Fierce debate over the validity of COVID-19 statistics, and therefore the need for draconian restrictions, has been making headlines for weeks in the United States.
Well, guess what, the same’s happening here in Israel, too.
Although here, the situation is flipped a little. In the US, it’s the federal government under President Trump that’s questioning some of the numbers and the need to keep everyone masked and isolated. In Israel, it’s the national government under PM Netanyahu that’s proposing ever harsher restrictions, fearful that a second wave of infections will overwhelm the healthcare system.
Netanyahu has gone so far as to threaten to fire the head of the Knesset Coronavirus Committee, MK Yifat Shasha-Biton of the prime minister’s own Likud party, for repeatedly questioning his calls for tougher restrictions.
But some are going further than that, and accusing the government of deceiving the public over the true danger, or lack thereof, posed by COVID-19.
At Sunday’s meeting of the committee, Deputy Director-General of the Health Ministry Prof. Itamar Grotto noted that the number of people who have died from COVID-19 in Israel recently jumped to 400.
MK Yulia Malinovsky (pictured top) of the opposition Yisrael Beiteinu party immediately interrupted: “They didn’t die from COVID-19, that’s an error. You’re deceiving the public.”
Malinovsky noted that the Ministry of Health is counting people who actually died of preexisting conditions as casualties of the pandemic. Indeed, most of Israel’s 400 deaths have been among the elderly and/or infirm.
MK Osnat Mark (Likud) argued back: “If it [the coronavirus] hastens their deaths, isn’t that enough? If a cancer patient is in a high-risk group and dies because of the coronavirus, he could have lived for a few more years with treatment.”
Malinovsky still didn’t agree with such a person being counted as a “coronavirus death”, asking: “If a 90-year-old cancer patient comes to the hospital, he’s been put on a ventilator and he’s in an induced coma, the doctors are fighting for his life, and at the end, he gets a virus – which there are many of in hospitals – and then he dies. How did he die?”
Some have similarly noted that the same 90-year-old cancer patient could also easily have died from the annual flu, but most certainly wouldn’t be listed as a casualty of said virus (at least not in the media), but rather as a victim of cancer.
Meanwhile, Israel continues to register well over 1,000 new coronavirus cases every day, as the government and Knesset go back and forth over what measures to take to curb the outbreak.