Advice on Confronting Coronavirus from Israeli Doctors and Researchers

With its world-class medical research and flourishing science sector, Israel is on the front line of the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic. As the disease continues to spread across the globe, causing a health crisis of historic proportions, Israeli doctors, researches, and entrepreneurs are working diligently to find a cure and improve treatment options for patients affected by COVID-19.

On March 19, AJC hosted two leading experts in the field – Dr. Daniel Landsberg, who serves as Regional Medical Director at Maccabi Health Services, and Dr. Kira Radinsky, who is the Chair and Chief Technology Officer at Diagnostic Robotics – to discuss Israel’s response to the pandemic.

The conversation was part of Advocacy Anywhere: Powered by AJC, a brand-new online hub for expert briefings, hard-hitting analysis, and advocacy opportunities during the coronavirus crisis.

Asked by host Avital Leibovich, Director of AJC Jerusalem, how Israel’s experience with the virus can serve as a lesson for other countries, Dr. Landsberg said he had an “important message to you in America: start preparing.” He stressed that just because you can’t see the disease, does not mean someone is free from infection. “When it comes, it is going to be big,” he warned. 

Dr. Landsberg explained that early quarantine measures had helped slow down the spread of the virus in Israel and urged other nations to waste no time in implementing strict and necessary restrictions to minimize exposure to the disease. 

He warned of the danger of complacency in the fight against an invisible enemy. “A lot of people aren’t that sick, they only have a cold or a cough, but you don’t want them going around and spreading the disease,” said Dr. Landsberg. In the absence of a cure, the best way to contain the outbreak is to isolate people who are sick and those with whom they came in contact. This requires diligent testing and tracking. “Mapping is crucial” in the fight against the disease, Dr. Landsberg stressed.

He added that because the virus disproportionately affects the elderly, whose immune systems may not be strong enough to stave off pneumonia, it is critical that plans are in place to protect the most vulnerable in society and prepare them for a prolonged period in isolation.

Asked what sets Israel apart from other countries, Dr. Landsberg pointed to the nation’s “high regard for the sanctity of human life,” where all coronavirus patients are receiving equal treatment.

Recent reports suggested that Italian hospital staff, overwhelmed by the number of critically ill patients, are now allocating limited life-saving treatment to those with the highest likelihood of survival. Italy has been the hardest hit out of all western European nations. On March 21, the country confirmed 793 new coronavirus deaths, a one-day record that saw the country's toll shoot up to 4,825, or 38.3% of the world's total.

The conversation then turned to Dr. Kira Radinsky, a Ukrainian-born Israeli computer scientist, inventor, and entrepreneur, who specializes in predictive data mining. Dr. Radinsky and her team have developed technological tools to help identify patients who are developing COVID-19 symptoms, as well as assisting them in preparing for hospitalization at home.

She explained that the Israeli government had implemented “digital triaging.” The idea, she said, “is to identify patients who are starting to develop symptoms of coronavirus” with the help of technology, such as texting and phoning. The data collected by her company will then serve as “red flags” for the Israeli government and healthcare services, to equip them with real-time information about the outbreak and identify coronavirus hotspots that require urgent medical intervention.

Together, Landsberg and Radinsky not only offered a glimpse into Israel’s urgent efforts to stem the virus’s spread and treat those affected, but also demonstrated how the Jewish state’s values have made it a leader in the search for a vaccine and finding innovative methods that other nations can adopt.

Advocacy Anywhere is a new platform that will enable you to engage with AJC’s leading expertise, content, and advocacy opportunities from wherever you are, using cutting-edge technology.