An End to COVID-19 in Israel? Conflicting Reports Remain Unclear
COVID-19 to be Downgraded to a Flu in Israel This Month – Maybe
Last week an Israel-based news site called Ynet reported that Israel has made the decision to end COVID-19 as an emergency health situation and downgrade it to be treated like the flu. In looking for further reporting and original sourcing for this claim, I found numerous oddities surrounding the report.
Multiple news sites reported on the “downgrade”, all with similar wording, and they all pointed to a Kan 11 report as their source. Kan 11 is a news site in Israel with both written and video news reports. On December 26, Keti Dor, the Head of Health Correspondence at Kan 11 appeared on their evening news program to discuss the reclassification of COVID.
Ms. Dor reported that Professor Salman Zarka, the Coronavirus Czar in Israel, met with all four major public health organizations that serve the medical needs of all Israeli citizens. During the meeting, Professor Zarka allegedly told the heads of the medical organizations that the pandemic will be declared over by the end of January, and COVID will be treated as any other virus. According to Ms. Dor’s report, Professor Zarka laid out a timetable that begins on January 18th, with the dismantling of COVID testing centers that are currently run by the Homefront Command. Anyone who needs a COVID test after that date will get one at the health clinic that he belongs to. By the end of January, all COVID-related Homefront Command operational centers will be closed, and COVID will be officially categorized as any other virus. This includes an official end to any remaining testing and quarantine restrictions that were still in place.
Ms. Dor concluded the segment by saying that she expects that the health clinics will receive an official letter of notice from the Coronavirus Czar with all of the details.
The messaging surrounding the report seems odd in numerous ways. Besides the original Kan 11 news segment, Hebrew print media and mainstream English media did not pick up this report. Additionally, the messaging in Hebrew media continues to portray negative COVID updates about new variants and a possible return to masking.
- Messaging and Sourcing: Multiple small-level English-language news reports picked up this story and used similar wording. The news sites attributed Kan as the original source, yet they didn’t use Professor Zarka’s name, even though the report allegedly originated with him. Instead, they quoted a professor from Bar-Ilan University named Professor Cyrille Cohen. Professor Cohen is the head of the Laboratory of Immunotherapy at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv. He is quoted in the Ynet article stating that the goal all along has been to downgrade COVID to the level of the flu.
“We are hoping that our health care system can cope with these winter infections, including COVID.”
- Major Media Did Not Pick Up This Report: Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, and Ha’aretz, three of the major English news sites in Israel didn’t mention a word of the report. In fact, the most recent news report that the Times of Israel published about Professor Zarka is from a few weeks ago when he called for a return to masking. This doesn’t seem like messaging that would be expected two weeks before announcing the end of the pandemic.
- No Written Updates. We’re more than a week after the original report, and there’s been no sign of either an update or written notification that this is indeed the plan. The Ministry of Health (MOH) has made no announcement regarding the planned end of the pandemic, nor can it be found on its website. The most recent COVID update on the MOH site looks like this:
4. Opposite Messaging in Hebrew Media. The Hebrew version of Ynet News has no report regarding this issue. Interestingly, the top post in its “Health” section is a quote from Professor Cyrille Cohen. This quote seems to suggest the exact opposite of the one in regard to ending the pandemic:
Translated, this means that Professor Cyrille Cohen has cautioned that the new strain of COVID has been shown to be resistant to antibody-based treatments. The Hebrew version of this article goes on to state that on the East Coast of the US, there’s a new strain of the virus called XBB15 which now accounts for the majority of the cases.
Which direction are we headed, according to the health authorities? Are we heading towards the official end of COVID, or will they attempt to drag us back into fear and masks? The conflicting messages emerging from the local press and health authorities are just as confusing as they’ve been throughout COVID as though no lessons have been learned.
I reached out to Professor Cohen, as well as the manager of my local health clinic for comment or clarification. The manager of the clinic responded to me that she has not heard of any mention of the pandemic officially ending, Professor Cohen has yet to respond.
One of our country’s most important freedoms is that of free speech.
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