Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s adviser on the Haredi sector and the Knesset Rebecca Faluch has contracted the coronavirus, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Sunday night. Faluch was most likely infected by her husband who had been admitted to hospital over the weekend and is in moderate condition.
Faluch spent the last few days in the vicinity of the prime minister, his advisers and some of his cabinet ministers. Sources at the Prime Minister’s Office said they would follow the Health Ministry’s guidelines regarding Netanyahu’s possible infection. Update: Netanyahu is self-isolating at the moment.
Faluch was tested for the coronavirus after her husband had tested positive for the disease. Because of her proximity to Netanyahu and the ministers in recent days, the PM’s people waited in suspense for the results of her test. The Prime Minister’s Office reported before Faluch’s results came out positive that Netanyahu and the people in his environment had kept the 2-meter distance rule even before Faluch’s husband tested positive for the coronavirus.
The prime minister is expected to undergo another coronavirus test now, after testing negative two weeks ago, along with his wife Sara and their son Yair. The Netanyahus’ staff members were also tested on the same day, and no infection was detected at the time. But that was in early March.
Meanwhile, a session on the pandemic that was conducted Sunday with Netanyahu, revealed that the daily pace of the spread of the coronavirus in Israel was slower than expected. The Health Ministry’s prediction had been that, at this stage of the pandemic, the daily growth rate of the number of dead people from the virus would be 1.25 times faster, but it is only 1.15 times faster as of Sunday night.
The Health Ministry made it clear that its quarantine measures are working effectively. Still, in the Tel Aviv area, it was decided to shift gears significantly on the enforcement of social distancing in populations that flaunt the guidelines, especially among the Haredi Yerushalmi faction, hundreds of whom congregated Sunday night at the funeral of Rabbi Zvi Shinkar in Bnei Brak. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan reprimanded the police for not taking action to disperse that illegal assembly — this after the whole country had watched a video of several police cars chasing a lone cyclist in the Yarkon park. The cyclist was not Haredi.
Finally, remember Professor Michael Levitt, the American-British-Israeli-South African biophysicist, and professor of structural biology at Stanford University, who gained notoriety in Israel a couple of week ago for saying, “I would be surprised if more than 10 people die in Israel”? Well, after the 15th victim had died on Sunday, Prof. Levitt was asked to defend his statement on Reshet Bet radio. He gave a good answer, but it involved using the blood-curdling logic of the folks who put together actuarial tables, determining the probability that a person of a given age will die before his or her next birthday.
Prof. Levitt explained that when he said “people” he meant individuals with a robust life expectancy. Statistically speaking, he noted, “the average age of the deceased in Israel is the highest in the world, 83-84,” when it came to coronavirus victims. All those folks would have died anyway in a statistical minute, or as Levitt put it: “If you add up all the dead so far in Israel, it’s like losing a single 31-year-old in a scooter accident,” in actuarial terms.
Indeed, when you check the list of coronavirus casualties by country, you quickly realize that Israel has suffered the lowest number of dead compared to countries with the same general economic situation and a similar number of infections, as of Monday morning:
Currently, Israel has 4,247 cases of the coronavirus, and 15 dead.
The Czech Republic, with 2,817 cases, has 16 dead.
Australia, with 4,163 cases, has 18 dead.
Norway, with 4,284 cases, has 26 dead.
Ireland, with 2,615 cases, has 46 dead.
Denmark, with 2,395 cases, has 72 dead.
Sweden, with 3,700 cases, has 110 dead.
Brazil, with 4,256 cases, has 136 dead.
Like it or not, the professor is right.
Prof. Levitt is the sixth Israeli to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in under a decade. But with all his fame and success he did not learn one simple lesson: never share your astute views of reality with the masses. They won’t get it.