COVID-19: Mitigate, Not Decimate

 By Shlomo Maital


    Professor Zvi Bentwich is an Israeli doctor, who teaches and researches at Ben Gurion University, in Beersheva.   Before quoting his views on COVID-19, let me establish his credentials first.

   Bentwich serves as the head of the Center for Emerging Tropical Diseases and AIDS at the Ben-Gurion University (BGU). He founded the first AIDS center in Israel in the mid 80’s. His groundbreaking research uncovered the link between Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) , particularly intestinal worms, and immune system deficiencies, pioneering the concept that NTDs play a major role in the pathogenesis of HIV/AIDS. He is a leading advocate for public health and human rights.

  So, this is a public health expert who is worth listening to, right? Here is his take, printed in today’s Haaretz daily newspaper:

    The heading on his Op-Ed piece: “Tight border isn’t the answer to virus”. Today the Israeli government announced that EVERYone returning from abroad must undergo self-imposed quarantine for two weeks. Everyone? Yes, so that Prime Minister Netanyahu will not appear to be singling out the US, thus angering his friend and colleague Donald J. Trump. (Such quarantines were already in effect for most travellers incoming from Europe).

   The main point: “Is there an alternative approach to fighting the disease right now? [alternative, to closing down the borders and shutting down the economy for weeks and weeks?]. …Yes, it’s clale mitigation. It involves using less drastic methods that are likely to yield similar results regarding the damage caused by the virus but that significantly reduce the negative social and econoic consequences of containment.”

   Mitigation. Not decimation of our economy.

   And this is coming from a distinguished physician, expert on virus containment.

   Bentwich concludes:  “The coronavirus too will pass and until it does the damage should be minimized as far as possible. We must accept the possibility that it won’t be the last viral epidemic and that it’s important to find the optimal way to cope with such epidemics, at a reasonable cost”.