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Ombudsman faults decision-making on COVID under Netanyahu

Israelis, some wearing face masks, walk on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, August 29, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Israelis, some wearing face masks, walk on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, August 29, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The State Comptroller’s Office releases a report faulting the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The report covers past outbreaks under then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and does not address the response of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government to the current outbreak.

“Defects were found in the process of making decisions on implementing them,” State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman writes.

According to Englman, there was no “arranged procedure” to supervise and monitor the decisions made by Netanyahu and the government, and no process was put in place by the National Security Council or Health Ministry to “learn lessons” at a national level.

He says numerous decisions — such as on presenting alternative morbidity forecasts and purchasing ventilators — were not deliberated by the government but made in “different forums led by the prime minister.”

The report describes home quarantine for arriving travelers as “inefficient” in both compliance and enforcement.

Additionally, Englman decries how restrictions were enforced, arguing “there was no congruence between the places in which there was an outbreak of the coronavirus and enforcement in these places.”

He notes that the number of fines issued in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak — both of which have large ultra-Orthodox populations — “did not correlate to the high levels of morbidity.”

Netanyahu, who is closely allied with the Haredi Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, faced criticism during the pandemic for allegedly not ordering more stringent enforcement of COVID rules in ultra-Orthodox areas with high infection rates.

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