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Health chief: If we’d not acted responsibly, we could have wound up like Belgium

Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, interviewed on Channel 12, says a discussion on when to open schools will be taken next week.

“We’re preparing further eased restrictions,” he says, adding, “we’re well aware of the economic damage” caused by the restrictions imposed to thwart the spread of COVID-19. “But the prime imperative has been to protect the health of the public… Look at what happened in other countries.”

Asked whether the warmer climate has impacted the spread of infection, he says there’s “no indication to that effect” yet, but he hopes it will.

He’s asked about his own prediction, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s prediction, that tens of thousands of Israelis could die from COVID-19, when the current tally is below 200 fatalities and the restrictions are gradually being rolled back.

“We have a very simple check,” he says. “We were at a rate where the number of new people patients was doubling every three days… There was a single day when the number of seriously ill patients rose by 50%.

“If that trend had continued, today we’d have over 600,000 people [sick], over 10,000 on ventilators, and many thousands who would have finished their lives.”

Asked whether that kind of concern has proven exaggerated, he replies: “I don’t think so… There are enough control groups — look at Belgium.” Belgium has a population slightly larger than Israel’s and a death toll approaching 7,000.

Bar Simon-Tov is asked again: “If ordinary life had continued, we would have reached those numbers of dead?”

“I’m not a prophet,” he replies, “but there are enough examples showing that countries that did not act responsibly have had many, many more dead, many, many more on ventilators and the collapse of their health systems… We’ve been following a policy that prevents that.”

Asked about the illogic of allowing IKEA to open, on one hand, and sending swarms of cops to arrest an isolated surfer, he says he knows there have been some such issues, and broadly “we need to ease up” on sports restrictions.

Asked what he’ll do when the latest raft of eased restrictions take effect on Sunday, he says he hopes he’ll have time to get a haircut.

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