IDF says no active COVID cases among soldiers, in first since start of outbreak

Military declares itself coronavirus-free as Health Ministry records only 13 daily cases nationwide, the lowest in nearly a year

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

Israeli soldiers wearing protective face masks walk on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem on June 23, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers wearing protective face masks walk on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem on June 23, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces declared itself coronavirus-free on Sunday as it recorded zero active cases of the disease among its ranks for the first time since the outbreak of the virus.

The military reported its first coronavirus case on March 2, 2020, when a soldier who worked part-time at a toy store tested positive for the disease. The number of conscripts, career officers and civilian employees of the IDF diagnosed with the disease has risen and fallen in the interim 14 months, reaching a peak in February with over 3,000 cases.

Also on Sunday, the Health Ministry said 13 new coronavirus cases were confirmed Saturday in the entire country — the lowest daily number in nearly a year. Just 0.1 percent of COVID-19 tests came back positive, it said.

According to the ministry, there were 1,430 total active cases throughout the country, 102 of them in serious condition.

The military credited its success in ridding itself of the coronavirus to a zealous vaccination campaign.

“The achievement we marked this morning is a significant milestone in our fight against the virus: thanks to the efforts of IDF service members and the national vaccination effort — there are no coronavirus patients in the IDF,” Chief Medical Officer Brig. Gen. Dr. Alon Glasberg said in a statement.

In March, the military declared that it had reached “herd immunity” from the disease as more than 80 percent of all servicemembers had been vaccinated or had recovered from the coronavirus.

“We will continue to keep our finger on the pulse and to ensure the health of servicemembers — for their benefit and in order to allow the IDF to fulfill its mission in the best way possible,” Glasberg said.

The military launched its vaccination campaign in early January, and after five weeks three-quarters of all IDF soldiers had received at least one dose of the vaccine. As of March, over 80% had received both shots necessary for the vaccine to be fully effective.

Soldiers were not explicitly compelled to receive the vaccine — this was found to be legally problematic — but were strongly, some claimed even aggressively, encouraged to get the inoculation.

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