Report: New Coronavirus Commissioner Will Recommend Third Lockdown Within Weeks

Professor Nachman Ash.

A confidant of the incoming coronavirus task force commissioner, Prof. Nachman Ash, told Yisrael Hayom that in his opinion, Ash would seek to have a third nationwide lockdown imposed and would recommend it within “the next few weeks.”

This seems to confirm what MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman (UTJ) said earlier this week, that he sees another lockdown coming, just in time for Chanukah, in the same way the previous lockdown was specifically timed for the chagim of Tishrei. Rabbi Litzman quit his ministerial post over that lockdown.

“He’s going to be making a lot of significant proposals very soon,” the source said. “He really believes in lockdowns – he’s exactly the opposite of Ronni [Gamzu] in that respect. He is very conservative in his approach and believes that lockdowns are the solution – he also believes that there’s no way of averting a third one.

“He thinks that neither a vaccine nor breaking the chains of transmission will be enough to bring infection rates down, and that neither of these things are happening right now in any case.”

While Ronni Gamzu was scheduled to leave his post in November, the Health Ministry was shocked when Deputy Director Professor Itamar Grotto announced his resignation, in what the health-care system described as a “surprising move.” Grotto, who held the position for 13 years, appraised Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and ministry Director-General Prof. Chezi Levy of his decision.

Grotto is the third senior Health Ministry official to resign since the coronavirus outbreak hit Israel, following Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, his superior and the man credited for helping the ministry navigate the crisis during its first wave in Israel, and Prof. Siegal Sadetzki, the ministry’s director of public health. Rabbi Yaakov Litzman left the Health Ministry when the new government was formed.

While he was excluded from many of the major decisions in the ministry during the first wave of the coronavirus, Grotto had a bigger impact on how the crisis was managed in the wake of Bar Siman-Tov’s departure. Still, ministry insiders said he has again been pushed aside recently, potentially driving him to resign.

A senior health official described Grotto’s impending departure as “a great loss” to the ministry.

“It seems the ministry is falling apart,” he said. “It’s amazing how many officials have quit so far. I think the fact that so many resigned during such a period does not bode well. It is not easy working in the Health Ministry these days. The question is who is left who can still resign.”

Looking ahead to the continued struggle against the coronavirus, Grotto said, “We still have a long way to go, and it won’t be easy, but I am convinced that together, we will find solutions and learn how to overcome this virus, just as we overcame previous challenges.”

Edelstein added, “Apart from the fact that he is a first-rate professional, Prof. Grotto is a man with a huge heart who is ready to help anyone in his time of need. Prof. Grotto has been a great asset to the ministry for many years and the citizens of Israel owe him a great deal.”

It remains unclear what Grotto’s next professional step will be. It appears he may be considering an offer from the World Health Organization.