Ronni Gamzu
Ronni Gamzu Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Coronavirus Czar Ronni Gamzu warned Monday that Israel’s healthcare system is coming under increasing strain from the growing number of coronavirus patients, adding that a significant portion of the Israeli population is not taking the government’s warnings seriously.

In an interview Monday with Yediot Aharonot, Prof. Gamzu said the surge in the number of patients in serious condition will likely force hospitals to temporarily halt some elective, non-coronavirus-related treatment and to use additional hospital wards for coronavirus patients.

“Part of the public doesn’t understand that the warnings are legitimate. Six hundred fatalities a month – you do the math. I don’t need to frighten people by saying ’10,000 deaths’, but there are numbers.”

“We’re going to end this week with about 800 patients in serious condition, and we’re adding about 30-40 more patients in serious condition every day, with about 40 additional patients in light or moderate condition each day. We’ll have to reduce elective procedures, we’ll have to redesignate hospital wards and open new coronavirus wards in every hospital.”

“The next month,” Gamzu continued, “will be very, very difficult.”

“Every Israeli needs to know that right now the healthcare system, in particular the hospital system, but also the clinics, are facing a massive challenge in order to protect everyone’s health.”

“We’re used to wars: tanks, fronts, shooting, conquests, injured. The public responds more to these things. But here it’s not all that different. People are dying, about 20-25 each day. That’s about the fatality rate you can expect when there are 5,000 new patients each day.”

Gamzu took aim at critics of the government’s characterization of the pandemic, saying “Some people still say that this is a fake pandemic, that there is no pandemic. Stop lying.”

“Come on, you crazies, come back to your senses. This is real, people here are sick, patients are dying or are hospitalized, and the hospitals are overflowing and people are dying.”

On Sunday, Gamzu warned that a large portion of the public had lost faith in the government and its handling of the crisis, leading to mass violations of the lockdown, a phenomenon he warned would cost “us blood”.

Commenting on a demonstration that took place on Saturday at Frishman Beach in Tel Aviv, in which hundreds of people participated, and on other violations of the restrictions, Gamzu said, "I don't want to see it anymore. It's not me, it's us. It's already costing us blood."

Professor Gamzu said he was glad that it was decided to suspend some of the demonstrations and added he would prefer that they all stop. "This is not the time, we will have all the time in the world in the future.”

Nevertheless, Gamzu said he opposed plans to tighten the lockdown, arguing that it would not significantly alter the pace of the virus’ spread.

The Coronavirus Cabinet is expected to deliberate Monday on a proposal to significantly curtail business operations during the lockdown, massively reducing the number of workers permitted to leave home during the nationwide closure.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein back the proposal, while Ronni Gamzu and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz oppose it.

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