Over 100 doctors sign letter against lockdowns, closing schools

Medical professionals lament government’s ‘loss of values,’ say ‘coercive’ measures are destroying civil liberties

Ziv hospital team members work at the coronavirus ward in the northern Israeli city of Safed, on December 17, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Ziv hospital team members work at the coronavirus ward in the northern Israeli city of Safed, on December 17, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Over 100 doctors have signed a letter protesting lockdowns and other restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

The letter came as Israel appeared poised to impose new restrictions, as the number of daily COVID-19 cases neared 3,000.

“We, doctors in Israel, strongly protest the coercive measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including lockdowns, curfews, closing down the school system, surveillance, and restrictions on movement,” the letter said, according to a Channel 12 report on Saturday.

Israel has imposed two nationwide lockdowns since the start of the pandemic, with the second beginning in mid-September. Many restrictions from the second lockdown have yet to be lifted.

The medical professionals decried the harm to civil liberties and maintained the healthcare system would not collapse under the strain of the pandemic, as argued by government officials.

Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing protective gears as they work at the coronavirus ward of the hospital in Jerusalem on December 17, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“With proper preparations, the coronavirus cannot bring down the healthcare system in Israel,” they wrote, dismissing arguments that lockdowns were aimed at keeping the hospitals afloat.

“The coercive steps taken in the past nine months in the country express a loss of values and are contrary to the ethical foundations of medicine,” the letter said, calling the restrictions “destructive to civil rights” and “devoid of medical justification.”

“We maintain that we can deal with the coronavirus by taking consensual steps, through advocacy and civil cooperation,” the doctors said.

Israel is contending with a marked rise in new coronavirus cases, with infections surging to almost 3,000 Tuesday through Friday, the highest caseloads in over two months.

The government-set benchmark for reimposing restrictions is an average of 2,500 daily cases over an entire week or a basic reproduction number of over 1.32. That figure was at 1.27 last week, according to the Health Ministry. Any value over one means the virus infection rate is increasing.

As of Saturday night, Israel had, 24,223 active coronavirus cases, including 447 in serious condition. The death toll stood at 3,074.

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