Rivlin criticizes government for lack of ‘clear coronavirus doctrine’

President urges creation of a central body to tackle pandemic, as virus rates continue alarming upward trend

President Reuven Rivlin during a meeting with hoteliers, business people and residents in Eilat on June 6, 2020. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin during a meeting with hoteliers, business people and residents in Eilat on June 6, 2020. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin criticized the government for its failure to develop what he called a “clear coronavirus doctrine” on Wednesday, calling for the formation of a central state body to respond to the pandemic.

“Up until now, the State of Israel has not developed a clear and coherent doctrine to combat the virus,” he said, addressing graduates of Israel’s National Security College, according to Hebrew media reports.

His comments came a day after a senior health official resigned, warning Israel was heading down a “dangerous” path, with virus rates soaring over the past month. Prof. Siegal Sadetzki also criticized the authorities’ handling of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and described a chaotic and ineffective approach to tackling the crisis.

“We do not have a single body centered on the knowledge, the struggle, the coping, the control and the discourse with the public,” Rivlin said on Wednesday.

“The coronavirus epidemic further deepens the need for drafting a comprehensive national security concept for the State of Israel, which not only examines itself through the sights of a rifle, but takes into account at its core social, economic and even health issues.”

Jerusalemites wearing face masks for fear of the coronavirus at the Mamilla mall in Jerusalem, July 6, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“There is no room for political calculations by the Defense Ministry with regard to the Health Ministry,” he continued, referring to disputes about which ministry should take the lead on combating the pandemic.

“We must give the reins to the body that can bring the best results, with all the other ministries subordinated and assisting it,” he said.

Amid growing criticism, in a press conference Monday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said he will soon name “a special manager for the campaign against the coronavirus.”

“His role will be to integrate the matter, beginning with the testing system, through disrupting the infection chain and other activities related to the virus,” Edelstein said.

According to Channel 13, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Roni Numa is considered a favorite for the post. The network said a number of other candidates are being considered, but didn’t name them.

The Health Ministry on Wednesday morning released new figures showing an overnight jump of 21 new serious COVID-19 cases. The number of serious cases has been steadily increasing since the start of the current outbreak, which marks the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Israel.

Two weeks ago Israel had 45 serious coronavirus patients. On Thursday the number stood at 65, it then jumped to 86 on Tuesday evening, and leaped overnight to 107.

Israel had previously all but declared victory over the virus, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying in a press conference on May 4 that Israel is “a model for many countries, and the world is learning from us.”

On Monday, Israel announced a new raft of regulations, partially reimposing many restrictions that had been lifted as the first wave eased. Netanyahu called the new rules “a step away from a full lockdown.”

Israel has seen over 32,000 infections and 343 deaths since the pandemic began.

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