Top Israeli health official: Scenarios show pandemic peak next winter

Health ministry director-general cautions scenarios constantly being updated with new date, health system facing massive logistics battle.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A senior health ministry official described the complex war being waged across Israel against the coronavirus outbreak in which the entire nation – from houses to hospitals – is involved, saying his previous estimate of the pandemic stretching into 2021 might be the new reality, Ynet reported Monday.

“We have many reference scenarios that are constantly being updated,” Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov said in an interview conducted on Twitter.

Recognizable in Israel for his almost daily appearances in the media urging citizens to follow government directives to help stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus, Bar Siman Tov cautioned that the peak of the pandemic may be more than half a year away.

Our reference scenario assumes the high point will be reached next winter,” he said.

In the interview he described the massive logistics needed to make more hospital beds and ventilators available, get more supplies of protective equipment for health care workers and conduct thousands of daily tests for the disease.

A key new policy is to move those discovered to be infected, but not sick enough to require hospitalization, into hotels that the ministry converted into emergency medical centers. The goal is to reduce the load on hospitals by getting those infected who don’t need hospitalization into the hotels so as not to infect their entire family, who would remain in home isolation.

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“We want to push as many patients as possible who are at home to the hotels, but they insist on staying home,” Bar Siman Tov said, adding that it was a “fundamental question” if emergency orders might be needed to force people to move to the hotels. 

The Health Ministry is working to prepare thousands more beds as needed, but Bar Siman Tov admitted that “the main variable that is important is for respirators” needed to help those badly affected by the virus.

Asked about frustrated doctors who can’t get authorization to test every patient they wanted to, the director general said that not everybody could be tested yet and the ministry was upping the number of tests it was doing with a goal of reaching 5,000 tests per day and then 10,000. However, the tests were only for those who showed symptoms.

“I think it’s important to understand that tests are not there to rescue (people) from isolation,” he said.

Asked about criticism that the ministry was slowing the pace of tests by not using university laboratories and had failed to obtain adequate stocks of supplies, Bar Siman Tov said the ministry would finally be reaching out “in an organized and methodological way” to work with all labs. “It will happen.”

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While the ministry was scrambling to find medical equipment from anywhere, he said people had to “probably realize that I am in a world of very serious shortages.