14. Work around the clock, including on Shabbat, since this is a case of pikuach nefesh (saving a life). We are fighting a battle for the health of our citizens and the survival of our economy. This is not the time to be dealing with trivial issues.
15. Read the plan I put together three weeks ago regarding how to deal with a second wave of contagion, and implement it. (A link to the plan should be available in the first line of comments.)
Above all, remember: If you don’t have a solution for helping Israel’s citizens make a living, we’re not interested.
The writer is the chairman of Yamina and a former defense minister.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.