Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Which danger is greater, to die from COVID-19 or from mental distress?

When one reads: “Health professor: Corona hysteria doing more damage than epidemic,” one needs to pause for a moment. Not for too long but just enough to see what is going on here.

Most professors have an upper-middle-class background, grow up feeling privileged enough to have an opinion about everyone and everything often not inhibited by any lack of knowledge. They also tend to theorize while totally ignoring facts. That may not be the case here, but, while ‘professor’ for most people means ‘smart and knowledgeable,’ for me it means ‘check if s/he knows what s/he’s talking about or is it just arrogant bluff?’

The upset professor is presented as a ‘former director of Israel’s health ministry and member of Knesset.’ The news outlet also calls him a ‘health expert’ and identifies him as ‘Prof. Yoram Lass of Tel Aviv University.’

Let’s google that.

At 75, I don’t think that Professor Lass is still teaching. He also doesn’t seem specialized in epidemiology or social medicine. But he is a politician so he knows how to reach the media. And he was a Member of Knesset for the Labor Party, so, IMHO, by default, he’ll find fault with Netanyahu.

But let’s investigate, point by point, his concerns not on authority but on merit. Is there something to what he is saying? Let’s first look at his arguments. His outcry is covered by two media who never check what their subjects say as they have no knowledge, especially of medical issues.

Now, maybe he is exaggerating to make a point? I don’t think so. I think that he misses the whole point completely. As is easy to follow:

1. If you don’t stop the spread of the COVID-19, 70% of the population will get infected of whom 3.5%-7.5% will die. On top of that, many others will die from the health system collapsing and from suicides.

In Israel, that would mean: over 200,000 death from COVID-19 alone.

2. The flue kills 0.1% of the population and it’s spread cannot be stopped because it’s so contagious. That’s why flu vaccination is so important.

In Israel, that means: over 9,000 death from the flu.

The two figures are not even close. COVID-19 would kill 25 times as many people. Stopping the virus is crucial. Prof. Lass’s solution — I call it the Iranian approach — would get 200,000+ people die needlessly to get us all immune. It’s like: We won’t stop anyone from drowning. If enough people sink, there will be such a pile of corpses that the water becomes shallow.

The professor is right that the “monstrous hysteria over the coronavirus pandemic is doing more damage to the country than the virus itself.” But that is only true if the virus is stopped. If it’s let loose, the virus causes much more damage! You can understand that. Why doesn’t he?

3. The swine-flu pandemic of 2009 may have killed up to 203,000 people worldwide. But if COVID-19 is not stopped, it would kill 70% times 5% times 7.8 billion is 273 million people –1345 times the number if swine-flue deaths, five times the number of deaths from WW II. Not only that.

The flu is so contagious, you can’t stop it even not by shutting down the country. So, to say that in 2009 we did nothing doesn’t compare.

He’s right. That’s not 60% of the human race (4.7 billion). But COVID-19 is the closest thing we have ever seen to the Black Plague for sure.

4. Car and army accidents cost hundreds respectively dozens of dear lives. This too is not compatible with COVID-19. They are unpreventable deaths, apparently, and they do not compare to 220,000 deaths, Heaven forbid.

The professor is right that there is no need for ‘hysteria’ (sorry for the use of such a sexist term) and that that is hurtful. But one can order and obey lockdown and other isolating methods without anyone being frightened, scared to death. That he should have promoted. Calmly, like Netanyahu at his daily press conferences. Professor, who’ s actually ‘hysterical’ here?!

5. His claim that any 1% increase in the unemployment rate leads to a 0.4 percent increase in population mortality. That is far less than having 2-5% die from corona! And, if you don’t stop the coronavirus completely, you can be sure that what follows is a recession followed by a depression.

6. Send healthy people who are not in high-risk groups to work. Really? But younger people are not immune. And even if they survive, 20% would need hospitalization for 2-6 weeks! And might have to be brought back from the brink of death. Any job with such a risk is immoral.

7. He claims that the mass hysteria was driving the politicians and public to expect the worst-case scenarios to happen. He doesn’t understand that one needs to hope for the best but prepare for the worst? We now see how in the US, tens of thousands die because Trump hoped for the best. The professor might be alive because we have Netanyahu and not Trump.

8. Netanyahu was politically done and then came the coronavirus and he became our savior. Thank G^d for that! Just be a good sport.

He suggests that Netanyahu is locking everyone up to stay free (out of jail) himself. Common! He’s now also our Freudian psychiatrist?

9. “It’s impossible to stop a virus by government decree.” Do I need to show how ridiculous that statement is? Obvious, no?

