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Israel – First publication: Health Ministry sued in Freedom of Information Act COVID-19 request

Hundreds of physicians, journalists [*1], and citizens have engaged an attorney to submit an official Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Health Ministry [*2] regarding various issues related to the COVID-19 coronavirus. This, after queries [*3] by journalists representing the entire spectrum of Israeli media outlets consistently revealed a pattern of Health Ministry avoidance of certain issues.

The law firm of Waldman-David-Zuchowitzky-Fraidin today addressed Health Ministry’s FOIA Officer Attorney Shulamit Blank, saying: “On behalf of my clients, many dozens of medical, scientific, academic, media, and ordinary citizens, I am hereby honored to address to you the matter in question, as follows:”

“From the end of 2019, the world has been dealing with a disease caused by a novel virus from the corona family, known as SARS CoV-2.”

“Although there is no argument that the virus exists, is contagious, and can cause severe morbidity and mortality, there are serious disagreements about the severity and extent of morbidity and mortality caused by the virus, the link between measures taken and prevention of infection and morbidity, and the degree of health burden.”

“As you probably know, every decision, step, and policy affects the lives, health, and future of millions of Israelis and therefore reliable information and true data are critical.”

The request is signed by Professor Eitan Fridman of Sheba Hospital, Professor Eyal Shahar (Arizona), Professor Udi Kimron of Tel-Aviv University, Professor Zvi Bentoich of Ben Gurion University, Professor Doron Lancet of the Weitziman Institute, Tel Aviv University Microbiology Professor Udi Kimron, and Dr. Aviv Segev at Shalvata Hospital.

The letter was also signed by Health Communication Lecturer at IDC Herzliya International School Dr. Yaffa Shir Raz, Channel 13 News reporter Alon ben David, Meytal Ysoor (Israel Hayom), Talya Levin (Ma’ariv) and others.

The request says: “My clients, a group of medical, science, academia, media, and ordinary citizens, is contacting you for answers and data to the following questions:”

A. Mortality questions:

1. How many of the deceased were defined based on a positive laboratory test?

2. How many of the deceased died from an accident or an obvious external cause, and were also virus carriers regardless of the disease due to which they died or were resuscitated?

3. How many of the deceased had a significant background illness (heart disease, cancer, advanced Alzheimer’s, etc.)? We request to receive the answer by age segmentation.

4. In how many of the deceased was the background disease (the underlying disease) the leading cause of death? We request the answer by age segmentation.

5. We would like to receive an Excel file of the deceased, with information clarifying which of them came from institutions: a. From nursing homes; b. Helping institutions; c. Rehabilitation institutions; d. Palliative institutions.

6. Which of them died within the institution itself?

7. How many of the deceased who were defined as deceased from coronavirus were not hospitalized at the time of death, and were defined as deceased originally due to receiving a positive lab response at some point in time in the past?

8. Of all the haredi/Arab carriers, what is the mortality rate in each sector? And how do they equate to percentages of general mortality among all carriers?

B. Questions about critically ill and respiratory patients:

1. Since July, how many of the most difficult patients have been defined as such based on the parameter of oxygen saturation lower than 93%?

2. How many went to hospitals due to illness/other medical condition (e.g. heart attack) and were transferred to coronavirus wards due to a positive test result?

3. Among the severe patients, how many of them have undergone intubation, and how many are assisted by oxygen support or by means of other light breathing aids?

C. Questions about the PCR tests:

1. How many of the positive tests reported so far reflect repeat tests for those people?

2. Of all the people who performed two tests in a row (ie. – within 24 hours), in how many tests were the two results different?

3. Is there a uniform standard for setting a viral threshold for a positive coronavirus test, and if so, what is it?

4. How many of the tests are borderline and is a borderline test considered positive?

5. Someone whose test was defined as borderline – what was the diagnosis?

6. In the context of the epidemiological investigations, people defined as borderline or asymptomatic – what was the percentage of people they infected?

7. What is the percentage of positive tests among medical staff in the various hospitals?

8. What is the percentage of people who have had a test for symptoms? How many of them received a negative answer?

9. What are the details of the contract agreement with My Heritage Corporation? If other private laboratories were blocked from entering the field of coronavirus testing, why?

10. How much money will the State of Israel pay My Heritage?

D. Questions about the chain of infection and connection to the disease:

11. In cases where the location of the infection is known (based on epidemiological investigation), is there a connection between the location of the infection (house, mall, plane, etc.) and the intensity of the disease in the infected?

12. Is there a difference in morbidity between people infected by asymptomatic carriers and people infected by patients with clinical symptoms (eg. hospitalized)?

13. Is there a relationship between the age of the person infected and the intensity of the illness caused by the person infected? And in particular, from among adults (over the age of 18) who were moderate ill, severely ill, or who have died, how many of them have been infected by children (in the following segmentation – up to the age of 10, up to the age of 18)?

