Israel looks to export its coronavirus coping skills

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Start-up nation Israel, on its way out of coronavirus lockdown, is seeking to export lessons that have allowed it to emerge as one of the least-hit victims of the pandemic.

Use of distance diagnostics, blood analysis, mobile phone tracking and tracing and mandatory wearing of face masks are among measures credited with giving the Jewish state an official COVID-19 death toll of around 280, equivalent to 31 per million inhabitants.

That compares with around 310 deaths per million in the US, about 560 in Britain and 427 in France.

In Israel, patients equipped with "oximeters" are contacted twice daily by medical teams who ask them to report their data.

A decrease in blood oxygen levels shows a downturn in the condition of the patient who is brought swiftly to hospital.

The quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, formed to encourage Jewish immigration to Israel, has formed a partnership with the country's Weizmann Institute of Science and private health services provider Clalit Health Services, to try to export the Israeli model to Jewish communities abroad.

"The basic idea is to try to explain to the Jewish community -- which has been proportionally more affected than the average population in France, in the United States, mainly in New York -- the experience of doctors and scientists in Israel," Amos Hermon, a Jewish Agency executive, told AFP.

"We think that Israel has taken the essential measures (to stem the crisis)."

"In comparison with other countries, Israel has done very well... We therefore would like to share this knowledge, with other communities which have been very affected," he added.

Israeli officials, mindful of the Jewish festival of Shavuot which began on Thursday evening, have urged French Jews to delay opening their synagogues for the time being and urged setting up medical committees to monitor the health of their community, according to viewers of an online discussion between a Paris Jewish leader and Israeli officials.

The Israelis recommended checking worshippers before they arrive at their synagogue, by using oximeters, enabling a quick and simple measuring of blood oxygen as a measure of health.

"The basic idea is to have a doctor in daily contact with patients in order to assess the signs of deterioration in their state of health .... The oximeter is the tool," notes Boaz Katz, from the Weizmann Institute.

According to a study by Tel Aviv University, about 70 percent of people diagnosed with the virus in Israel have been infected with a strain from the United States, and 30 percent from Europe, mainly from France and Belgium.