Slow Tests, Mismanagement and Mistrust: How Israel Got Thrashed by Second Coronavirus Wave

The past few weeks have shown just how fast the coronavirus can get out of control if you stop paying attention to it, even briefly.

In mid-April, when the economy was still largely shut down, there was a turnaround in the incidence of infection. The number of people recovering exceeded the number of new patients, and the latter figure was around 300 per day and dropping. The number of patients needing ventilators, which stood at 114 on April 20, was also falling.

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A few days later, most hospitals closed their coronavirus wards due to lack of patients. And in May, Israel began exiting lockdown.

The public, the political leadership and the healthcare system were all optimistic, sometimes to the point of apathy. Israel looked like one of the most successful countries in coping with the coronavirus.

The lockdown imposed in March exacted an enormous personal and economic price from Israelis. Over a million people were unemployed, and many industries shut down completely.

But Israelis were told this had to be done to “flatten the curve,” prevent the healthcare system from collapsing and buy time to get organized. And they cooperated.

Over the past few days, however, the number of new patients has soared and the number of severely ill patients has risen steadily. In hindsight, several factors over the past two months contributed to this sharp deterioration.