Israel Takes Strong Coronavirus Response Because ‘Want to Live Our Lives as Normal’

Netanyahu discusses coronavirus at Sunday’s cabinet meeting. Photo courtesy of Kobi Gideon / GPO

Israel has taken what they are calling a “tough” response to the spreading coronavirus by closing borders and other steps, but the goal is clear—they just want to live a normal life as best they can. “We were tough and did things beyond what was standard. We cancelled flights and closed borders, even when we were criticized… We do not want to close schools like in Italy. We want to live our lives as normal. Isolation is part of what is happening,” Israeli Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman said on Sunday in comments published in an Israeli press release.

The comments come as Israel has effectively closed its borders to a number of nations—including major European ones, according to The Times of Israel—and continues to quarantine potentially ill persons in response to the disease known officially as COVID-19. As of Sunday, coronavirus had infected more than 105,000 people globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) website, with just 25 confirmed cases in Israel per the WHO update.

The physical threat of the disease appears less critical than originally feared. Roughly 3,600 persons around the world have died from coronavirus, which was first reported in China on December 31, 2019. In comparison, the Center for Disease Control in the United States estimates as many as 49,000,000 million contracted the flu in the US from October 2019-February 2020, with an estimated 20,000-52,000 flu-related deaths in the US during that time.

So far, COVID-19 has not been a serious threat to children—an FAQ on the CDC website dated earlier this month says severe complications in children “appear to be uncommon”—something Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted on Saturday evening. “It must be understood that the pandemic is not afflicting children or young people, thank G-d,” Netanyahu was quoted by his office as saying.

However, the economic harm has been significant. The US stock market has been roiled, national banks have slashed interest rates to try and limit the blow and multiple major corporations have restricted air travel among other steps. “Economies are starting to be hurt. Governments are ordering their gates closed. This is important for the supply of products for all economies. Nobody knows how the pandemic will end,” said Netanyahu, who said he intended to enlist the Israeli Air Force to ensure they can maintain the supply chain for essentials.

In view of the overall impact, Netanyahu said he initiated a world leader conference call to be held later this week. “We will also make use of my ties with the leaders of certain countries. We will help them and they will help us,” said Netanyahu. “There are things that it is possible to give.”

To that end, the Israeli leader has already been in contact with world leaders, including US Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday. Pence currently heads the US coronavirus response. An Israeli press release summarizing the call said Pence and Netanyahu agreed their respective coronavirus teams would have follow-up conversations “in order to advance technological and scientific cooperation on the issue of the coronavirus and to discuss joint ways of dealing with the challenges posed by the virus.”

As for Israel, Netanyahu on Saturday encouraged his country to follow health instructions. “We will work together responsibly and calmly while upholding our promises,” said the Prime Minister. “With G-d’s help, we will overcome the crisis together.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, March 8, 2020)

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