As corona deaths hit 118, health ministry slammed for lack of data

As death toll hits 118, public health experts say the government is either not releasing or failing to obtain key data vital in fighting the pandemic.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The number of people infected with coronavirus shot up Tuesday as health experts criticized the government for not making data that could help fight the pandemic available to researchers.

Health ministry statistics showed the number of Israelis confirmed to be infected rose to 11,868 with the death toll rising to 118, with the death on Tuesday morning of an 81-year-old man at Ichilov Hospital. Of the 763 people hospitalized with the virus 181 were in serious condition and 136 of those were breathing with the help of ventilators.

The ministry said so far 2,000 Israelis have fully recovered from the virus.

Doctors and researchers criticized the Ministry of Health, saying statistics describing those who were sick and died or recovered were vital for figuring out how to help return the country to routine.

“Precisely when open information is needed to save the economy – it remains closed,” Professor Tami Shochat told Ynet.

It’s hard to believe, but access to information appears to also be restricted from government ministries, including units in the Ministry of Health,” said Shochat, a public health expert and the doctor who until last year headed the ministry’s center for disease control.

Researchers say they need descriptive data like the ages of each patient, their symptoms, the location of where they live and were hospitalized, and which existing illnesses they had when they contracted the coronavirus.

“The information is crucial for decision making and should be visible and transparent to both the public and scientists,” said Prof. Hagai Levin, Chairman of the Association of Public Health Doctors. “Efforts must be made to make the information accessible. It’s information that can be critical and life-saving.”

Prof. Manfred Green, head of the School of Public Health at the University of Haifa and a member of the health ministry’s department of epidemiology, said that during staff discussions he asked to receive some of the data.

“This is information that can help decision makers,” Green told Ynet.

However, Green said that in a conversation with a person involved in collecting and analyzing the data that should be used by the Ministry of Health, it appeared that the ministry has not been compiling the data and may not even have the  information.