Israel still functioning as top leaders work from quarantine

Government continuing to function as Netanyahu and top officials work from quarantine after being exposed to infected people, including health minister.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will remain in quarantine until next week but he conducted business-as-usual Friday running Israel’s government in the battle to slow the coronavirus health and economic crisis.

Netanyahu and several top leaders and officials were forced into mandatory quarantine after it was discovered this week that Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman tested positive for the disease. Several top government and health officials who had met with Litzman in the past week are working from home. Others, like the IDF chief of staff, who met with an army officer who later proved to be infected, were quarantining themselves in their offices in order to keep working without interruption.

Government work continued Friday from isolation as Netanyahu held a series of telephone and video conferences with senior officials, including cabinet ministers, senior health and security officials security and the mayor of the city of Bnei Brak – the area hardest hit by the coronavirus. It was decided that the military is responsible for providing civilian assistance to Bnei Brak’s 200,000 residents while police will enforce movement restrictions aimed at keeping people indoors and lowering the spread of infection.

“This model should be prepared for implementation in other places that the Minister of Health recommends,” Netanyahu said on his Twitter account. Restricted zones are expected to be set up in a half dozen other areas of high-infection across the country.

Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and the head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen, who had all met with Litzman, have so far all tested negative for the virus.

Litzman is working from home but has no computer, internet or smartphone, Israel Hayom reported. The head of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party conforms to religious edicts that forbid modern devices that contain inappropriate images, and he uses only a standard mobile phone with no video screen. It is unknown if the minister knows how to use e-mail.

After testing positive for the virus, the health minister apparently broke his own ministry’s guidelines by attending synagogue prayer services near his home earlier this week, Channel 12 news reported.

The report quoted an unnamed senior minister who accused Litzman of “knowingly demonstrating contempt” for the rules that had “put all of our lives in danger … we are all taking the greatest possible care in these days. And yet the health minister, of all people, doesn’t recognize the gravity of the situation, and endangers us all, ultimately harming decision-making.”