Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Israel is Doing the Right Thing

My previous post about Coronavirus was unfortunately misunderstood by many people, and the fault was entirely mine for not writing it clearly enough.

When I described Israel's requirement of quarantine for everyone entering the country as being "shocking," I just meant in terms of its significance and ramifications - I didn't mean that the government is making a bad decision. They are making this unpopular decision for very good reasons. The goal is to avoid a disastrous situation like that in northern Italy, where the hospitals simply cannot cope with the number of patients. (Read this shocking article to understand the ramifications of the mistake that was made there.)

The following diagram shows the scenario that Israel is trying to avoid, and what it is trying to replace it with:


Israel is under no illusions that it can prevent the virus from spreading. The goal of quarantine is to slow it down, so that it can be better managed.

As I wrote, I think that the mandatory quarantine will not last very long, for the reasons discussed in the previous post. Soon, the benefits that it gives will decline, while the costs will rise. The government itself said that it will be re-evaluated in two weeks. Of course, it could be re-evaluated any and every day. But I think it is likely that Israel will not require people arriving for Pesach, right before Pesach, to be quarantined. Meanwhile, the government is making a difficult but necessary decision, and it should be respected.


  1. I think Israel is doing the right thing. I, therefore, disagree with the rabbi in this small point. If it intervenes with Pesach, so be it. Safety is important, so much so, that the Talmud allows Jews to break Shabbat to save the life of an animal. Furthermore, during the Jewish revolt against the Greeks, many Jews were killed, so much so, that the Jewish soldiers were told to break Shabbat is an enemy is going to attack a Jewish encampment.

    But hopefully, the virus will be diminished by the time of Pesach.

  2. An important point from Megan McArdle in the Washington Post: When something dangerous is growing exponentially, everything looks fine until it doesn’t. In the early days of the Wuhan epidemic, when no one was taking precautions, the number of cases appears to have doubled every four to five days.
    The crisis in northern Italy is what happens when a fast doubling rate meets a “threshold effect,” where the character of an event can massively change once its size hits a certain threshold.
    In this case, the threshold is things such as ICU beds. If the epidemic is small enough, doctors can provide respiratory support to the significant fraction of patients who develop complications, and relatively few will die. But once the number of critical patients exceeds the number of ventilators and ICU beds and other critical-care facilities, mortality rates spike.
    Daniele Macchini, a doctor in Bergamo, Italy, recently posted a heart-stopping account to Facebook of what he and his colleagues have endured: the hospital emptying out, the wards eerily silent as they waited for the patients they couldn’t quite believe would come … and then, the “tsunami.”
    “One after the other the departments that had been emptied fill up at an impressive pace. … The boards with the names of the patients, of different colors depending on the operating unit, are now all red and instead of surgery you see the diagnosis, which is always the damned same: bilateral interstitial pneumonia.”
    You can read the article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/10/coronavirus-what-matters-isnt-what-you-can-see-what-you-cant/

  3. Agree with the position, not sure about this: "But I think it is likely that Israel will not require people arriving for Pesach, right before Pesach, to be quarantined." I would push for people NOT to come for Pesach. Seems wishful thinking that the situation would have changed significantly by then.

    1. @Mire Moss Israeli scientists are actually hoping to develop a new vaccine to coronavirus within a few weeks. So, hopefully, it will be ready just in time for Pesach.

    2. On second thought, it is probably wishful thinking.

    3. Can't develop and test a vaccine in a few weeks.

    4. @Turk Hill
      I'm sorry but you have been very misled by self-promotional researchers. A vaccine takes over a year to develop. First it needs to be discovered/created. Then it needs to go through preclinical testing in animals and animal models of the virus to make sure it works in monkeys and might translate to humans. It then needs to be tested for months in people (healthy volunteers first) to assess its safety and then for months in additional trials to determine its efficacy. And many a vaccine attempts have failed such testing.
      In some cases an attempt at a vaccine actually backfired and made infection worse. (This was the case when they worked on SARS iirc).
      There will not be a vaccine ready for Pesach. Unless you mean Pesach 2021. Being ready for Pesach 2021 would be an extremely fast development path. Record breaking.

      If there is a vaccine ready for Pesach 2021, it will much more likely be from an experienced company with large resources behind it like a JNJ, not some Israeli scientist's basement.

      Speak to a healthcare/biotech investor sometime. Israeli biotech is notorious for self-promotional false claims and scammer companies that ultimately fail.

  4. You're understating the case significantly. First of all, the economic effects of a shutting down the border are vastly exaggerated. I've been working in Israel for a organisation in London for 4 years; I visited it precisely once and only then because I was in the country and thought it polite. The vast majority of international travel for business is just stupid LinkedIn vanity c**p. For real stuff, Skype and GoogleDrive work just fine.

    Secondly, while flattening the curve is better than nothing, we can do better. Get the re-infection rate under 1 and the virus burns out. Singapore has already done it, South Korea is odds on to do it; China too. What we are seeing a is a massive experiment in different socio-political systems and the results are fore-ordained: High IQ beats low IQ, homogeneous beats diverse, authoritarianism beats democracy. Israeli happens to be a total mess in many ways, but it does have an extremely high IQ ruling class and, most importantly, it's been on a permanent war footing for 70 years, preventing the worst effects of democracy and giving us mechanisms that aren't even available to most 'Free Societies'. We have a better chance of beating this than most. Thankyou Palestinians.

    (Another good thing is that the schools are probably going to close and people will be realise that (a) sending women out to work is a false economy and (b) schools are total garbage and you can achieve more with your kid in 15 minutes of concentrated activity than they get done in a day).

    1. For shame. Authoritariansim gave us this disease.

  5. A glimmer of hope. Israeli scientist are hoping to develop a vaccine for coronavirus within a few weeks. Link to essay here: https://www.jpost.com/HEALTH-SCIENCE/Israeli-scientists-In-three-weeks-we-will-have-coronavirus-vaccine-619101?fbclid=IwAR3iwaQfO6PAMzKPGhluiGjj_V8CCvqBF5T8QQlYOx453Vaib-Lm1F01iuI

    1. [Disclaimer: I'm a tech analyst; I know nothing about medicine or pandemics, but I CAN read past the headline] Israeli scientists may well have a potential vaccine within weeks. Then it will need to be tested in labs and if it works it needs to be tested on people and if it works it needs to be approved and manufactured at scale and distributed. Best estimates for all this are 12 - 18 months, plus two weeks for the vaccine to be effective. This Pesach we need containment or the health care system will collapse. By NEXT Pesach, hopefully we'll have a vaccine.

    2. Coming from the same Jerusalem Outpost that said Israeli scientists had cured cancer. And all the other diseases. Lots of false claims by media people who are gullible, hoodwinked, and don't understand the topic. I wish this group luck, but do not pin your hopes on this.
      Antibody therapeutics are more likely to help in the near term than any vaccine approach.

  6. Someone else has said elsewhere that pesach is no problem. Just put blood on the doorposts and the virus will pass you by.

    1. And if you do that, you're chayav kareis.


      I'm all for kodshim awareness. If we can bring the Pesach without pikuach nefesh, we should absolutely do it. Jokes about it bother me.

  7. But I think it is likely that Israel will not require people arriving for Pesach, right before Pesach, to be quarantined.


    What went wrong with your prediction?


Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

More Tzedaka Shenanigans

Kupat Ha'ir, the charity with the unfortunate tagline of "100% Pure Tzedaka," sent out an interesting campaign before Rosh H...