IDF bans leave for soldiers as infections climb

Army forced to curtail leave as several bases hit with outbreaks affecting entire units.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel’s military announced Tuesday that due to increased outbreaks of coronavirus, it is ordering a large portion of the military confined to base.

“Due to the increase in morbidity and in accordance with the ongoing assessment of the situation in the IDF, the Chief of Staff, Lt. Col. Aviv Kochavi, has decided to suspend departures to closed units starting today (Tuesday),” the IDF spokesperson’s office said in a statement.

The move came after several senior IDF commanders were forced into mandatory quarantine after coming into contact with an infected officer and outbreaks on several bases put hundreds of troops out of commission.

The new orders only affect soldiers serving on “closed bases,” where troops stay for weeks at a time without leave. Open bases where those serving go home most nights are not affected.

Exempted from the new orders are units with no confirmed cases and those units where at least 85% of the soldiers have already received their second vaccination at least a week ago.

According to IDF data, as of Tuesday morning 2,593 soldiers and IDF contract employees are mildly sick with coronavirus. One soldier is listed in critical condition. In addition, 13,157 soldiers are in isolation – a leap of 3,000 in the past four days.

To date, 125,536 soldiers have already received the first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, while 25,921 troops have received their second dose.

Health Ministry statistics show that despite a nationwide vaccination program and a continuing lockdown under which schools remain closed and most retail outlets are shuttered, the numbers remain high.

On Monday, 8,261 Israelis tested positive for the virus. There are 71,331 total people currently infected, down from about 80,000 last week. Of those infected, 1,178 are hospitalized with 1,143 listed in serious condition – a number that has not changed much in the past week.

To date, 3.2 million Israelis have been vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, and of those, just over 1.8 million have received the second dose, thus being fully vaccinated against the virus.

On Sunday night, the government voted to extend the national lockdown until at least Friday, doubling the fines for those who violate the health restrictions. It extended the order to close Ben Gurion airport until Feb. 7.