IDF chief enters quarantine after exposure to coronavirus carrier

Military says Aviv Kohavi is feeling fine as he heads into isolation for 2nd time since start of pandemic; Gantz approves call-up of 2,000 reservists to assist in virus response

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a ceremony in the military's Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv on June 18, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a ceremony in the military's Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv on June 18, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi entered quarantine Thursday after it was confirmed that he had been in the vicinity of a coronavirus carrier, the military said.

Kohavi met last week with a serviceman later confirmed to be a carrier, the statement from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said.

“The chief of staff will be in quarantine and stick to his daily routine, as much as possible,” it said. “He feels well, is not displaying symptoms, and will be tested shortly.”

An unspecified number of other officers will also enter a 14-day isolation period, according to the army.

This is the second time the IDF chief has found himself in quarantine since the start of the pandemic. In April he went into isolation after similar exposure, but tested negative and was let out.

Several other senior officers have also entered quarantine after they too were in contact with the coronavirus carrier.

Education Minister Rafi Peretz attends a meeting of the Jewish Home party in Tel Aviv, January 13, 2020. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Jewish Home MK Rafi Peretz, the minister for Jerusalem affairs and heritage, entered quarantine earlier Thursday after a member of his staff was diagnosed with COVID-19.

According to a statement from his office, Peretz most recently met with the adviser on Tuesday last week.

“The minister feels good and will take a coronavirus test and follow the Health Ministry’s instructions. In addition, all advisers and office workers who came into contact with the same adviser will also enter isolation,” the minister’s spokesperson said in a statement.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also entered isolation on Wednesday after coming into contact with a confirmed carrier, a family member, on June 28.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“Gantz feels good and will continue to manage the ministry’s matters and the rest of his public work from isolation,” his office said.

His office said special equipment and software would be installed in his home to allow him to continue working on sensitive defense-related matters.

On Saturday, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana entered quarantine after the head of the Border Police force tested positive for COVID-19. Ohana said he had decided to voluntarily self-isolate out of an abundance of caution, even though his two meetings with Border Police Commander Yaakov Shabtai did not meet the Health Ministry standards requiring quarantine.

Other ministers and top military officials have been forced into quarantine during various times since the start of the pandemic, though only two lawmakers — then-health minister Yaakov Litzman and Joint List MK Sami Abou Shahadeh — have tested positive for the virus.

Magen David Adom paramedics in protective gear bring a patient suspected of having COVID-19 to the coronavirus unit at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer on July 8, 2020. (Flash90)

The last few weeks have seen the reversal of many of the gains made in the fight against the coronavirus in recent months. New daily virus cases, which had dropped to low double digits through most of May, have soared to over a thousand a day, and the number of active cases has reached an all-time high.

Also Thursday, Gantz approved the call-up of an additional 2,000 reservists for the rest of the month — in addition to the 750 reservists that Gantz has already cleared to be called up — to assist in the government’s response to the coronavirus, his office said.

The decision was made following a meeting with the IDF top brass, including the head of the IDF Home Front Command Maj. Gen. Uri Gordin and IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Eyal Zamir, who is leading the military’s coronavirus response effort.

Gantz’s office said the additional reservists would be deployed to the areas most affected by the pandemic and would assist in the Military Intelligence coronavirus information center, staff quarantine coronavirus recovery hotels, work with local governments and serve in the IDF Home Front Command’s headquarters.

In some cases, these reservists will be called up for only a few days, depending on how many new coronavirus cases there are.

The Health Ministry said Thursday morning that there had been 1,231 new infections confirmed in Israel over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 33,947. The ministry reported two more deaths, bringing the total to 346.

On Tuesday, there were 1,348 new infections, the Health Ministry said, which appeared to be the highest single-day total since the outbreak began.

According to ministry figures, as of Thursday morning there were 15,209 active virus cases, including 118 people in serious condition, and 41 people on ventilators. Another 88 people were in moderate condition and the rest have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.

The number of serious cases has been steadily increasing since the start of the current outbreak. Two weeks ago Israel had 45 serious coronavirus patients. On Thursday last week the number stood at 65, it then jumped to 86 on Tuesday evening, and leaped overnight to 107 Wednesday morning.

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