Israeli health official resigns blasting virus response

Israeli security forces control access to a neighborhood that has been isolated following an increase in coronavirus cases in the southern coastal city of Ashdod. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 07 July 2020

Israeli health official resigns blasting virus response

  • The resignation of Siegal Sadetzki, the health ministry’s director of public health services, came after Israel re-imposed several lockdown measures
  • Sadetzki said Israel’s effective initial response had been nullified by “the swift and broad opening of the economy”

JERUSALEM: A top Israeli health official resigned Tuesday, saying her guidance on combatting the coronavirus was being disregarded and the country’s containment efforts were “disoriented” as it faced a surging caseload.
The resignation of Siegal Sadetzki, the health ministry’s director of public health services, came after Israel re-imposed several lockdown measures in an effort to curb the virus’s spread.
“For a few weeks now, our compass for dealing with the pandemic has become disoriented,” Sadetzki wrote in a Facebook post announcing her decision to step down.
“Despite repeated warnings in different forums, we are watching with frustration as our window of opportunity (to contain the virus) is running out,” added Sadetzki, an epidemiologist.
“I’ve reached the conclusion that, in a new context where my professional opinion is not being accepted, it is no longer in my capacity to help prevent the pandemic’s spread,” she wrote.
Former parliament speaker Yuli Edelstein, an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, became health minister under a coalition government sworn in in May.
Edelstein announced Monday that he intended to name a point person to oversee Israel’s response, a new role that was likely to cut into Sadetzki’s authority.
Israel had earned praise in March and April for its fast action against the virus, including the imposition of early travel restrictions.
But its re-opening strategy has faced criticism as cases have shot up.
Sadetzki said Israel’s effective initial response had been nullified by “the swift and broad opening of the economy.”
Netanyahu, who thanked Sadetzki for her service, has warned that Israel’s health system risked being paralyzed by a flood of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
But he has also voiced concern about renewed lockdown measures that would further devastate an already battered economy.
As of Tuesday morning, Israel had recorded more than 31,000 coronavirus cases, including 338 deaths.
In recent weeks, the country of about nine million people has regularly registered between 500 to 1,000 new cases each day.
Various restrictions have been re-imposed, including the closure of event venues, clubs, bars, gyms and public pools.
Limits on the number of people allowed in restaurants and places of worship have also been reinstated.


Trump wrote to Assad about journalist missing in Syria, says Pompeo

In this file photo taken on December 04, 2018, Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of US journalist Austin Tice (portrait L), who was abducted in Syria more than six years ago, speak at a press conference in Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2020

Trump wrote to Assad about journalist missing in Syria, says Pompeo

  • In 2018, US authorities announced a $1 million reward for information that would lead to his recovery

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump personally wrote to his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad about the case of journalist Austin Tice, who has been missing since 2012, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.
“The US government has repeatedly attempted to engage Syrian officials to seek Austin’s release,” Pompeo said in a statement on the eighth anniversary of Tice’s disappearance.
“President Trump wrote to Bashar Assad in March to propose direct dialogue.”
Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organizations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012.
Thirty-one years old at the time he was captured, Tice appeared blindfolded in the custody of an unidentified group of armed men in a video a month later.
Since then, there has been no official information on whether he is alive or dead.
In March, Trump said the United States had written a letter to authorities in Damascus, without specifying that he himself had written personally to Assad, who Washington wants out of power. At that time, Trump said he did not know if Tice was still alive.

HIGHLIGHT

Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organizations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012.

“No one should doubt the president’s commitment to bringing home all US citizens held hostage or wrongfully detained overseas,” Pompeo said Friday.
“Nowhere is that determination stronger than in Austin Tice’s case.”
Pompeo said he and Trump hoped there would be “no need for another statement like this a year from now.”
“Austin Tice’s release and return home are long, long overdue. We will do our utmost to achieve that goal,” he added.
A year ago, the US government said it believed Tice was still alive.
His mother Debra Tice said in January that she had “credible information” to that effect, without elaborating.
In 2018, US authorities announced a $1 million reward for information that would lead to his recovery.