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Health Ministry’s China-offending virus mascot makes a comeback

But new video featuring ‘Covid’ character, aimed at raising awareness of guidelines, keeps its content diplomatically only about Israelis

The Health Ministry on Sunday released a comical public awareness video aimed at encouraging Israelis to obey orders for preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

The clip features “Covid, Cupid’s step-brother,” a character that first made an appearance in a similar video published in August and which was quickly withdrawn following a protest from the Chinese government.

In the new clip, Covid, a toga-wearing angel with a bat clipped to his shoulder in a nod to the presumed source of the pathogen, is seen casually engaging in unhygienic behaviors believed to help spread the virus, while also rattling off one-liners that poke fun at Israelis who are not following instructions.

“Only in Israel do they think you catch it via your chin,” he quips while noting the large number of people who wear their masks below their nose and mouth.

As part of the national campaign to stop an ongoing virus outbreak, the Health Ministry has urged the public to adhere to social distancing and hygiene orders. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein in particular has repeatedly warned the public that keeping to the instructions is a key element in avoiding a repeat of a national lockdown that was applied earlier this year.

The Health Ministry published its first humorous ad with the “Covid” character in August, but swiftly removed it after a complaint from Beijing.

In that video, Covid declares he is “made in China. But do I work properly or what?”

The Chinese embassy in Israel registered a complaint, prompting the Health Ministry to remove the ad from its Facebook page, though it was still available on YouTube and elsewhere.

For years, Israel has been working to dramatically expand trade with China, one of the world’s largest markets. It retains good ties with Beijing, though in recent months has faced pressure from the United States to diminish its relationship, amid an escalating US-China showdown.

Israel is facing a second wave of infections that over the weekend took the national toll past the grim 1,000 deaths mark and last week saw a record of over 3,000 cases diagnosed in a single day.

As of Sunday evening, there were 26,683 active patients in Israel, 447 of whom were in a serious condition, with 127 on ventilators. The number of fatalities from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, stood at 1,012.

Since the start of the global pandemic there have been 130,157 confirmed virus cases in Israel, of which 102,462 have recovered.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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