Lod mayor, longtime Netanyahu supporter, lashes government over virus response

Lod mayor, longtime Netanyahu supporter, lashes government over virus response

Yair Revivo, Likud campaign manager, says coalition was ‘forced on the public against its will’ and has ‘too many ministers,’ as neighborhoods in his city declared restricted zones

Yair Revivo votes in municipal elections at a polling station in the central city of Lod on October 22, 2013. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Yair Revivo votes in municipal elections at a polling station in the central city of Lod on October 22, 2013. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The mayor of Lod, a longtime supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, lashed out at the government Thursday over its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This government is one that was forced onto the public against its will. There are too many ministers, too many opinions. They’re busy engaging in internal wars and on matters that have nothing to do with the coronavirus and the economy,” Yair Revivo told Channel 12.

Revivo, who served as Likud’s campaign manager during this year’s election and was credited by Netanyahu as facilitating the party’s victory, described the unity coalition of Likud and Blue and White as “not good.”

Speaking before the government imposed new lockdown orders in parts of his city in central Israel, Revivo said he favored the restrictions — if they were applied equally to other, more prosperous areas in the country with high infection rates.

“For example, in Ra’anana, I understand there are higher infection rates, and I understand they aren’t shutting it down,” he said, referring to the upper middle-class city in central Israel. “So if there’s equality, we are in favor.”

Health care workers take test samples of Israelis to check if they have been infected with the coronavirus, at a Clalit health center in Lod, on July 5, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)

According to Health Ministry data, Lod has 192 active virus cases, 32 of which were diagnosed in the past three days. Ra’anana has 172 cases, 56 of which were found in the past three days.

Revivo also noted that residents of locked down areas were permitted to leave for work and shopping, saying the government policy on the closures was unclear.

The Lod neighborhoods of Rakevet, Snir and Neveh Shalom were closed for seven days from July 2. On Thursday night, the government extended that closure for another five days, effective Friday afternoon. It also locked down the city’s Ganei Ya’ar and Sach neighborhoods for a week.

Parts of Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Ramle and Kiryat Malachi were also declared “restricted zones” for seven days, starting at 1 p.m. on Friday, the Prime Minister’s Office and Health Ministry said in a joint statement. The restrictions will be lifted at 8 a.m. on July 17.

In the restricted areas, entries and exits will be limited, as well as traffic and business activity inside the area, the statement said, without elaborating.

Illustrative: Technicians carry out a diagnostic test for coronavirus in a lab at a Meuhedet Health Services branch in Lod, July 2, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

On Tuesday, the West Bank settlement city of Beitar Illit was declared a restricted zone for seven days, as coronavirus infections there spiked.

On Friday morning, the Health Ministry reported 1,586 new virus cases since Thursday morning, one of the highest 24-hour tallies since the start of the pandemic, with the total number of infections in Israel up to 35,533. The ministry also announced two new fatalities since Thursday evening, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 350.

The last few weeks have seen the reversal of many of the gains made in the fight against the coronavirus in recent months. The country had been placed on a nationwide lockdown for several weeks at the start of the outbreak, but removed most of its restrictions by May to reopen the economy.

As the health crisis intensifies, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a tide of anger and criticism over the government’s handling of the economic fallout of the pandemic, with polls indicating growing disapproval of his stewardship of the economy.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference about the coronavirus at his office in Jerusalem, on July 9, 2020. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Netanyahu on Thursday evening unveiled a new financial aid package for businesses and workers who lost their livelihood due to the closures, acknowledging that some government steps to reopen the economy had been premature, causing the current significant wave of infection.

In a press conference from the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said the reopening of much of the economy had in retrospect been instituted “too early.”

“I take responsibility for this step, and I take responsibility for fixing it,” he said.

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