As deconfinement, the number of infected has started to rise in the country which now relies on technology.
Thermal cameras to take the temperature of a crowd or algorithms connected to vast medical information banks to determine in real time the outbreaks: Israel sets foot on the accelerator of the future in the hope of stemming the “second wave ”of coronavirus contaminations.
The “balagan” (“disorder” in Hebrew) and high-tech! In Israel, many will say that the country is a confrontation between these two contradictory universes: the sometimes anarchic one of the street and the other, said to be hyper-efficient, of start-ups.
It is at the crossroads of these worlds that the authorities seek to identify the “new normal”, the “exact point of equilibrium”, between deconfinite economy and measures to prevent a new wave of contamination, notes Ran Balicer, chief of the innovation at Clalit, the largest healthcare provider in Israel.
In order to achieve this, we must “use the best technological tools to monitor the health status of the population”, by collecting “electronic data in real time” and allowing public decision-makers to take precise and rapid measures, underlines to AFP M. Balicer.
At the start of the pandemic, its teams worked with the local start-up “Diagnostic Robotics” and the Ministry of Health to establish a questionnaire to which the population is asked to answer on their smartphone in the event of symptoms of Covid-related symptoms -19.
The algorithm processes data on these symptoms to establish a person’s probability of infection and cross-checks this information with that of “millions of others,” says Kira Radinsk, patron of Diagnostic Robotics.
“When the system identifies an increasing number of symptomatic cases, an alert is sent to the deputy director of the Ministry of Health, who generally immediately approves a series of tests for the given location. This allows resources to be allocated quickly where they are needed, ”she told AFP.
And thus to close, for example, a district, a city, in prevention of a “second wave”, without putting the key under the door of the whole of the economy.
Until recently, Israel was bombing the torso with less than 20,000 sick and 300 dead for nine million inhabitants, a low death ratio compared to countries in Europe and America.
But, as deconfinement, the number of infected has started to rise, to the point that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself called on Tuesday for the use of “digital solutions”.
“Entrepreneurs were already working with academics, government and health professionals on projects involving artificial intelligence and they have pivoted to meet the challenge of the coronavirus,” notes Wendy Singer, executive director of the NGO Start-Up Central Nation promoting innovation “Made in Israel”.
Example with the company Anyvision, specialized in facial recognition technologies and recently accused by NGOs of having provided the tools of mass surveillance in the Palestinian Territories, so much so that Microsoft canceled its investments by affirming however, after audit, that the accusations were unfounded.
Shortly after the start of the health crisis, Anyvision installed special thermal imaging cameras in a Tel Aviv hospital to let officials know who had a fever among staff.
A facial recognition system was also installed in the Sheba hospital, the local heart of the fight against Covid, to identify in “a few seconds” the individuals who came into contact with a contaminated staff member, in order to identify precisely who was to be placed in quarantine, says Alex Zilberman, chief operating officer of this start-up.
“Imagine a nurse or doctor testing positive. Before, you had to contact the person by phone and ask them + Who have you met in the past 14 days? +. But in a place like a hospital, it was impossible to answer. ”
Big Data, cameras galore, identity matching: doesn’t all of this have a bit of “Big Brother”?
“It’s a very powerful system,” says Zilberman. But “we have safeguards,” he argues, such as ensuring that all employees cannot enter the system to monitor the whereabouts or target individuals.
To relieve hospitals, the government signed an agreement with the local start-up Datos. Patients download an application and enter their vital signs into the computer system themselves, generating data processed by the company’s algorithm.
The system automatically sends reminders to quarantined patients and people.
Aim of the operation: to allow the nursing staff to focus on severe cases.
“At the start of the crisis, health services had to call patients twice a day, regardless of their condition,” notes Uri Bettesh, founder of this start-up.
In the end, however, there will remain a random variable: sometimes it is enough to hunt the “balagan” for it to gallop back. And let the contaminations explode again.