Corona calamity: Israel’s daily cases surge, lab workers on strike, death toll approaches 1,000

The trends don’t look promising for a swift end to the pandemic in Israel. Hopes rest on the recently passed ‘Traffic Light’ plan of the corona czar.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Things are not getting better. They have all the earmarks of getting still worse.

Israel reported a record number of daily cases (2,183) on Wednesday. The death toll is expected to reach 1,000 over the weekend. The state’s medical lab workers are on strike. And 23 cities are “red zones,” meaning high rates of infection.

If that’s not enough, the corona czar was being blamed on Wednesday for stoking anti-Semitic fires in Ukraine after sending a letter to that country’s president asking him not to allow Breslov hasidim to make their annual pilgrimage to Uman, where their founder is buried.

The attack on the corona czar, Ronni Gamzu, by the head of the government coalition, MK Miki Zohar, only served to bolster critics, both Right and Left, who say the government has been at odds with itself in its corona fight.

Finally, Israeli schoolchildren went back to school. Normally a happy event, it may prove to be a disaster if it leads to a spike in infections. The opening of schools in May has been blamed as a factor that led to the pandemic slipping from Israel’s control.

According to the ‘Traffic Light’ system, the foundation stone of the corona czar’s plan to fight the pandemic, schools in red zones are to remain closed. That includes at the moment 332 schools and 716 preschools and kindergartens. But in at least one ‘red zone’ city, the school system opened anyway. Beitar Illit near Jerusalem ignored the instructions.

“The opening of the school year in red cities will bring about a spike in coronavirus cases in those cities and in other cities,” Gamzu had warned.

Dr. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the infectious diseases epidemiology unit at Sheba Medical Center, told Channel 20 on Tuesday that there are problems with the Traffic Light plan.

“The plan in principle can be correct when we’re headed toward 400 confirmed cases a day and not 2,000 or more than 2,000. At the moment to open and to say there are green zones where it’s possible to go and gather in public event areas with up to 500 or 1,000 people is suicide. It’ll be terrible,” she said.

If things weren’t bad enough, Tal Zaks, chief medical officer of Moderna, the Boston-area biotech company which is the frontrunner for finding a corona vaccine, said recently that he doesn’t see a vaccine ready this winter. At best, he said ,by the end of winter.