IDF holds major ceremony despite warnings of coronavirus spread

IDF holds major ceremony despite warnings of coronavirus spread

Army refuses to say how many people attended Thursday event, but participants put number in the thousands — after Health Ministry bars large public gatherings

IDF soldiers stand to attention during a ceremony. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
IDF soldiers stand to attention during a ceremony. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The army held a major ceremony on Thursday at a military base in central Israel, involving soldiers, officers and civilians, despite fears of a coronavirus outbreak and Health Ministry orders barring large gatherings.

The Israel Defense Forces refused to say how many people attended the event, but participants put the number in the thousands, Haaretz reported.

The ceremony marked the completion of a “beret march” for soldiers nearing the end of their initial training in the Nahal infantry brigade.

The soldiers, their commanders and family members were in attendance.

One soldier’s relative told Haaretz: “From the moment the guests got there, the only thing we talked about was how it didn’t make sense to do the ceremony like that. Everyone understood that it was irresponsible to put the parents in a situation like that. People said they came because they couldn’t leave their kids there alone while all the other parents were there.”

Following the ceremony, the visitors were allowed to mingle with the soldiers, where they exchanged hugs and kisses and took photos.

פורסם על ידי ‏חטיבת הנח"ל – העמוד הרשמי‏ ב- יום חמישי, 5 במרץ 2020

The IDF said the ceremony was held shortly before the government issued directives limiting army ceremonies. At around the same time as the ceremony, IDF officials decided to limit events to 100 people indoors, or 500 people outdoors, and to avoid hosting civilians at ceremonies. The order went into effect on Friday, Haaretz reported.

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry banned gatherings of more than 5,000 people throughout the country.

The IDF on Thursday forbade all soldiers from traveling abroad and canceled all international exercises due to fears surrounding the virus.

So far at least one IDF soldier has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, while hundreds have been quarantined for either traveling to countries with a high incidence of the disease or coming in contact with an infected person.

The Israeli military also announced that IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi was postponing a scheduled trip to the United States due to Health Ministry recommendations against travel abroad.

Israel has thus far taken far-reaching measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, forcing thousands of Israelis into self-quarantine, barring foreigners from countries hit hard by the virus, banning large gatherings and advising against personal contact and travel abroad.

Between 50,000 and 80,000 Israelis are under self-quarantine and large events such as concerts and sporting matches have been canceled due to directives issued by the Health Ministry.

The virus, which emerged in China late last year, has infected over 100,000 people in more than 90 countries, killing over 3,400.

Israel has confirmed 21 infections and no deaths, but one patient is in serious condition.

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