Public Health Expert Fears COVID-19 Resurgence
June 15, 2020
The Media Line — A variety of factors have contributed to the recent rise in coronavirus cases in Israel, but public health experts are more concerned with what will happen in winter.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the spread of coronavirus has remained the same since it reached a two-month record high last week, with approximately two hundred new cases daily.
The spike in cases has impacted all sectors of society, including three of the prime minister’s bodyguards who serve outside his residence.
However, he did not reintroduce any of the restrictions that had been lifted. This and the return to schools have been blamed for the increase in cases.
Still, public health experts are focusing more on the number of severe cases, which has remained stable, despite the spike in overall cases.
These professionals are concerned about the expected increase in winter, for which, they say, Israel is not yet prepared.
Prof. Nadav Davidovitch, director of BGU’s School of Public Health at the Faculty of Health Sciences, blames the uptick in cases on the easing of school closures and other restrictions, as well as noncompliance with health measures and coronavirus testing.
“Municipalities are more liberal in testing asymptomatic patients. According to the results, it is clear that there are more asymptomatic cases than we estimated initially,” says Prof. Davidovitch.
“It is a true rise but it is not just about comparing where we were two months ago. We have more asymptomatic cases and we need to take a look more now at severe cases that are relatively stable, which is a promising sign,” says Prof. Davidovitch.
On June 13, the Health Ministry said that there were 177 new cases from the day before, with 35 people in serious condition.
However, Prof. Davidovitch agrees that focusing on the worst coronavirus cases is a better telltale of whether we should be concerned.
“The number of cases is not really that important if you don’t have many severe cases. The mild cases aren’t going to need much medical treatment,” says Prof. Davidovitch.
“This is much more serious than flu, but it is only in those who get a severe form. The people with a mild form will stay at home for a few days and get better like the flu,” he says.
“In the winter, we have 10,000 cases a day of influenza – that’s a normal rate – but most people don’t go for medical treatment for influenza.”
Despite the increase in overall cases, Israelis have continued to conduct business as usual, albeit with less regard to safety measures.
Prof. Davidovitch argues that in order to maintain a normal life, Israel has to be more “sophisticated” in reducing the spread of the virus, including a new alert system that is currently being developed at Ben-Gurion University that would test sewage for coronavirus, as well as rapid testing.
“We need to develop more differentiated measures and not just close everything down, instead taking care of red zones.”
All of this has Prof. Davidovitch concerned about the winter, with an expected surge in November and December.
“We are not prepared for winter,” Prof. Davidovitch says. “We need to take care of health care workers – there is a lot of burnout; strengthen the epidemiological system with public health nurses; create a more integrated system with continuance of care between hospitals, the community and homes; and take care of non-corona aspects of health care.”
An example of the latter is a reduction in vaccination rates, particularly measles, as Prof. Davidovitch notes that the vaccination rate for measles went down 10% to 85% of the eligible population. “If it remains at 85%, there is a danger of an outbreak of measles.”
There are more than 70 initiatives underway as part of the BGU COVID-19 Response Effort. These each require financial support, and AABGU has announced its commitment to raise emergency funds, enabling BGU to participate fully in the world’s efforts at mitigation and containment. Contributions can be made here.