Members of the Public Emergency Council for the Coronavirus Crisis in which senior Israeli doctors and researchers today gathered for a press conference to call on the Prime Minister and the Coronavirus Cabinet to avoid another "unnecessary lockdown".
The Council is comprised of senior doctors in Israel who "can no longer stand on the sidelines in light of what is happening in Israel." The Council is an ad hoc volunteer group, not funded and not politically identified with any party.
The Council said: "Just before the State of Israel tightens its lockdown once again for many months unnecessarily, to no avail, causing many damages to millions of Israelis, senior Israeli health officials, including doctors, researchers, and scientists, decided to join forces and establish the Public Emergency Council for the Coronavirus Crisis, with no economic or political interests, in order to say no to further lockdowns, and that an immediate change in the manner in dealing with the outbreak is required. It is time for the public to know the scientific truth."
Brigadier General (Res.) Prof. Eran Dolev, former IDF Chief Medical Officer and Medical Association Ethics Committee Chairman said "we don't belong to the various 'COVID deniers', we support vaccinating the population against the virus, of course without coercion."
He continued: "We, the members of the Public Emergency Council for the Coronavirus Crisis, did not convene today to challenge the Health Ministry, but we believe that even if policy makers' ears are closed to our request, it is our duty to at least inform the public, who do not have the tools to make decisions with the real facts about lockdown, for him to be able to judge for himself.
"A lockdown is a powerful device, a doomsday weapon that should be used when all options have been exhausted or situations close to that. Seven centuries after the deadly epidemic known as the 'Black Death', medical knowledge today allows us to successfully deal with an epidemic that is far less dangerous, using advanced methods of which the vaccine is only one. My feeling is that whoever decides on a lockdown for the entire population of the country ignores a number of much less extreme and more effective ways of dealing with the outbreak."
Former Health Ministry Geriatrics Division Institutional Services head, Dignity and Patients' Rights Committee Chairman, and National Council for Geriatrics member Prof. Yaakov Gindin said: "I saw the horror happening before my eyes, the old people don't want to go to the emergency room, afraid to go to the Kupot Holim HMOs.
"There are a million elderly people in Israel, about 100,000 of whom are demented who do not understand that there is coronavirus and do not understand why the children and grandchildren have disappeared. Some are under the care of foreign workers; they have no family. Some of them - and I see it - have developed geriatric anorexia because of the coronavirus; they commit suicide by stopping eating, they don't respond to the antidepressant treatment I give them. Suicide by non-eating, and some of them refuse to see the children because they do not come. The situation is very difficult in this respect. There are those who die from taking medication and in other ways. In the next decade we will be paid back with a lot of sickness and mortality due to neglect. I suggest not locking down the elderly, not preventing the children from reaching out to them, and fortifying the people with care and what the community and the State give them. To vote for this lockdown is in fact to vote against the elderly in Israel."
Prof. Zvi Bentoitch, an expert in internal medicine, immunology and infectious diseases, and pioneer in AIDS medicine in Israel, said: "It is strange that today I can say that 40 years ago I was the first doctor to deal with AIDS in Israel. There are certain elements of the AIDS epidemic, of course, that are very reminiscent of what is happening today, as if the lesson hasn't been learned properly.
"I refer mainly to the early stages of the AIDS epidemic which was characterized by intimidation, confusion, and apocalyptic predictions, while there are two things about them: Intimidation isn't helpful, and apocalyptic predictions didn't materialize.
"What characterizes the situation today in the country is a confused public, misleading information, a lot of intimidation, and of course, apocalyptic predictions. The vaccine that arrived, to our pleasant surprise - its effectiveness is clear. If within 4 weeks, in a targeted manner, the entire at-risk population will be vaccinated. Anyone who says the vaccine will only protect after a few months is wrong and misleading. The vaccine, even in the worst case, will buy some protection and may be great for the same at-risk population. If indeed this succeeds, it's quite clear that the whole mortality story will change. Therefore, the information system must be changed in a way that will inspire trust and lead to participation by the population."
Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine professor of medicine and expert in pediatrics and clinical microbiology Prof. Amos Adler said that "disconnecting children from educational and social settings can cause long-term damage. The damage to education is damage that is difficult to know how long it will take to rehabilitate. In fact, the strata that are most affected are, of course, the weaker strata that are mainly affected occupationally and, in fact, in the education of their children."
Regarding the recent virus mutation issue, Department of Genetics and Biochemistry Professor of Medicine, Specialist in Internal Medicine and Medical Genetics, PhD from the Karolinsika Institute in Sweden, and Health Ministry Supreme Helsinki Committee Chairman Prof. Eitan Friedman said: "We, as scientists and doctors, believe that we should be vaccinated en masse, but those who are afraid may not.
"One mutation out of 4,000 genetic changes was recently discovered. Most genetic changes are part of the normal evolutionary process and have no clinical significance. In laboratory tests, it turns out, in a model of mice, there may be an ability for the type of new mutations to better connect to a receptor found in our respiratory cells. There is no proven link, and there is also no evidence that the disease caused is more severe or that the virus is more widespread. Today, following the developed technology, a new version can be produced at the push of a button that will also protect against these mutations, so intimidation and fear are not scientifically based."
Family doctor, consultant, internal medicine and medical administration expert, and lecturer Dr. Yoav Yehezkeli said: “A general lockdown was never included in the arsenal of measures, but rather proportionate measures and differential closures. It is also important to understand that the closures that are applied today in European countries are much easier than the draconian closures taken in Israel."
Yehezkeli is a lecturer in the Emergency and Disaster Management Program at Tel Aviv University, is one of the founders of the epidemic treatment team, is a district physician, and former district director of health funds.
He continued: "As a family doctor, about a month ago I saw a 32-year-old patient who had suffered from abdominal pain for many months and refrained from seeking medical attention due to the fear of being infected. In the urgent test done for her when she suffered from intestinal obstruction, she was found to be suffering from a colon tumor with metastases. My family doctors and I see the damage of lockdown to physical and mental health every day, and they should also be taken into account and presented to the public."
Pediatrics, neontology, and medical genetics expert Prof. Rivka Carmi said: "As someone who has given birth to generations of doctors, and in connection mainly with young doctors, I can say that there is very harsh criticism among them. These people put everything, family and life aside, and give the most dedicated care possible."
Council Members include:
- Former IDF Chief Medical Officer and Medical Association Ethics Committee Chairman Brigadier General (Res.) Prof. Eran Dolev.
- Former Health Ministry Director and Sheba Medical Center Director Prof. Mordechai (Motke) Shani.
- AIDS medicine in Israel pioneer and Tropical Diseases and AIDS Center at Ben-Gurion University head Prof. Zvi Bentoitch.
- Former School of Medicine Dean and Ben Gurion University President Prof. Rivka Carmi.
- Israel Prize laureate post-trauma expert Prof. Zehava Solomon.
- Former Health Ministry Geriatrics Division Institutional Services head, Dignity and Patients' Rights Committee Chairman, and National Council for Geriatrics member Prof. Yaakov Gindin.
- Infectious diseases in children specialist and Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv Microbiological Laboratory Director Prof. Amos Adler.
- Hebrew University Family Medicine Department and School of Medicine Head Prof. Amnon Lahad.
- Tel Hashomer Hospital oncogenetic unit and clinic for high-risk women founder and former Health Ministry Supreme Helsinki Committee Chairman Prof. Eitan Friedman.
- Professor of Social Work, former President of the Achva Academic College, and Ben Gurion University School of Social Work head Prof. Elian Alkrinawi.
- Former English Hospital in Nazareth Director and Society for the Promotion of the Health of the Arab Population in Israel Chairman Prof. Elian Alkrinawi.
- Former Meir Hospital Director and United Health Insurance Fund CEO Prof. Asher Elhiani.
The Council said: "Each member of the Council brings with him decades of experience from the most difficult and complex moments in the history of Israel, and as they have been at every crossroads and every test, they say that their concern for the future generation requires them to stand up before the public and decision makers and do everything to prevent further lockdown, which has a devastating effect on the health and lives of millions of Israelis, and to provide an alternative to how to deal with the epidemic."