Israel’s coronavirus czar replaced but leaves on good note as numbers lowest since June

Ronni Gamzu leaves as head of national coronavirus task force as infection rate hits lowest level since June.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Health Ministry statistics released Tuesday showed that Israel’s coronavirus infection rate has dropped to the lowest level since June as the Prime Minister’s office announced a new head for the national coronavirus task force.

The rate of positive tests fell to 2.1% after skyrocketing infection rates in September forced the government to impose a nationwide lockdown with schools and most businesses forced to close – the lowest since June.

National coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu was replaced by Prof. Nachman Ash, the former head of the IDF’s medical corps who has a masters degree in medical computing from Harvard University. Appointed over the summer, Gamzu had constant run-ins with politicians and civic leaders who objected to his methodical plan to cut the virus rates.

In the past day, 780 new infections were confirmed and the number of Israelis hospitalized with coronavirus has dropped to 864, down from a peak of 1,668 on October 4. Of those in hospital, 483 are listed in serious condition of whom 209 are connected to respirators.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 2,452 Israelis have died from coronavirus.

The cabinet Monday night authorized the easing of some restrictions, with schools to reopen next week for grades 1-4 with afternoon daycare resuming, but with restricted conditions to limit infections.

Beauty and hair salons, driving schools and some other areas will be allowed to resume under conditions the Ministry of Health will release next week.

However, the government resisted pressure to allow stores to re-open at this time and is again revising the lockdown exit strategy.

“There is a change from last time – we do not succumb to pressure, and open only according to the disease situation,” Deputy Minister of Health Yoav Kish told Kan Radio, adding he hoped the government could reach agreements by the end of the week on outstanding issues including the opening of street stores, shopping malls and other businesses.

“The Ministry of Health has made it clear that opening retail trade in parallel to the education system in grades one through four could lead to too heavy a price in morbidity,” Kish said.

Another positive note was the city of Bnei Brak having its status changed to “green” on Tuesday, reflecting a major drop in the infection rate for the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city that for the past half year had one of the highest infection rates in the country.

Only 35 new cases were detected in the city in the last two days where the municipality had taken major steps to reduce the infections while taking into account the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle that centers on group prayer and continued education.

“This morning we mark another significant milestone in our fight against the coronavirus,” Bnei Brak Mayor Avraham Rubinstein told the Homodia newspaper. “The residents of Bnei Brak are already learning battle strategies against the virus. With the help of heaven, we have worked together with them in order to defeat the second wave.”