IDF announces new limitations on troops amid rising coronavirus cases

Soldiers forbidden from attending large gatherings while on leave, told to prepare for weeks in a row on base; army returning to ‘capsule’ system in shift rotations

Illustrative: Soldiers from the Golani Brigade wearing face masks, on May 12, 2020 (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Illustrative: Soldiers from the Golani Brigade wearing face masks, on May 12, 2020 (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The Israeli military on Monday announced new limitations on soldiers amid rising coronavirus cases, as it sought to limit the contagion’s spread among troops.

Soldiers serving on bases have been told to prepare for the possibility they will be required to remain there for a month straight; soldiers on leave will be forbidden from attending clubs, bars, movie theaters and other places of mass gathering and instructed to minimize their stay in closed public spaces; and meetings will be limited to 10 participants, while conferences will be limited to 50 participants in closed spaces and 100 in open spaces. Soldiers are currently forbidden from riding on trains.

The military is also returning to a “capsule” system, whereby efforts will be made to keep soldiers on shifts serving with the same personnel, to limit exposure to multiple people.

Units will regularly remind soldiers of the need to maintain hygienic and distancing practices, and form oversight teams to ensure such practices are maintained.

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman told reporters Monday that there are currently 69 active coronavirus cases in the military, all of them mild. Meanwhile 3,170 troops are in quarantine for fear of possible exposure to the virus.

Zilberman stressed that the pandemic has not hurt the military’s operational readiness. Three military major generals who were among those quarantined will return to active duty Monday evening.

Soldiers wearing masks stand at attention at the national opening ceremony for Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, April 27, 2020 (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel has seen a consistent rise in infection rates in recent weeks after the country largely reopened from lockdown. The Health Ministry announced Monday morning that there had been 183 new coronavirus cases over the previous 24 hours, taking the total count to 20,869. One new fatality took the death toll to 307.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that Israel could be thrust into a new coronavirus lockdown, citing “grave predictions.”

And during a Monday meeting of the “coronavirus cabinet” tasked with leading the government’s response to the virus outbreak, ministers instructed the healthcare system to prepare for hospitals around the country to accept a potential additional 2,000 coronavirus patients needing ventilators.

Ministers also decided to raise the fine for failure to wear masks in public, from NIS 200 ($58) to NIS 500 ($145).

Netanyahu said the government would weigh dramatically stepping up enforcement of social distancing rules as well as okaying local lockdowns in outbreak areas and limitations on public gatherings.

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