Newly installed Israeli Health Ministry Director-General Hezi Levy said at his first presser on Sunday that officials at the ministry have “seen a change in the infection level” across the State of Israel over the past week, and “This worries us.”
Levy told reporters that newly-diagnosed cases of the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus have been picked up in more than 50 communities nationwide, indicating a “broad communal spread.”
He underlined the need to enforce social distancing guidelines, including wearing face masks outside the home, and said that anyone with symptoms – even mild ones – should seek testing for COVID-19.
“I don’t think we need a lockdown,” Levy said, but added that the final decision would be determined by the success of the government’s efforts to stem the spread of the second wave.
To that end, the Health Ministry is joining with the National Security Council and the prime minister to focus on a number of steps aimed at stopping the spread of the virus:
The first is aimed at improving the Health Ministry’s ‘hasbara, hasbara, hasbara’ – improving the ministry’s explanation to the public of its regulations, in all languages, to all communities.
The ministry is also being asked to underline to the public the importance of wearing masks, maintaining the two-meter (6-foot) distance and maintaining proper hygiene (washing hands) – with stepped-up police enforcement.
Another priority is to increase testing continually “through a professional, strategic policy.” (The government is currently testing between 10K to 15K Israelis daily.)
The Health Ministry is working on stepping up its contract tracing ability through “efficient and effective” epidemiological investigations. The current test referral-to-response result time is approximately three days – “This is good but we’re trying to narrow that down further,” Levy said.
Due to concerns over Israelis facing increased risk of catching influenza and becoming ill with COVID-19 at the same time, the Health Ministry is urging the public to be vaccinated against the flu as soon as possible this upcoming season.
Serological (antibody) testing has begun throughout the country via the HMOs (kupat holim) and according to Levy, the Health Ministry aims to test approximately 75,000 members of the public by the end of the season.