5,000: Magic number of ventilators Israel needs to cope with crisis, health official says

Netanyahu describes “fierce, wild and vicious competition around the world to acquire medical equipment.”

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel is in a race with the rest of world to acquire more medical machines that are critical for treating seriously ill coronavirus patients, but a senior Health Ministry official admitted Thursday the country might not be able to obtain enough of them before thousands of people flood hospitals.

The Health Ministry’s Deputy Director General Itamar Grotto told Kan Radio on Thursday that the country could make do with 5,000 ventilators.

However, the Health Ministry released a statement that there were only 2,864 ventilators in the country. Earlier in the day Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov testified to a special parliamentary committee that only 1,437 of the devices were available for use.

Bar Siman Tov has warned repeatedly in media interviews that Israel can expect “ten of thousands” of people to be infected by the coronavirus with thousands of them needing hospitalization.

With the infection rate doubling every three days, Bar Siman Tov told Israel Army Radio that a significant worsening of the situation would happen in “a matter of days.”

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that Israel was continuing to prepare the health system “to be able to respond to as many patients as possible by increasing personnel, equipment and ventilators.

But by Thursday, the embattled leader was forced to enlist the help of Israel’s spy service, the Mossad, to try and source enough of the critical medical devices.

There is fierce, wild and vicious competition around the world to acquire medical equipment – protective clothing, swabs and ventilators,” Netanyahu said. “We have established a national command center led by the head of the Mossad to handle medical procurement abroad and domestically.

On Wednesday the country ordered all citizens except those in essential industries to remain at home. Netanyahu warned that unless Israelis followed regulations and stopped infecting other people, the government would have not other choice but to impose a total curfew to prevent the health system from collapsing.

“If we do not see an immediate improvement in the trend, there will be no alternative but to impose a complete lockdown, except for essential needs such as food and medicines,” Netanyahu warned in a nationally televised speech. “This is a matter of a few days. We are making all of the requisite preparations – logistical and legal.”

In Britain, the government made an emergency order of 10,000 ventilators designed at breakneck speed by the vacuum cleaner company Dyson, Reuters reported, in response to an industry-wide call to arms to prepare for the looming peak of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.