Israeli Health Official Says No Return to Normal After Passover

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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At the Israel Diamond Exchange, March 2020.
At the Israel Diamond Exchange, March 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Health Ministry Deputy Director General Prof. Itamar Grotto said on Sunday that the ministry does not intend to lift the strict economic lockdown next week, after the Passover holiday.

Speaking before the Knesset committee in charge of the coronavirus crisis, Grotto said that “We don’t intend or have the ability to get the economy back on track after Passover. This should be taken into consideration. We have to wait and see if the infection rate changes after the Passover holiday, which will only happen several days after the holiday.”

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Grotto added: “There’s a myth here I would like to bust. Even if we perform 200,000 tests or a million tests per day, this won’t help resume economic activity. If we test a million people, and allow those who test negative to go to work, it’s a matter of days until they are diagnosed with the disease and start infecting others.

“To resume economic activity, we would have to rely on serological tests (which identify coronavirus antibodies in the blood stream),” Grotto said, adding that the Health Ministry and the Mossad are working to obtain efficient serological tests.

He noted that 20 such tests had been performed, but that none of them provided a satisfactory solution.

Earlier on Sunday, Prof. Grotto said that the Health Ministry is aiming to lower the infection rate in ultra-Orthodox communities.

Speaking before the Knesset committee in charge of handling the coronavirus crisis, Grotto said that the Health Ministry seeks to lower the average number of people every confirmed patient in the ultra-Orthodox community infects from 1.4 to 1.2.

“It may sound insignificant, but it has a huge impact,” Grotto said.

Also Sunday, Interior Minister Arye Dery, who is leading the response to the coronavirus crisis in ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities, said that the infection rate in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem is higher than in the largely ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, which is now under complete lockdown.

Speaking before the Knesset committee in charge of monitoring the coronavirus crisis, Dery said that “Most of Jerusalem’s coronavirus patients hail from its Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. In some of the most infected neighborhoods there, the percentage of confirmed cases is even higher than in Bnei Brak.”

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