Israel's top public health official resigns, saying leaders ignored warnings about reopening country

A man wears a mask in Jerusalem.
(Image credit: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images)

Siegal Sadetzki, Israel's top public health official, resigned on Tuesday, saying that the government was ignoring her warnings over reopening the country too fast amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sadetzki is an epidemiologist and director of the Israeli Health Ministry's Public Health Services. In her resignation letter, which she shared online, Sadetzki declared that over the "last few weeks, the compass handling the pandemic lost its direction." She said her "professional opinion is not accepted" by leaders, leaving her unable to "assist with an effective response to curb the spread of the virus."

The lockdowns imposed in the spring worked, Sadetzki said, and some days, there were only 10 coronavirus cases reported across the entire country. In May, schools were reopened, followed by restaurants, bars, and wedding venues where up to 250 guests could gather. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis they could go out and "enjoy themselves," as they had beat the coronavirus.

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Reopening schools and large venues so quickly was a mistake, Sadetzki said, as now the country is reporting 1,100 daily infections, nearly double the peak seen in the spring, NPR reports. To try to combat this, the government on Tuesday once again ordered bars, restaurants, gyms, swimming pools, and wedding and entertainment venues to shut down. Israel has 12,700 active coronavirus cases, and at least 338 people have died from the virus.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.