Netanyahu plans to have teenagers disinfect railway, bus stations

PM claims virus ‘is not afflicting children or teenagers,’ despite 9th-grader among Israeli patients; vacation period could be extended; Health Ministry official criticizes plan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with the heads of the right-wing parties, March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with the heads of the right-wing parties, March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that he planned to mobilize teenagers to disinfect railway and bus stations, claiming that the new coronavirus “is not afflicting” them despite a high school student being among the infected Israelis.

The premier also indicted that the government could extend the school vacation period to fight the outbreak, which Netanyahu has called a “pandemic.” Schoolchildren are on break for the Purim holiday from Monday to Wednesday, and school is set to resume Thursday.

“It must be understood that the pandemic is not afflicting children or teenagers, thank G-d; there has not been one instance that we know of,” said Netanyahu in an official statement.

“We must disinfect public installations,” he added. “This virus is sensitive to bleach and we must act in an orderly way to disinfect railway stations, bus stations, etc. To this end, over the vacation period, which may be extended, I will mobilize teenagers, both in schools and in youth movements, in a very meticulous way, to help with the disinfection. I will also ask the IDF to take care of certain installations.”

He could have meant that the virus doesn’t typically cause serious symptoms among children and adolescents. They are still infected with it and can pass it on to their friends and families.

Health Ministry deputy director general Itamar Grotto criticized the plan.

“Children and teenagers can get infected, but their death rate is very low,” Grotto told Channel 12 news. “I do not think that disinfection is the solution — it is a secondary step. More care should be taken over contact between people.”

Workers disinfect a shop in Or Yehuda, after a man who works at the shop and returned from Italy tested positive for coronavirus, February 28, 2020. (Flash90)

While most of the coronavirus fatalities worldwide have been elderly people, there have been teenagers who died. According to statistics website Worldometers, the death rate among teenagers has been 0.2 percent — the same rate as young adults in their 20s and 30s.

Twenty-five Israelis are currently known to be infected with the virus, the latest four of whom were announced on Saturday night. One of the 25, a bus driver who ferried Greek pilgrims who later turned out to be infected with virus, is in serious condition. This patient, 38, “is fighting for his life,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said he was in touch with other world leaders and had discussed international cooperation to stem the spread of the outbreak. The virus hit a milestone Friday, infecting more than 100,000 people worldwide. It has killed nearly 3,400 people.

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