Collective or Selective: Handling the crisis in the national level

The epidemic is here and it is everywhere. The debate has recently arisen whether Israel and other countries with their general closure policy is the right solution to deal with the crisis of Coronavirus (COVID-19) or whether the virus Selective policy and the crisis management that the Sweden advocate will produce better results.

The reason of the gap between the two approaches coming mainly from different cultural differences and ways of thinking. During my 25 years of working in the field of security and counterterrorism, I have learned and analyzed gaps between different security concepts and understandings, which makes a logical explanation for the gaps in the two methods coping with the current Corona crisis.

The Israeli concept of security in dealing with the prevention of terrorism says that everything needs to be done to prevent terrorist attacks. For us Israelis, the death of a soldier or a civilian because of a terrorist attack is a terrible tragedy and the policy is to prevent it at all costs. If there were only a similar resources to deal with the road accidents or work accidents, the number of death probably would have dropped dramatically.

In order to prevent terror attacks, Israel uses ‘The circles method’, For example:

To prevent a suicide bomber coming from a risk zone, there will be a number of security circles like intelligence information, a walls and barriers, military forces, in-house privet security, arming the civilians, civilian security awareness briefing and other visible and undercover security circles.

In an optimistic view, each circle by itself should prevent an attack, but in order to reach zero casualties, we need to add more and more security circles.

By contrast, the British concept of security, for example, is quite different from the Israeli one and supports the selective method. They have a deep understanding that they cannot prevent attacks hermetically without significant harm to daily life and without affecting the economy. That is why the British use the Swiss cheese method – It is a system of multiple slices of Swiss-cheese, stacked side by side, in which the risk of a threat becomes a reality is mitigated by the different layers and types of defenses.

This concept can be illustrate by describing it in London’s public transport: About five and a half million people use the London Underground every day. The main purpose of the security forces is, of course, to prevent an attack while maintaining the timetable and crowd flow.

According to the Swiss cheese method: The first layer is dealing with intelligence, another layer are the security cameras, one more slice is briefing the public and raising awareness, and the last one includes stewards and Underground police who are regularly at the station to take care of the daily Routine.


If they chose to place an x-ray machine and magnetometer gates at the entrance to each station as performed in Israel, they would lower the chance of the attack to almost zero, but at a significant price reduction in the number of people entering the station each day.

So how does this affect the handling of the corona crisis?

Every day, the State of Israel loads more security circles to prevent the epidemic from spreading: schools close, closing businesses, limiting public transportation, preventing from the public to go out no more than 100 meters radius from their homes, strict prohibitions on any type of gathering and closing borders from entering from other country.

In addition, the general closure guidelines create existential anxiety and mental tension among the majority of the public.

As of today, April 11, 2020, the results of the blockade in Israel bring us to 10,525 patients (known) and 96 people died from 8.7 residents, which is 0.1 percent patients and 0.001% deaths.

In Sweden, for example, they understood in the early stages that the spread of the virus can’t be avoided and so they decided to manage the crisis by the ‘selective method’. The goal is to keep the “at risk” population and care-homes isolated. Meanwhile, to encourage infection among the young population to create a natural “herd” vaccine.

They asked from the citizens to maintain hygiene and reduce the uses on public transport and also all crowded events been canceled, shopping centers, and trade centers are still open, most restaurants have moved into limited activity and companies continue to work although limited according to market needs.

In Sweden, as of today, the results of the instructions lead to about 9685 (known) patients and 870 deaths of the 10.23 million residents who are 0.07 percent patients and 0.008% deaths of the total population.

For comparison, the number of coronavirus deaths in the world’s population is 0.001 percent.

Despite the opposition of most countries in the world to Sweden’s way of acting and the expression of it in the media. I believe that if this is the case, in the Corona crisis it is more appropriate to adopt the ‘Selective’ method over the ‘Collective’ one and therefore until a cure will be found (which will probably take a long time) I offer to manage the crowds wisely and reasonably under the ‘Corona safety factor’ (two meters from person to person). By managing the crisis, we will prevent the destruction of the economy and the education system, prevent changing the democracy and avoid a destroying of the culture. We will try to preserve our ability to communicate between people and work to reducing gaps between parts of society.


How to manage a lifestyle under the ‘corona safety factor’?

Instead of immediately closing the restaurants, we can be allowed to work only without having a crowd and encourage delivers while keeping strict hygiene.

National parks, safaris and any open area where the ‘Corona safety factor’ can be maintained can be opened.

Schools will reopen in a way that online and frontal learning will keep a social distance.

In addition, more areas such as factories, offices, public transport or wherever the ‘Corona safety factor’ can be maintained, will come back to drive the economy.

In conclusion – it is important to manage the crisis selectively, because, it is with us for a long time and is not just a health crisis. This situation includes an economic and social crisis, mental and occupational problems with Democratic issues.

We need to be selective to deal with it over time and not collective, by including all the prohibitions on the whole population.


Wish for better days

Ofer Grinboim Liron,
Israeli expert in crowd management at events and complexes


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