Director-General of the Health Ministry, Moshe bar Siman Tov, spoke with journalist Yonit Levy in an interview that was broadcast on Thursday, on matters related to the government’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic.
“At the peak [of the first wave of the virus] we could have passed the 4,000 mark” of fatalities, he said. “That could have happened if the rate of contagion had been 2.1 [meaning that each infected person passes the virus on to 2.1 people on average]. According to a model working on that assumption, we would have needed 14,000 ventilators at any one time, in order to cope with the number of serious cases.”
Bar Siman Tov rejected criticism that he had engaged in fear-mongering and had deliberately sown confusion and panic in the public. He insisted that, “I have yet to see a model that doesn’t include the possibility of tens of thousands of people dying in Israel alone. At no stage did I encourage people to panic or try to cause hysteria. At virtually every point in time, we made the right decisions, and the bottom line is that we saved the lives of thousands of people.”
He added that, “Our main concern was that people wouldn’t adhere to the guidelines. Israel is basically a Middle Eastern country, a youthful country, a small and densely populated country, with many large families living in small homes, and we don’t really have a culture of doing what we’re told.”
He did, however, admit that some mistakes had been made, one of which was the decision to allow branches of IKEA to open at the same time as the government was refusing to allow the families of fallen soldiers and citizens to visit military cemeteries on Memorial Day.
“What I would like to say on the matter of IKEA is that I knew at the time it was a mistake,” he said. “We didn’t have in mind what eventually happened. We met with representatives from the Finance Ministry and they told us: ‘We want furniture stores and household goods stores to be opened,’ but none of us meant IKEA.”