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Tags: Israel | coronavirus

Israel a Leader in Coronavirus Fight

Israel a Leader in Coronavirus Fight

Micah Halpern By Friday, 15 May 2020 08:40 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Three Arab Gulf states have asked Sheba Hospital, located in Israel, for help in treating their COVID-19 patients. Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and (probably) Kuwait have reached out to the Israeli hospital in Ramat Gan. That move is nothing shy of a seismic change in diplomacy.

The contact was made directly to the hospital — not through political agents. It seems that members of the royal families and their emissaries travelled to Israel to visit the hospital in March. Apparently, they liked what they saw.

The world is watching Israel. Even traditional enemies of Israel are watching, learning, asking for guidance and help. Finally, something positive comes out of COVID-19.

It's no surprise as to why. Since the beginning of this pandemic, Israel has been a leader in the fight against coronavirus. They closed down, they quarantined and they tracked more quickly than many other countries. They used the Mossad, Israel's clandestine spy organization, their equivalent of the CIA, and their internal security forces, the Shin Bet, to track people.

They tracked those with the virus and those exposed to the virus. Those in mandated quarantine and those in self-quarantine. Everyone's movements were recorded. After someone tested positive, other people, those who had been in close proximity to that patient for any amount of time, either outdoors or indoors over the previous several days, received a message. It came in the form of a text message from a strange number and it instructed them to self-quarantine. And, for the most part, they did.

Israel took their high level spy technology and turned it on themselves. All to fight the enemy called coronavirus. Certainly, there were questions about civil rights and privacy and those debates will probably continue on. Never before had Israelis been tracked and monitored with tools reserved to fight terror and battle the enemies of Israel. But COVID-19 is an enemy, an enemy of us all.

And it paid off. Relatively speaking, the numbers in Israel were low. They are on track to be among the first of the many countries racing to develop an anti-corona vaccine and medications to fight this deadly virus.

Hundreds of millions of biotech investment dollars have been raised betting on Israel's ingenuity to discover the answer, or at least uncover some of the pieces of this puzzle called COVID-19. Literally, as I am putting fingers to the keyboard, an announcement flashes across my screen that an Israeli scientist successfully invented a one-minute test for corona. The test is akin to a breathalyzer that tests for drugs and alcohol. One breathes in, and 60 seconds later out comes a positive or negative result.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjami Netanyahu initiated a recent conference call with seven other world leaders about COVID-19. He explained how Israel has, thus far, been successful in attacking coronavirus. What is not clear — and Netanyahu was very open and direct about this — is what will happen as Israel partially re-opens and returns to normal. Especially with the re-opening of schools and kindergartens.

Netanyahu spoke to his colleagues about "returning to a safe routine in the shadow of virus" and readying for a potential second outbreak. In a statement from the prime minister's office describing the call Netanyahu is quoted saying: "In fact, no one knows what will happen we open our economies and schools. We must be ready and prepared for an accordion effect and the possibility we'll need to close again."

First schools, then shopping areas, then Ben Gurion, Israel's national airport.

Airline executives, as well as the leaders of their host countries, are watching Israel's national airport very closely. Israel has issued a procedural paper for all those who travel, setting out procedures and describing the future of air travel. The changes that will be made in world travel, not just travel to or from Israel, will closely resemble the changes that were instituted almost 20 years ago, after and in response to 9/11. The difference between Israel and the rest of the world is that given their special place in this world, Israel had most of those security precautions in place before that tragedy struck. For Israel, it was a matter of fine tuning, not a major overhaul. And that scenario continues to this day.

Bottom line — travel will take longer, lines will be longer, costs will be higher.

Now travelers, not just international travelers but also domestic travelers, will be asked to arrive at their airports three hours ahead of their flights. Tests will be done. Blood tests, temperature, visual evaluation. Hands will be sprayed. All surfaces will be cleaned and cleaned and cleaned some more. Baggage allowance will probably be curtailed. Masks and hand covering will be required.

There is so much we still don't know about COVID-19. Most of the information we do have is frightening and confusing. It's not only nice to get good news, it's also important. If countries that once refused to associate with another are now seeking each other's counsel, if tools traditionally used to fight enemies can be transformed to help friends, we should know about that. We are admonished not to share in this time of COVID-19 — but that refers to the virus. Sharing successes is one of the best ways the world will see itself out of this dark period in history and the shadow it casts over all our lives.

Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.

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The world is watching Israel. Even traditional enemies of Israel are watching, learning, asking for guidance and help. Finally, something positive comes out of COVID-19.
Israel, coronavirus
Friday, 15 May 2020 08:40 AM
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