Israeli doctors volunteer to advise foreigners under coronavirus quarantine

Physicians at leading hospitals conducting interactive broadcasts to offer guidance on hygiene, diet, psychology, other issues to patients in China and other countries

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Office workers wearing protective face masks during a lunch break in Beijing, China, February 24, 2020. (AP/Andy Wong)
Office workers wearing protective face masks during a lunch break in Beijing, China, February 24, 2020. (AP/Andy Wong)

Over 100 Israeli doctors have volunteered to conduct interactive video broadcasts to give medical advice to people in coronavirus quarantine in other countries.

Target countries include those hit hard by the virus outbreak, including China, Japan, South Korea and Italy.

The effort is spearheaded by Israel’s Innonation, an organization that facilitates international collaboration between individuals, companies and governments. The organization is run by the Gal-Or family, which has long ties to China, and operates in Chinese cities including Beijing, Hangzhou and Hong Kong.

In a successful pilot broadcast, Israeli doctor Rachel Libenson Vansh, a primary care physician at the Clalit Health Fund, advised Chinese residents under quarantine on hygiene. She conducted the seminar in English and fielded questions from viewers with the help of a translator. The participants watched the broadcast with the help of the Weibo social network.

The doctors involved come from major Israeli hospitals, including Ichilov Hospital, Wolfson Children’s Hospital, and the Sheba, Rambam and Soroka medical centers. Innonation will conduct the broadcasts from the participating hospitals.

They will address topics including family issues, diet, psychology, smoking, pregnancy, symptoms of illness, and dermatology, including the effects of wearing protective face masks.

“The health systems in countries affected by the coronavirus are under tremendous pressure. They find it difficult to deal with the medical needs of people living under quarantine and with the general population that fears going to clinics and hospitals,” Amit Gal-Or, one of the founders of Innonation, said in a statement. “This Israeli volunteer initiative will provide them with the necessary know how to deal with the daily medical difficulties that currently are not being met.”

An Israeli doctor and a translator advise residents of China under coronavirus quarantine via video broadcast. (Courtesy/Innonation)

Innonation is using its existing network, which includes partners in China and a social media presence in major cities, to advertise the broadcasts.

Israeli tech companies, including Medivisor, will contribute to the program. The startup’s platform allows patients suffering from chronic illnesses to create a health profile online and get personalized information about their condition, including the latest research and clinical trials.

Following the successful launch, the firm partnered with Ichilov aiming to continue the project after the coronavirus epidemic ends as part of a long-term strategy for sharing Israeli medical know-how. The aim is to train medical experts around in other countries, design facilities in remote areas, and do joint research projects.

Innonation was established in 2016 and has an office in Tel Aviv. It provides services to advance international collaboration, including using AI to match projects, and facilitates meetings and conferences. The organization aids Israeli companies looking to gain a foothold or expand their operations in China.

The novel coronavirus has infected some 89,000 people globally and killed 3,000 in over 60 countries, with the vast majority of cases in mainland China. Israel has confirmed 15 cases and no deaths.

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