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Israel’s virus czar says Trump’s behavior after hospitalization ‘not good’

Prof. Ronni Gamzu also concedes problems with politicians at home, intimates minister lied to investigators after violating closure, says some virus lockdown decisions political

US President Donald Trump removes his mask upon his return to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 5, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)
US President Donald Trump removes his mask upon his return to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 5, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

Israel’s coronavirus czar said Friday that US President Donald Trump’s behavior after being hospitalized for COVID-19 was “not good,” and will likely undermine the battle against the virus.

During an interview on Chanel 12 news, Ronni Gamzu was asked what he thought about Trump driving around to see supporters outside his hospital and then returning to work in the White House without a mask, and while still contagious.

“It’s not good,” he said of Trump’s behavior. “It’s not good in terms of messaging to the public. It’s not good with respect to the [health] professionals. It’s not good for the battle [against COVID],” Gamzu said. “So overall, I think it’s less appropriate.”

Trump has faced widespread criticism of his conduct in the White House with regard to virus prevention from both allies and opponents.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled legislation Friday that would allow Congress to intervene under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove the president, insisting it’s not about Trump but inspired by the need for greater congressional oversight of his White House.

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Pelosi has been raising questions about Trump’s mental fitness since his COVID-19 diagnosis and demanding more transparency about his health.

Pelosi said Trump needs to disclose more about his health after his COVID-19 diagnosis and when, exactly, he first contracted COVID, as others in the White House have become infected. More than 210,000 Americans have died and millions more have tested positive for the coronavirus, which shows no signs of abating heading into what public health experts warn will be a difficult flu season and winter.

Even staunch Trump ally Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that he had stopped going to the White House two months ago because he disagreed with its coronavirus protocols. His last visit was Aug. 6.

“My impression was their approach to how to handle this was different from mine and what I insisted we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” McConnell said at a campaign stop in northern Kentucky for his own reelection.

Trump says he “feels great” after being hospitalized and is back at work in the White House. But his doctors have given mixed signals about his diagnosis and treatment. Trump plans to resume campaigning soon.

Israel’s coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu visits the Ziv Hospital in Safed, September 27, 2020 (David Cohen/FLASH90)

Gamzu has had a tough time with Israeli politicians too. Israel has seen a spate of top officials and prominent figures, including the prime minister’s wife and the heads of the IDF and Shin Bet security service, violate restrictions as the country is under a second national lockdown.

Gamzu also intimated that Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel lied to Health Ministry epidemiological investigators looking into how she became infected, apparently trying to conceal that she had broken quarantine.

After being repeatedly asked if Gamliel lied, Gamzu conceded that “it was hard to get all the details [from her.]”

There were certain things that “didn’t match up” in her account to investigators, he said.

Gamliel faced calls for her dismissal on Monday after she admitted that last week she broke a lockdown limit by traveling from her Tel Aviv home to the northern city of Tiberias.

Gamliel spent time on Yom Kippur, last Sunday evening and Monday, at a synagogue in Tiberias, where her father-in-law is the rabbi, Kan reported.

Then-Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel attends a ceremony in Jerusalem on May 18 2020. (Flash90)

The Haaretz daily reported that Gamliel repeatedly changed her testimony to investigators and tried to conceal various aspects of her trip.

Gamliel on Monday did not admit to doing anything wrong, but allowed later on that she may not have handled the situation correctly.

“I acted in line with guidelines, though it is possible I erred in my judgment. I am sorry, I will pay the fine,” she said in a statement.

Gamzu also acknowledged that some of the decisions taken in deciding on a second national lockdown were political and not medical.

The government has faced widespread criticism for apparently being unwilling to only close down highly infected areas, most of them ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, due to pressure from the Haredi parties.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also been accused of imposing limits on the operation of small businesses so that he could impose limits on the mass protests against him.

“I fight every decision where I think there is a political component,” Gamzu said.

“I put my message across and it has been absorbed. However, in some cases the professional position was not accepted,” Gamzu said, conceding that “sometimes there were other considerations.”

Gamzu also rejected the frequent criticism he has faced from some ministers and coalition members. “I don’t react to it,” he said. “My obligation is to fight the coronavirus. Some people say stuff. Everyone is smart in retrospect and finds a way to make headlines.”

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