Netanyahu said to have rejected plan in April to prevent renewed virus outbreak
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Netanyahu said to have rejected plan in April to prevent renewed virus outbreak

PM reportedly dismissed proposal pushed by Mossad that called for appointment of ‘coronavirus czar,’ creation of system to detect and ‘extinguish’ COVID-19 hotspots

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, on July 5, 2020. (Amit Shabi/Pool/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, on July 5, 2020. (Amit Shabi/Pool/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in April rejected a plan aimed at preventing a renewed outbreak of the coronavirus, Israeli television reported Tuesday.

According to Channel 13 news, the plan was pushed by the Mossad spy agency and enjoyed the backing of much of Israel’s security establishment. The proposal was meant to create conditions in which Israelis could go about their daily routines despite the continued presence of the virus.

The report said the plan called for the appointment of a “coronavirus czar,” who would oversee Israel’s response to the pandemic; creating a system to detect and “extinguish” virus hotspots; forming a computerized system to centralize data on infections and the number of people in quarantine; and dividing Israel into zones, which would be assigned designations based on their infection rates.

When the plan was presented to Netanyahu, he “shelved” it, the network said.

The prime minister instead favored a plan drawn up by his National Security Council, according to the report, but it was never implemented.

The report comes as Israel struggles to put a lid on a surge in new infections, with critics taking aim at the government for its alleged failure to develop a strategy for coping with the virus.

Much of the criticism has focused on the government’s relatively swift rollback of restrictions put in place to contain the outbreak, as well as problems with testing and contact tracing that have hampered efforts to prevent the virus from further spreading.

The government has also come under fire for its handling of the economic fallout that has accompanied the lockdown measures it has authorized.

Earlier Tuesday, one of the top Health Ministry officials leading Israel’s virus response announced her resignation, criticizing the authorities’ handling of the outbreak and describing a chaotic and ineffective approach to tackling the crisis.

Prof. Siegal Sadetzki, head of health services at the Health Ministry speaks during a press conference about the coronavirus COVID-19, at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem on May 31, 2020. (Flash90)

Prof. Siegal Sadetzki, director of public health in the Health Ministry, warned in a Facebook post that “Israel is heading to a dangerous place.”

Health Ministry figures released Tuesday evening showed 1,137 new infections confirmed in the past day, in the largest 24-hour tally since the virus reached Israel.

The new cases brought the number of total confirmed cases to 31,886. The Health Ministry also announced four new deaths, bringing the toll to 342.

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