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Gantz extends IDF coronavirus task force operations due to rise in cases

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

Defense Minister Benny Gantz extends operations of the military’s coronavirus task force by at least a month in light of recent outbreaks of the Delta variant of the virus, his office says.

Gantz makes his decision following a meeting with top Israel Defense Forces officers, including Deputy Chief of Staff Eyal Zamir and the head of the Home Front Command, Maj. Gen. Uri Gordin, who is responsible for the task force.

Certain aspects of the task force were due to be handed over to civilian authorities in July, specifically its contact tracing efforts, and the unit itself was due to close down in August.

However, due to fears of a renewed outbreak in Israel, the defense minister instructs the military to keep the task force active into September, including epidemiological investigations and testing oversight, Gantz’s office says.

In light of these flare-ups, many of which can be traced to people coming into Israel from abroad, Gantz has already instructed the military to supplement the testing facilities at Ben Gurion International Airport.

The defense minister also tells the military to prepare to bring back dormant COVID-19 programs, such as “Anshei Chayil,” in which the IDF assists residents of cities with large-scale outbreaks.

“It’s too early to say if we’re at the onset of a wave, but from our experience with the coronavirus, we must prepare for even extreme scenarios,” he says.

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