Netanyahu: Coronavirus worst epidemic ‘since Middle Ages’

The Prime Minister hinted at possible fines for people leaving their homes for nonessential purposes, comparing the coronavirus to epidemics of the Middle Ages.

By Joshua Robbin Marks, World Israel News

While some are comparing the coronavirus to the Spanish Flu of 1918, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reaching even further back in history to the medieval period, calling COVID-19 “the toughest epidemic we have seen since the Middle Ages,” during an interview Saturday night on Channel 13 News.

“Most countries are on the verge of losing control, including advanced countries such as Germany, France and soon the United States as well,” Netanyahu continued. “There are currently countries with huge shortages, and we are relatively well off.”

The Spanish Flu of 1918 infected some 500 million people and claimed 20 million lives. More recent research puts that number much higher, betweeen 50-100 million.

Ancient epidemics

However, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Middle Ages saw many devastating epidemics including leprosy, Bubonic plague, smallpox, tuberculosis, scabies, erysipelas, anthrax, trachoma, sweating sickness and dancing mania.

The two worst diseases during the Middle Ages were the Justinian Plague and the Black Death, also known as Bubonic Plague.

According to The History Channel, the Justinian Plague starting in 541 C.E. killed about 50 million people, or 26 percent of the world population, over the course of two centuries.

The Black Death (Bubonic Plague) entered Europe through Sicily at the port of Messina in 1347 A.D. and swept across Europe over the next three years, killing an estimated 75 to 200 million people worldwide. Europe lost 30 to 60 percent of its population.

In the interview, Netanyahu suggested possible fines for civilians who leave their homes for nonessential purposes other than equipping themselves or receiving medical attention. The Ministry of Health is currently not mandating that civilians stay at home. Netanyahu also said that a “full closure” is possible.

Unity appeal

The caretaker prime minister, in a separate interview with Channel 12 News, also discussed the tentative agreement for a unity government that would avoid a fourth round of elections.

If the agreement with Blue and White is signed, Netanyahu would serve as prime minister for a year-and-a-half until Sept. 21, 2021 before Blue and White leader Benny Gantz takes over.

“[It’s] ready to be signed. What’s standing in its way at the moment is [Blue and White’s attempt] to take over the Knesset,” said Netanyahu. “This is a last call for unity.”