Israel returns to strict three-week quarantine due to coronavirus outbreak

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It was a model case for its control of the Covid in April. Now it has set new daily case records and is going to a strict close.

Israel surpassed 150,000 cases of coronavirus this Saturday since the beginning of the pandemic, after a week in which records of daily infections were recorded, with more than 4,000 on Thursday alone. The Israeli Government approved this Sunday a total closure of three weeks to halt the second wave of the coronavirus, which has hit the country hard since May and reached one of the highest morbidity rates in the world in the last week.

As of this Friday, the Israelis they will not be able to leave more than 500 meters from your home, non-essential businesses will remain closed AND no more than ten people may gather, among other restrictions.

Six months after the start of the pandemic, Israel has gone from model case to disaster, with one of the highest morbidity rates in the world. What happened? According to experts: politicization of the crisis, overconfidence, lack of credibility from the authorities and little social discipline.

On March 12, six months ago, Israel announced the closure of all schools and universities in the country. At that time it registered 109 confirmed cases and no deaths from the pandemic. Then the bars, restaurants and all non-essential businesses would do it, measures that, together with the rapid closure of their borders and in the face of the low number of confirmed cases, were among the most drastic in the world.

On April 19, with just over 13,000 infected – with about nine million inhabitants – and after an intense and effective total confinement, the government ended the worst phase of the pandemic.

How then did it come to have one of the highest morbidity rates in the world, with more than 400 infected per million inhabitants during the last week?

What brought the country to the current situation, with more than a thousand deaths and 150,000 cases and on the verge of decreeing a new total closure to stop a second out of control wave?

“The idea that the pandemic could be controlled easily and quickly was an illusion, and it was a message that politicians transmitted, that the crisis was over and that we could enjoy life again. It was an euphoric approach marked by overconfidence “, Leonid Eidelman, former director of the World Medical Association and the Israeli Medical Association, told the EFE agency.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself acknowledged in July, more than a month after the start of the second wave, that the April de-escalation was “too early and too fast”.

“Complacency,” sums up Alon Moses, director of the Department of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at Hadassah Hospital.

Moses further adds that after the April reopening, there was a false expectation that the incidence of the virus would decrease during the summer and a serious delay in the implementation of new restrictions after detecting the increase in cases in June.

On the other hand, it considers that there was, and still is, a lack of communication between the authorities and society, which contributed to little adherence to the restrictions and norms of social distancing, including the celebration of weddings and massive religious festivities, which believed were decisive for the rapid increase in cases.

For Ran Nir-Paz, a professor at the School of Public Health of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a specialist in infectious diseases also at Hadassah hospital, there are also two other factors that explain Israel’s plummeting decline: the delay in the implementation of serious epidemiological investigations to track infections and isolating potential infected and politicizing crisis management.

“When politicians announce restrictions in the morning and break them in the afternoon for their own interests, it is clear that nobody will follow the rules,” he says, and also highlights how pressure from certain groups, especially ultra-Orthodox parties, impacted the government decisions and hindered the work of the national coordinator for the pandemic, Roni Gamzu.

The three experts agree on the need to apply total closure, something that the cabinet of ministers had predicted to vote on Sunday. But they warn that it is nothing more than buying time and that it will be useless if it is not accompanied by another series of measures, including an urgent increase in the number of tests carried out daily.

“We must have a long-term strategy and people should understand that this is not a race but a marathon,” Eidelman synthesizes.

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