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Top Israel health official resigns, warns country is ‘in a dangerous place’

Israeli Arab doctor Khitam Hussein, head of the COVID-19 response division at the Rambam Hospital near Haifa in northern Israel, poses for a photo during an interview at the medical center, on April 16, 2020 [AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel is “in a dangerous place”, warned the country’s top public health official in a resignation letter protesting the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Siegal Sadetzki accused the current heads of the Ministry of Health of losing direction and ignoring professional advice, in a lengthy Facebook post explaining the reasons for her resignation.

“Despite regular warnings in various settings and forums, we are witnessing with frustration that time is running out,” Sadetzsky wrote, according to a translation of her resignation letter in the Jewish Chronicle.

Sadetzky complained that that her “professional opinion is not accepted” within the government and that she could “no longer effectively assist in halting the spread of the virus.”

READ: Israel halts coronavirus phone tracking, official says

“The first wave was characterised by professional and conscientious leadership. Unfortunately, for several weeks the compass of the treatment of the pandemic has lost direction,” Sadetzky is reported saying.

“The achievements in dealing with the first wave [of infections] were cancelled out by the broad and swift opening of the economy,” the leading epidemiologist wrote. “My sense,” she added, “is that, over time, we have changed from being professionals responding to events proactively to people in charge who have no authority and who are responding late, after the events.”

Sadetzky highlighted a number of missteps including the early opening of schools, restaurants and beaches.

On Monday, Israel reimposed a series of restrictions to fight a spike in coronavirus infections, including the immediate closure of bars, gyms and event halls. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to make a humiliating U-turn saying that he had to reverse course to avoid a wider lockdown that could paralyse Israeli’s economy, where unemployment is just above 20 per cent.

“The pandemic is spreading – that’s as clear as day. It is rising steeply daily and it is dragging with it, contrary to what we had been told, a trail of critically ill patients,” Netanyahu said.

Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank imposed a full lockdown on Friday as cases there surged. In all, nearly 4,300 cases and 16 deaths have been reported in the West Bank, and 72 cases and one death in Gaza.

READ: Gaza to send doctors to help face West Bank tackle coronavirus

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