Israel’s corona czar: ‘A lockdown will be the state’s last resort’

The new corona czar wants to avoid more damage to the economy as he copes with the health crisis.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Prof. Ronni Gamzu, Israel’s recently appointed corona czar, is not a fan of curfews.

In his first press conference after being appointed on Thursday, Gamzu said that a lockdown “is the last possibility I’ll consider. There’s a widespread illness and community infection that’s creating difficulties in society and the economy. The goal is to deal with this with as little damage to the society and economy as possible. We’ll try to do it without a lockdown. This will be the state’s last resort.”

The coronavirus has torn into Israel’s economy. Over one-quarter of the country’s working population was unemployed at the height of the pandemic. The virus’s second wave has once again suppressed the economy. Israel’s unemployment rate stood at 7.6 percent in mid-July, having nearly doubled in a month from mid-June’s 4.5 percent.

Israel’s Ynet notes that only four other times in Israel’s history has the unemployment rate been so high – immediately after the establishment of the state; in the 1950s, which saw high immigration from eastern countries; on the eve of the Six Day War; and in the 1990s, with its mass immigration from the Soviet Union.

The economic crisis, coupled with the government’s apparent confusion in how to deal with it, has led to large-scale demonstrations that have spilled over into violent clashes with police.

Gamzu told Israel Hayom on Friday that he would work to restore public trust in the government. “I want to dedicate great effort to improving the public relations system. The Israeli public needs to understand the situation, and we need to improve the trust of the public in the process of dealing with the corona crisis.”

Although not on the short-list of candidates, Gamzu, who headed Ichilov Hospital and was put in charge of nursing homes when the virus struck, won the job after Prof. Gabriel Barbash withdrew his candidacy.

Gamzu jumped at the opportunity. “I agreed immediately. I did the same at the start of April when I was asked to handle the crisis in nursing homes,” he wrote in an acceptance statement.

“This is a medical, economic and social crisis. I don’t ask any questions in such a situation, I simply show up, contribute all I can to help my country and its health system manage the crisis,” he said.