New orders to stem spread of coronavirus in IDF

IDF rolls out new safety measures as 3,700 troops quarantined; combat troops to be restricted to base.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel’s armed forces announced new mandatory guidelines Monday in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the military, where almost four thousand soldiers are under a two-week quarantine to ensure they are not carrying the virus, Israel’s Channel 13 News reported.

Under the new rules, most combat soldiers will be restricted to base for up to a month, IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Hedi Zilberman said, adding that no special tests had been carried out yet for the coronavirus in the armed forces.

Five soldiers are confirmed to be infected with the disease, with another 3,700 in isolation. Most combat soldiers and new recruits may be restricted to base and should be “prepared for extended stays for a period of up to one month,” the IDF said on its website.

As of Monday 250 Israelis have been found to be infected with the coronavirus, with 190 of those hospitalized.

At a briefing with military reporters, Zilberman hinted that the pandemic may have resulted in reduced Iranian activity following the outbreak of the virus, Channel 13 reported.

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“There are countries that are hostile to us who have been hit much more than us in the corona saga, so much so that their activities have been shaken,” Zilberman said, without mentioning the Islamic Republic by name. Iran has repeatedly called for Israel’s total annihilation.

The military also said it set up specialized communication equipment for an unspecified number of senior officers — colonels and above — who are currently in the mandatory two-week quarantine.

The quarantined troops include 117 lone soldiers — service members who are not supported financially by their parents or who do not have family in the country — who are being isolated at a military facility in the coastal town of Givat Olga, 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Tel Aviv.

Zilberman said the IDF’s current goal is to limit contact between soldiers and civilians as well as between troops.

To that end, the military is preventing all troops who serve on “closed bases” — generally, training bases and forward outposts along Israel’s borders — from leaving for at least the next month.

Soldiers serving on “open bases” who sleep in their own homes have largely begun working in shifts in order to ensure that the military’s operations can continue unabated, Zilberman said.

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The IDF is continuing to draft new soldiers as scheduled, but is preparing for the possibility that the outbreak of the virus may affect future enlistments, particularly those scheduled for this summer. However, draftees who are currently under isolation will only report for basic training when they clear quarantine with a clean bill  of health.

So far some 700 reservists have been called up to assist the IDF in its efforts to counter the coronavirus. An order signed Sunday by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett authorized the IDF to call up to 2,000 reservists to active duty.