While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made setting a personal example a priority in combating the spread of the coronavirus, it seems the same message has not gotten through to US President Donald Trump and his administration.
Netanyahu has exhorted the Israel public to keep their distance from one another, personally demonstrated how to sneeze into a tissue, and had participants sit at least a meter (3 feet) apart at emergency press briefings and meetings.
“We are holding discussions and making decisions around the clock, including this morning and this afternoon, a large discussion but with at least a meter separating between us, and two meters where possible,” he said Friday, releasing footage of the unusual seating at one such meeting.
“On Sunday, we will hold the Cabinet meeting via video conference in order to maintain the distance. We are being an example to citizens and we hope that each one of you acts accordingly,” Netanyahu also said.
On Thursday, at a broadcast to the nation introducing new orders to shut down schools nationwide, at which he urged Israelis to “keep your distance” from one another, he noted that other ministers were not alongside him on the stage since the room was too small to enable them to sit a meter apart from each other — “the minimum” distance needed to help prevent contagion.
The difference between such behavior and the actions of US President Donald Trump and his officials at a Friday press conference to declare the virus pandemic a national emergency could not have been starker.
US medical authorities say the coronavirus is thought to spread between people in close contact, and “social distancing” has become a watchword around the world.
Speaking from the Rose Garden, Trump flouted public health officials’ advice by publicly and repeatedly shaking hands during the presentation on new efforts to combat the pandemic. At the same time, he was stressing that “anyone can be a carrier of the virus” and risk infecting older Americans and others at higher risk.
Along with Trump, participants including Vice President Mike Pence, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Debbie Birx and several senior executives of private health care companies huddled together, standing shoulder to shoulder.
a minute's worth of footage of trump and health-care execs fondling the same mic and touching each other. reassuring presser, overall! pic.twitter.com/T3Zjw0IXqB
— Andrew Kirell (@AndrewKirell) March 13, 2020
As Trump called on each one to speak, they touched and adjusted the same microphone.
Fauci repeatedly touched his face, another definite no-no.
Only Bruce Greenstein, Executive VP and Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer for LHC Group, declined to shake the president’s hand, giving him an elbow bump instead, after which the president declared, “I like that. That’s good.”
Trump, 73, was pressed on whether he should be tested after coming into contact with a Brazilian official now known to have COVID-19.
He initially shut down the question, saying that on the advice of White House doctors, “I don’t have any of the symptoms.”
But later he changed tack, saying: “I didn’t say I wasn’t going to be tested,” and that he “most likely” would be, “fairly soon.”