The outgoing corona commissioner, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, gave a final briefing this evening (Thursday) following three months on the job before making his return as director of Ichilov Hospital.
Gamzu discussed his management of the crisis. "There's always been a Ministry of Health but not a separate ministry for handling a virus of this proportion and we were tasked with creating one. The State of Israel is made up of different population groups so we set up a department for dealing with the haredi community, one for the general population, and another for the Arab sector. This was critical to our success," he related.
Gamzu said open dialogue with members of the public was one of the keys to success. "Throughout my time on the job, I was always open to holding discussions with public representatives and presented ongoing situational updates. This is a challenging task even for the top professionals. It's of utmost importance to provide people answers to whatever questions they may have." The outgoing Coronavirus 'Czar' didn't hesitate when it came to poking fun at policy-makers. "Anyone who thinks that the epidemic can be handled from above doesn't understand this disease. The outbreak begins on a street corner in the middle of nowhere. You have to be aware of what's going on on the ground," he stated.
The outgoing commissioner responded to criticism of his "Traffic Light" model for fighting the virus. "The Traffic Light worked out fine. It's proven its practicality preventing further outbreaks of the virus. We are now able to make a determination as to which city, town, and even neighborhood needs to be placed on lockdown. This intelligent system takes care of everything including infection rates in every part of the country as well as hidden contagion. Every township wants to be labeled 'green.' Even if it still isn't able to determine infection rates in the school system or economic sector, everyone wants to be green.'"
Regarding the state of coronavirus testing in Israel, Gamzu was proud of the results he helped achieve. "We are currently capable of carrying out 115,000 coronavirus tests a day. This is the highest per capita figure in the world. This method of data collection should be used to its fullest potential and is wasted if left unexploited. I recommend providing widespread incentivize for local townships to make use of it, subsidizing them for up to NIS 20 million. This finance ministry and local officials have already approved it."
Earlier in the day, an associate of the incoming Coronavirus Director, Prof. Nachman Ash, expected to take over for Gamzu this coming Friday, told the Israel Hayom newspaper that he may submit his first substantial recommendation in the next two weeks and that this is expected to incorporate another lockdown. "He will have very significant recommendations soon," the source was quoted as saying.
"He very much believes in lockdowns - and that's the opposite of [outgoing Corona Czar] Ronni [Gamzu]. He is conservative in that respect, and believes that that is the solution, believes that there is no escape from a third lockdown, that a vaccine and cutting off the chain of infection are not enough to lower morbidity, but will not happen in the near future."
"Unlike Prof. Gamzu, Prof. Ash has no plans to enter the political arena," the source added. "Ronni was in contact with ministers and MKs, and Nachman wants to distance himself from that. He will provide his professional recommendations - but in the ministerial cabinet, he will leave the stage to the Minister of Health. He will not take the credit away from him. He's aware that Yuli Edelstein is trying hard to block the easing of restrictions."
Sources who spoke with Prof. Ash this week stated that he tries to hear as many opinions as possible, but nevertheless mentioned a dominant name with whom he usually consults: Prof. Gabi Barbash, who resigned a few months ago, and was replaced by Prof. Gamzu.