TLV's Dan Panorama to open Tuesday morning, then J'lem's Dan

IDF readies hotels to house coronavirus patients with light symptoms

‘Now is not the time to panic,’ says Home Front Command chief, whose unit has been working with civilian authorities to combat the pandemic

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett inspects the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, which was converted into a quarantine facility for carriers of the coronavirus on March 16, 2020. (Naftali Bennett's Twitter account)
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett inspects the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, which was converted into a quarantine facility for carriers of the coronavirus on March 16, 2020. (Naftali Bennett's Twitter account)

The head of the military’s Home Front Command on Monday said his unit was preparing to open a Tel Aviv hotel that it converted into a quarantine facility for coronavirus carriers who have only light symptoms.

Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai said that Tel Aviv’s Dan Panorama Hotel would open for patients on Tuesday morning, followed hours later by Jerusalem’s Dan Hotel (formerly the Hyatt).

The two hotels were among four that Defense Minister Naftali Bennett called on the military to convert into centers to house coronavirus carriers, in what he said was an effort to relieve some of the burden on the nation’s hospitals.

The other two hotel-hospitals — one in northern Israel and one in the south — were due to open in the coming days.

Each of them is designed to hold roughly 500 people, with the capacity to hold up to 2,000 if necessary.

The head of the IDF Home Front Command Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai, left, speaks to a military delegation preparing to leave for Brazil to perform search and rescue operations in the country after a dam burst, on January 27, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

Yadai, in a calm, low voice, told reporters that, while the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic was serious, “now is not the time to panic.”

He said his unit was also working closely with civilian authorities to prepare for the continuation of the outbreak, which has infected upwards of 250 Israelis, as of Monday.

Roughly 700 Home Front Command reservists have been called up to assist in that effort, with plans to bring in another 1,300 in the coming days.

Several hundred of these have been working to develop new educational and instructional materials about the coronavirus, while others were assisting the Magen David Adom ambulance service to answer emergency calls. Yadai said the Home Front Command planned to open a dedicated website about the disease and a national informational hotline in the coming days.

The Home Front Command has also been preparing to step in and assist civilian authorities conduct coronavirus tests in the “drive-in” model that was first adopted by South Korea, Yadai said.

The system, in which tests are conducted while the suspected cases remain inside their cars, is seen as faster and safer than requiring people to come into clinics and hospitals or sending medical professionals door-to-door.

A worker disinfecting the Knesset on March 15, 2020. (Adine Wolman/Knesset Spokesperson’s Office)

Yadai said the Home Front Command was also training in sterilization and disinfection procedures, in case they were needed to sanitize national facilities.

In addition, the unit was preparing to take over Israel’s supply lines, if necessary, to ensure that those in quarantine have access to food and medicine — as well as the general public, if the situation gets bad enough to disrupt the flow of goods nationwide.

Overall, more than 50,000 Israelis were quarantined in their homes across the country, as the virus continued to spread, with the total number of infected people rising to 277 on Monday evening. Due to the relatively long time it takes for symptoms to develop, health officials believe that more people have contracted the virus, but have not yet been diagnosed.

The transitional government headed by interim Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Saturday night stricter measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The measures included transitioning staff at workplaces deemed nonessential to work from home, further limiting public gatherings and movement, shutting down malls and other leisure businesses, and shuttering kindergartens and private daycares, in addition to schools and universities, which were ordered closed for at least the next month.

Further measures were to be announced Monday evening.

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