Top Health Official: Israel May Be Turning a Corner

A security guard checks the temperature of a customer, a coronavirus precaution, outside a supermarket in Ashkelon, Sunday. (Flash90)

Even as the government tightened rules on quarantine and social distancing – with outdoor minyanim and gatherings of more than two people in a public space now banned – things may be taking a turn for the better, said Professor Gabi Barabash, who directs a government program on coronavirus research and is former director general of the Health Ministry.

“We have seen a trend downwards in new infections for six days now,” he told Army Radio. “I think that, with all the caution required, we should release this information to the public. Israelis need to know that there is a reward for their suffering of being forced to stay at home.”

The trend is indeed a real one, Barabash said, which is why he was going public with it. “We thought that the fall in infection rates might be explained by one or another reason, such as a reduction in the number of tests we are giving. But that is not the case, we are administering more tests now than previously,” he said.

Barabash’s optimism does not necessarily apply to all parts of Israel. “We are extremely worried about specific hotspots, like Bnei Brak and parts of Yerushalayim. We believe that these areas need special treatment.”

When asked if that should include a closure of the areas, Barabash said “how would they accomplish that? Will they build a wall around Bnei Brak? We need to enter that community with masses of tests in order to identify the infected individuals, including those carrying the virus who don’t realize it. If you could do 20,000-30,000 tests a day, you would be able to track down those infected and immediately isolate them, in hotels outside the city.”

“The government has been releasing information that frightens the public and keeps imposing new ‘closure edicts’ on them, so the right thing to do is share good news when it is available. The people do need some hope. Will this trend continue? That is the question we need an answer for, ” Barabash added.

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