Novel coronavirus update: Israel poised to re-open economy

Israeli masks and gloves

Israel has fared remarkably well in its fight against the novel coronavirus. At just 27 deaths per million, Israel's death rate is roughly 8 times lower than countries such as the US, Sweden, and the Netherlands, 16 times lower than Italy, and 3 times lower than Germany. Although there is still room to improve (Japan and South Korea are facing just five deaths per million in their respective countries), Israel seems to be headed in the right direction, with new cases steadily declining and ventilators opening up as the situation continues to improve.

Good news tends to beget further good news, as coronavirus restrictions have begun to ease on the beleaguered economy. Already schools have begun to re-open based on studies from the health ministry citing nearly no transmission from hosts below age ten. The ministry is rumored to be considering opening malls, public parks, and open-air markets in the coming weeks depending on the results of the recently lifted restrictions. Many who oppose the lifting of restrictions have drawn parallels with the Spanish flu epidemic which brought with it a second wave of infection that was far deadlier than the first, however the health ministry seems unconvinced.

Perhaps they have good reason. For one, the countries with the lowest infection rates and mortality have not even begun any widespread lockdowns (Japan and South Korea). Rather, their approach has been to use modern technology to track cases and aggressively isolate known and potential carriers from the start, all while maintaining a culture of mask-wearing and social distancing. The Israeli public, which unlike some other western cultures has taken to the new mask policies in good faith, seems well poised to move into this stage of managing the virus.

Israel's driven and well-educated populace may also be of great benefit here, with a large pool of talent working hard to solve many of COVID-19's unique challenges without putting lives in danger. Numerous Israeli scientists are working hard on the cutting edge of coronavirus vaccine research, treating COVID-19 induced lung damage, and developing an early warning system based on sewage testing.

The takeaway here is that the coming weeks are of great importance to Israeli health, both in the physical and economic sense. If the lifting restrictions do not lead to a resurgence of cases and Israeli tracking and prevention measures prove effective in curbing the spread, Israel may get a leg up on other western nations returning to relative normalcy. The "start-up nation" is likely well-poised to maneuver into a favorable economic position if such an eventuality plays out given its talented and creative population of self-starters and the myriad of new problems to solve.