To Tackle Possible Second COVID-19 Wave, Israel Seeks to Create Special Task Force

Sometimes politicians say outright what professional experts are still cautious about saying. At a press conference on Monday, perhaps his last on the job, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel’s current coronavirus outbreak seemed to be behind us.

“It’s apparently connected to the heat,” he mused aloud – an explanation scientists have also raised as a possibility, but which remains unproven. In the Middle East, incidence of the coronavirus has been low compared to Western Europe, but in hot Brazil, for example, the death toll has recently surged.

– Annexation isn’t the end of the world. Listen to Gideon Levy

For Israel and Palestine, annexation isn’t the end of the world. Listen to Gideon Levy

Bennett also described what he viewed as the main task of the new government – which he won’t be joining, at least for now – “setting up an emergency system to manage pandemics within 140 days,” meaning before the next outbreak of the virus, which may occur as winter approaches.

On this point, the outgoing defense minister’s views are similar to those of the Health Ministry, which is currently drafting plans to create such a system. The ministry also wants two other things: for the system to be under its management, and for the Finance Ministry to fund it generously.

For more than a week, Israel has had fewer than 100 new coronavirus cases a day. That has happened despite the easing of lockdown restrictions, a relaxation that began on April 19 and has since been significantly expanded.

The next test will come within a few days, when we see the impact of the recent reopening of preschools and schools for the lower grades. A continuation of the current trend would lead to greater risk-taking and accelerate the reopening of schools for all grades.

The decline in the number of new patients has been accompanied by a decline in the number of coronavirus tests conducted, though the rate of positive results has remained steady at around 0.5 percent. The decline in testing stems mainly from a drop in the number of people who want to be tested.