Israel took the danger seriously from the start and has done everything possible to contain it. If only my country, Italy, had been as wise.
By Giulio Meotti, INN 17/03/20 06:32 | updated: 06:24
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called the coronavirus “the worst epidemic in a hundred years”, first announced last week that the mandatory quarantine (fourteen days) reserved so far for tourists and citizens arriving from certain European and Asian countries had been extended “to all the world”.
Now, as announced last night, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) will track down coronavirus patients and the route they took until they went into isolation or hospitalization. The technology will enable the Shin Bet to identify the people who were within range of the patient and those who were exposed to the virus can be informed, directly to their phones, that they must go into isolation or be tested.
Although there are “only” about 250 coronavirus cases in Israel to date, tens of thousands of Israelis are in self quarantine.
Israel has nine million inhabitants. Italy, which has 60 million, has so far seen just 2.000 self-isolations. The Israeli population was ready to “stay home”.
The world will not end, if we cannot beat it we will live with the coronavirus, said Eyal Waldman, the CEO of the company Mellanox, also in quarantine. This optimism also belongs to the Israeli model. Boaz Lev, who heads the ministry of Health epidemics unit, said the quarantine depends on the fact that the Israelis “act as model citizens”. The contrary happened in Italy.
Eyal Zimlichman, the doctor who supervises isolation at Sheba Medical Center, the ninth best hospital in the world, said Israel “is like a living laboratory” in response to the epidemic.
Patients suspected of being infected can carry the devices of the Israeli start-up TytoCare, allowing doctors to remotely listen to their heart and lungs. A sensor system from the Israeli company EarlySense monitors also their respiration. The tissues developed by Sonovia, in theory for chemotherapy patients, have been transformed into masks that could kill, not only block, the coronavirus. Laboratories in China are testing this model, invented by two chemistry professors from Bar-Ilan University and which mechanically infuses antiviral and antimicrobial nanoparticles into the tissues for masks and other protective products.
And the Migal Galilee Research Institute quickly started working on a coronavirus vaccine. Regardless of whether Migal’s vaccine succeeds or not, the big effort is emblematic of Israel’s attitude towards the crises. It is a mixture of sober assessment, science and self determination. Not only. Since 30 percent of Wuhan health workers contracted the disease from contact with patients, hospitals in Southeast Asia, including China, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong, are using another Israeli invention, Temi robot, to minimize contact with patients.
Israel has been preparing for this type of event for many years without defining it. And it “may be the only Western country that has had no unjustified infections”, – so far – said Tomer Hertz of Shraga Segun University’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics.
In Israel there are many medical centers capable of doubling the number of intensive care beds by converting their basements. They began to think about it when Galilee ended up under Hezbollah’s katiuscia rockets. The world’s most advanced underground hospital with 2000 beds is located 17 meters underground at the Rambam in Haifa, which was under attack for a month in 2006. At the time, patients ended up in basements and corridors. It was decided that it should also work in wartime. And this war too is fought with microscopes and medicines.
Israel, a garrison-democracy of soldiers and Nobel laureates, has always made a virtue out of necessity.