E: Questions about the burden on the health system:

1. What is the percentage of occupancy in the inpatient wards + coronavirus wards + intensive care units this year, compared to internal + intensive care wards in the previous two years?

2. What is the number on ventilators in the coronavirus wards and intensive care units in each of the months from March to August this year compared to the corresponding months in the previous two years? And compared to all intensive care patients in the previous two years?

3. What is the number of malaria referrals in each of the months from March-August this year compared to the corresponding months in the previous two years?

4. How many ventilator (intubation) patients was the health system prepared to treat in August 2020, as opposed to its readiness in March 2020, and how many were on assisted breathing?

“In view of the urgency of the matter, we will be grateful for a response as soon as possible,” says the request, continuing: “It will be recalled that under section 10 of the Freedom of Information Act, it is the duty of the public authority to consider the public interest in disclosing the information requested for reasons of safeguarding public health – which is even more true in our case.

“My clients undertake to pay the application fee and the handling and production fee up to the amount of NIS 151. As is well known, in the case of a demand for payment in a higher amount, the consent of my client is required for its execution.

“We will be grateful, therefore, for your answer in advance, and in any case no later than the statutorily imposed deadline,” concludes the Freedom of Information Act request to the Health Ministry.

Source: Mordechai Sones – Arutz Sheva

One comment: “Most of us knew from the start that this SCAMDEMIC wasn’t real. Finally, the time has come to take “the experts” to task in detail for the drastic measures they took. Following this, a public trial of world leaders will take place (as following WW2) and justice will prevail. Seriously? These people thought [that] they could remove democracy due the process and lock healthy people in their houses and that they would face no consequences for that?”

Notes:

*1. Journalist ‘stands behind’ removed COVID-19 article

Dr. Yaffa Shir Raz: ‘According to the Health Ministry’s method, no person with COVID-19 is ever permitted to recover from his illness.’

Health Communication Lecturer at IDC Herzliya International School Dr. Yaffa Shir Raz wrote in a Facebook post that she “stands behind” her article that was removed from the Ynet website about Health Ministry policy vis a vis COVID-19 as cause of death.

The article, entitled Has the coronavirus death toll in the country been inflated?, said: “After evidence in the U.S. and the UK indicates that not in everyone who was registered as having died of coronavirus was it indeed the cause of death, a Ynet investigation found that also in Israel the criteria for registering a person as ‘deceased from coronavirus’ does not take into account the time elapsed from illness to death.”

Shir Raz wrote: “I stand behind every word in my article that was removed this morning from the Ynet website.

“This revelation has caused a scandal in the UK: after it was revealed that the death reports included people who had tested positive for the virus months before they died of any other cause at all. Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered an urgent examination of the death count from the virus.

“An examination of Health Ministry documents shows that in Israel, too, there is no reference to the gaps between the positive test time and the date of death, and anyone who tests positive for the virus and dies later is classified as ‘died of coronavirus’, even if more than 100 days have passed.

“Worse, in the UK and U.S., where authorities have been severely criticized for their classification of deaths policy, at least guidelines from health ministries are publicly available. In Israel, the Health Ministry does not publish the guidelines, or data on the deceased that could shed light on the causes of death. My request to receive the information yesterday was completely ignored.

“In the words of Prof. Carl Heneghan, Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, only paraphrasing to fit Israel: ‘According to the Health Ministry’s method, no person with COVID-19 is ever permitted to recover from his illness’.”

Source: Mordechai Sones – Arutz Sheva

*2. Health Ministry: ‘3,074 test coronavirus positive in one day’ – Coronavirus coordinator Prof. Ronni Gamzu recommends expanding list of cities defined ‘red’.

The Constitution Committee canceled the special discussion on the traffic light plan planned for today, because Gamzu, the plan’s initiator, did not confirm his attendance.

Committee Chairman MK Yaakov Asher said in response that “Gamzu should come to the committee, present the plan, and answer questions of Knesset Members.”

A new study commissioned by Revolver News concludes that COVID-19 lockdowns are ten times more deadly than the actual COVID-19 virus in terms of years of life lost by American citizens.

Drawing upon existing economic studies on the health effects of unemployment to calculate an estimate of how many years of life will have been lost due to the lockdowns in the United States, and weighing this against an estimate of how many years of life will have been saved by the lockdowns, the results suggest that the lockdowns will end up costing Americans over 10 times as many years of life as they will save from the virus itself.

A recent report by the New York Times entitled Your Coronavirus Test Is Positive. Maybe It Shouldn’t Be stated that “the usual diagnostic tests may simply be too sensitive and too slow to contain the spread of the virus.”

Source: Mordechai Sones – Arutz Sheva

*3. Arutz Sheva clarifies Health Ministry COVID-19 policy

Health Ministry: “Any COVID-19 positive patient who has died during his hospitalization will likely be reported as COVID-19 death.”

The Health Ministry responded to a query by Arutz Sheva to clarify information about COVID-19 morbidity and mortality, tests administered in Israel, and their methodology, accuracy, and availability.

