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Gantz halts planned closure of army COVID task force as cases rise

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

Defense Minister Benny Gantz tells the military it may have to delay the planned closure of its coronavirus task force in light of growing concerns in Israel of a renewed COVID-19 outbreak due to the so-called Delta variant of the virus, which is considered more contagious than other types of the disease.

New daily positive cases have more doubled since June 16, from 15 a day to 31, according to a seven-day moving average, though health experts maintain that the situation is under control. The number of cases remains well below the hundreds or even thousands of daily cases the country saw during much of the pandemic.

“In light of the data, Gantz ordered [the military] to prepare to postpone the closure of the Ella Unit, which is responsible for epidemiological investigations and coordinates the investigations in cities that have outbreaks,” Gantz’s office says.

The Israel Defense Forces’ coronavirus task force, dubbed the Ella Unit, was meant to hand over responsibility for epidemiological investigations to a civilian body beginning next month.

IDF soldiers interview people infected with coronavirus to identify who they have been in contact with, at the headquarters of the Home Front Command, in Ramle, August 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

The defense minister also instructs the military to hold off on halting any other pandemic-related operations and to prepare for the possibility that it may have to again perform coronavirus tests.

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