Anti-Netanyahu protests are ‘engine for disease’; at least 55 with corona took part in demonstrations

The demonstrations, which have numbered up to 13,000 people tightly packed together, are an “engine for increasing infection,” Levi said.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

There has been much waffling by health experts about whether the weekly demonstrations in front of the prime minister’s official residence on Balfour street in Jerusalem do or do not spread Covid-19. The verdict may be in. Health Ministry Director General Prof. Hezi Levi said they are an “engine for disease,” in an interview with Ynet on Thursday.

The demonstrations, which have numbered up to 13,000 people tightly packed together, are an “engine for increasing infection,” Levi said.

The straightforward assessment is a change from a general refusal by health officials to condemn the protests, which have been characterized by pundits, typically those against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as a sacred democratic right, one that transcends health considerations.

Generally, Israeli health professionals have said they are less worried about the protests because they take place outside and not in enclosed spaces.

Some have called for an end to the demonstrations given the health risks but their warnings until now have fallen on deaf ears.

During the demonstrations, there is physical contact, not just between demonstrators, but also between demonstrators and police as scuffles break out and people are wrestled to the ground and carried off to patrol cars.

Prof. Itamar Grotto, deputy director general of the Health Ministry, told Israel’s Channel 20 earlier this week that he thought the demonstrations were not a good thing, as all gatherings were a bad idea, but he wasn’t willing to go further than that. He noted that it was difficult to assess if someone was infected at a demonstration or somewhere else, making it hard to draw a conclusion.

However, Kan news published a report on Thursday with the first corona numbers linked to a demonstration. There were at least 55 infected who took part in protests in the last weeks. The news site noted that the statistic, which is only partial, is a direct contradiction to a report given to the Knesset’s corona committee last week that said no infected individuals took part in the demonstrations.

Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish wanted the numbers checked by ministry professionals, who confirmed that infected individuals had taken part in the demonstrations but that it was impossible to know if they had infected others.

One of the reasons the ministry doesn’t know is because on the corona form given to patients there’s no category for “demonstration,” Kan reports.