Arutz Sheva’s query quoted White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Deborah Birx, who said that while some countries report coronavirus fatality numbers differently, in the United States one is counted as a victim of the pandemic if he dies while testing positive for the virus, even if something else caused his death. Likewise, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike was quoted, who stated in a press conference that even if the cause of death is clearly something else, as long as one tests positive for COVID-19 when he dies, it does not matter how many other conditions were present, this is the cause of death:

Arutz Sheva sought to determine into which set of countries does Israel fall. How precisely do doctors record cause of death, has the procedure been uniform from the beginning of the crisis, and if Israel follows the American model, the Ministry was asked to expand on the medical and legal aspects of such classification.

The query also sought to determine which COVID-19 tests are being administered in Israel, recalling that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged it was conflating results of two different types of coronavirus tests, distorting several important metrics and providing citizens and policymakers with an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic.

Arutz Sheva asked whether the test or tests used in Israel distinguish between a dead or live virus, and if not, why all of them are called “active cases”, and, whether recommendations to policymakers take these distinctions into account.

The Health Ministry was asked to comment on false positive fiascoes reported in other countries, and to explain the Health Ministry’s method for factoring in possible inaccuracies.

Regarding mitigation restrictions, the Health Ministry was asked to comment on statements by the World Health Organization’s Maria Van Kerkhove: “From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual. We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing. They’re following asymptomatic cases, they’re following contacts and they’re not finding secondary transmission onward. It is very rare — and much of that is not published in the literature. We are constantly looking at this data and we’re trying to get more information from countries to truly answer this question. It still appears to be rare that an asymptomatic individual actually transmits onward.” The Health Ministry was asked how Israel’s mitigation policy flows from the assumption that asymptomatic spread is “rare”.

Finally, Arutz Sheva asked about Health Ministry policy that, according to physicians consulted by Arutz Sheva for the purpose of the query, mandates refraining from treating cases early on, waiting until they are short of breath and need to be hospitalized and perhaps need to go straight to the intensive care unit. This, despite the fact that there are “several therapies that are available to outpatients that have been shown to be effective, such as hydroxychloroquine and budesonide inhalations. These therapies have had dramatic results and are reliably safe according to many reputable practitioners. Why aren’t outpatient cases being treated, why are only hospitalized cases being treated?”

Health Ministry Spokesman Eyal Basson answered: “In regard to your first question, the cause of death for anyone is Israel is determined by the practitioner in charge according to the WHO guidelines.”

“Therefore any COVID-19 positive patient who has died during his hospitalization will likely be reported as COVID-19 death.”

“Furthermore, we instructed our hospital administrators to report the death of COVID-19 patient who has recovered virologically but not clinically if the practitioner persevere that the death is related to late COVID-19 complications.”

Regarding the last question regarding therapies shown to be effective such as hydroxychloroquine and budesonide inhalations, the Health Ministry answered: “The Israeli Health Ministry does not dictate any policy regarding medical treatment neither for outpatients in the community nor for patients admitted to hospitals.”

“Each and every medical doctor who is treating patients has a professional autonomy that may be guided by his supervisors or organization but until now the Ministry kept its role as a regulator and did not interfere in any clinical issues regarding individual treatments.”

“The paramount goal of the medical care and follow up for the outpatient is to identify as soon as possible symptoms and signs that should indicate the need to refer for a comprehensive medical examination in the emergency department and consider hospital admission.”

Dr. David Matar, MD, responded to the Health Ministry’s answer, telling Arutz Sheva: “Hydroxychloroquine is completely safe, and 54 studies of varying quality show its efficacy in prophylaxis and therapy of early disease. What needs to be done to break this epidemic is mass distribution of doses of hydroxychloroquine and zinc to as many as possible as prophylaxis to protect vulnerable people and interrupt the chain of transmission.”

Matar continued: “Any medical doctor can write a private prescription for hydroxychloroquine and zinc; both are not expensive. However, the Health Ministry does not permit subsidized prescriptions for these drugs as treatment for COVID-19 – only for lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or malaria prophylaxis.”

“The situation here is better than in the United States, where in some anti-Trump areas, pharmacies will not honor even private prescriptions. The FDA at one point permitted hydroxychloroquine off-label, then revoked it due to political pressure and some bad (fake) studies.”

Former Health Ministry Director Yoram Lass responded to the Health Ministry and told Arutz Sheva: “Regarding he coronavirus death toll: The British Health Minister admits that the Government’s publications on those ‘dead from coronavirus’ were completely incorrect.”

“And us? The Health Minister in the Israeli government continues to disseminate ‘mortality due to coronavirus’ data, which is completely erroneous. There is no ‘excess mortality’ in Israel. No plague. As a rule, the ‘dead because of coronavirus’ did not die from coronavirus.”

Source: Mordechai Sones – Arutz Sheva