Ayelet Shaked
Ayelet ShakedArutz Sheva

Arutz Sheva interviewed MK Ayelet Shaked, former Justice Minister and one of the heads of the right-wing Yamina party, as well as a member of the Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee.

“Recent discussions on the committee dealing with the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis have focused on the impact on the economy,” she says, “and there was unanimous agreement that we shouldn’t shut down the country any more than we have done already. In fact, we’re starting to think about getting things up and running again, gradually of course, after Passover – getting people back to work.”

Shaked noted that “Israel is one of the countries with the lowest mortality rates in the world, and this isn’t by chance. We can identify several reasons for this. We were quick to close our borders, and we moved fairly rapidly toward taking strict quarantine measures for those infected or suspected of being infected. We have also been scrupulous about protecting our elderly and getting the message through that right now, loving our grandparents means not visiting them.”

Arutz Sheva also asked Shaked what steps the government could take to ensure that starting up the economy again would not lead to a spike in the number of virus infections. “It all comes down to testing,” she responds. “Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (Yamina), together with the Prime Minister, is focusing on the importance of increasing the number of tests for the virus, and their aim is to reach 30,000 tests per day. When we look at other countries that have passed through the crisis and emerged afterward, we see that it was chiefly this factor that made the difference.”

Shaked identifies several countries, chiefly those in Asia, that we should learn from. “Look at places like Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea,” she says. “Singapore never shut down its economy at all. But they had mass testing and the population was stringent in complying with social distancing measures. In Europe, Germany has introduced mass testing – hundreds of thousands of tests per week. Most people are still working there, although they’re careful to avoid concentrating too many people in one place.”

“It’s clear that at the end of the day, the economic fallout from the crisis is going to be greater than the damage done to public health,” she notes. “We need to think about the close to a million people who [have filed for unemployment benefits and] will have lost their livelihoods. Once we have mass testing in place, we can identify virus hotspots and isolate them from the surrounding neighborhoods so that everyone else can get back to work. Of course we’ll also have to continue to protect the elderly,” she cautions, adding another note of warning with regard to isolating specific neighborhoods.

“In Italy, toward the beginning of the crisis when it appeared that only one region of the country was badly affected, the government decided to lock down that area, in the north. But they announced this a day before the closure, and the result was predictable, when you think about it – people fled the north while they still had the chance and took the virus south with them. So if this method of targeted closures is something we’re going to do here, we have to be careful about how we implement it.”

Shaked also responded to Arutz Sheva's question regarding allegations made by MK Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) and others that the Prime Minister is exploiting the situation, deliberating promoting and maintaining a level of hysteria around the health crisis, for political reasons. Shaked dismissed the idea out of hand. “The Prime Minister takes advice from professionals, not from political hacks. The decisions he made, from the outset, were ones that enabled us to exercise a measure of control over the epidemic. What we have to focus on now is how to get back on our feet after Passover.”