10. He blames social media for the hysteria. He misses that when facing death (in the family), most people get terrified. They don’t need to but they do. At least, they understand the risk. The professor seems not to.

The most important fact against the narrative of the professor is that the vast majority of the Israeli public optimistic is. There is no hysteria.

***

The second source also quotes Associate Professor Chagai Levine. Let’s google him too. An epidemiologist, public health physician and faculty member of the Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine. Seems qualified.

He said: a full lockdown is not best for Israel. Quarantine is one size fits all. This is not an optimal solution.

But, he seems to talk from two sides of his mouth because a week before that, he is reported to have said: I am very, very concerned that we’ll see a broader contagion in the ultra-Orthodox community and to the broader Israeli population.” He also claimed that severe urgent measures are needed to control the spread.

Sorry, I can’t take someone who waddles like that, seriously.

Israel Should Incarcerate Anyone Who Slanders Its Health Directives

They should call upon rebellious Israelis, those Muslims and Jews who are not great at science or anti-Zionistic, young people who feel invincible, and those non-religious who let no-one tell them what to do, to listen to the government unquestioningly. Israel should have a law to incarcerate immediately, anyone who trashes government health stringencies.

At the moment, people who spread fake news about the pandemic are investigated by the police. But when you are a professor, you can say anything you want? That smacks of class justice! (A class of injustice, so.)

People who call for flaunting health safety orders are more dangerous than anarchists with a machinegun in a full football stadium. They should be locked up until trial and receive a decade behind bars at least.

A question that still bothers me, how can someone intelligent say something so stupid and irresponsible?

It doesn’t seem an ‘honest mistake.’ Maybe he spoke from a wish to be recognized, for fame. Humbleness seems quite sparse among university teachers. A lowering of their salaries could help. Or maybe he spoke from hatred for Netanyahu, which is rampant in some circles. Hatred makes people do and say not only terrible but also really stupid things.

We are so blessed with a politician like Netanyahu! A true leader holds course even against a wall of criticism if it’s the right thing to do!

Compare all the politicians from the right and the left who constantly called for war against Chamas in Gaza and Netanyahu holds it off all the time. They can call him a hawk, a coward, stupid, a thief. A true leader!

It’s Over! (Really? Of Course Not!)

And then we have a new number expert in the press. He claims that in two weeks the epidemic is over. Zero more infected. I discussed his ilk before.

Major Gen. (Res) Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel is the chairman of the Israeli Space Agency and the National Council for Research and Development, the head of the Security Studies Program at Tel Aviv University, and a former MK for the Kadima party. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a BSc in Physics and Mathematics from Tel Aviv University. That’s nice. But look at his motive.

This smart guy speaks up because he’s pained by … not the loss of life or the potential loss of life but by the losses in the economy. “We are paying NIS 100 billion a month because of this closure.” He’s also a politician who knows how to work the media. Reader, beware!

First, he reasons that in every country, unrelated to if they use lockdown, social distancing or nothing, the infection rate increases until week four to six, immediately thereafter comes moderation, until during the eighth week it disappears completely. So, in two weeks we can go back to work.

Did you notice his trick? All magicians use tricks. The art is to spot them.

He claims that in every country we see infections go to zero after 6 weeks, so after eight weeks it will be over. If he were truthful, a real scientist hungry for facts, he would say: Let’s see if after eight weeks the infection rate drops to zero because then we can reopen the country again. But, if it doesn’t drop to zero, he miscalculated somewhere, obviously. As he did.

His whole premise is too absurd to contemplate. It doesn’t matter what you do, it stops after eight weeks anyway? Tell that to the Chinese who had to lockdown Wuhan for 10 weeks.

No, he’s not stupid, not evil, not dishonest. That’s what money does. It makes people blind to any other issue, even death.

Conclusion

Sweden’s politicians have decided to embark on the gamble the above three men propose. No lockdown, no ban on social life. Young people will become immune in massive numbers and thus protect all, including the vulnerable.

Yet, Sweden’s health practitioners warn that a full-scale disaster is around the corner.

Time will tell who’s right.

But I don’t think that the country so far rated the safest twice, Israel, should take a risk and throw all our social and economic sacrifices of the past month to the wind and go back to business as normal.

No experimentation with our population!

Again, how lucky we are with a PM who understands that the cheapest policy is to be tough in the beginning because then you can reopen the country the quickest with the least loss of life. The Dutch saying is: When you spend a little, you’ll spend a lot. This means, putting it positively, when you spend more now, you’ll end up spending the least in total.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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