IDF ups state of readiness in fight against the coronavirus
Dubbed "Operation Sunbeam" the IDF is preparing to the assist civilians dealing with coronavirus
By ANNA AHRONHEIM
The Israeli military is moving to a higher state of readiness and is preparing to assist the police to enforce a quarantine should a nation-wide lockdown be imposed on the country due to the continued spread of the deadly coronavirus, IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman announced on Thursday.While a state of emergency has not been declared, the defense establishment has been preparing to assist should the move be announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a country-wide lockdown is imposed. The military will also be enforcing the regulations imposed by the Health Ministry on all bases across the country.Zilberman, on a conference call with reporters, said that IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi held a situational assessment with the General Staff regarding the ongoing pandemic and raised the military’s state of alert in order to deal with the crisis in the country.The number of individuals diagnosed with the virus climbed to 529 cases by Thursday morning, the second day of jumps of close to 100 cases. The Health Ministry said that they’ve increased their testing, carrying out some 2,200 tests on Tuesday and Wednesday.The IDF on Thursday morning said that another soldier had been diagnosed with the virus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the military to 10. The 24 year-old career officer was infected by another confirmed carrier of the virus. There are another 5,639 soldiers and career officers currently in quarantine.The military on Tuesday dubbed the fight against the virus as “Operation Sunbeam,” and will see commanders enforce the regulations placed by the health ministry to avoid crowds. To ensure that orders are being followed by troops, several surprise reviews have been conducted in 40 bases across the country.Troops will also work in shifts known as “capsule system”, especially those in essential units, which will see all troops per shift remain completely separate from the other. Troops will also be asked to refrain from taking public transportation and as such the military will provide buses in which no more than 25 soldiers will travel in at a time.AdvertisementThe military has also been working in conjunction with Magen David Adom rescue services and has established a call center, a national emergency portal, blood drive with a goal to obtain at least 7,000 units of blood, logistical help for the drive-thru test centers, the quarantine hotels across the country and more.On Thursday, Israel’s Defense Minister Naftali Bennett ordered the IDF’s Homefront Command to establish the national emergency center to assist the public due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The center which will serve as a focal point for managing civilian assistance and will assist local authorities and the general public in terms of food, medical assistance, mental support, transportation and more.The center is expected to open next week and will be run by troops from the Homefront Command.The IDF’s elite 81 intelligence technology unit is also working with MDA, various hospitals and the health ministry on technological aspects, including producing face masks for health care providers and 50 vans with internal separators to protect drivers from infected patients as well as information management software for laboratories testing for corona.According to Zilberman, the unit is aiming to produce some 1,000 masks per day and 400 masks have already been delivered to medical professionals. In a bid to support health care providers,hundreds of female soldiers will also support medical professionals by caring for and teaching their children.Zilberman also confirmed that the IDF will be testing Israelis for the coronavirus along with crews from Magen David Adom.Starting Thursday morning, some 100 crews will begin travelling to the homes of Israelis across the country who are suspected of carrying the virus. According to a report by Army Radio, a MDA paramedic will be part of each crew and will be taking samples from the patients. Zilberman said that in addition to vehicles already on the road, another 50 mobile crews will join and another 50 teams will be working to check troops on IDF bases across the country.The military also announced that following a situational announcement, all military try-outs have been postponed until further notice due to the continued spread of the deadly virus.On Tuesday the IDF’s Homefront Command along with the Israel Police and Health Ministry opened the country’s first corona quarantine facility in Tel Aviv’s Dan Panorama hotel. A total of four hotels will be opened across the country to isolate those diagnosed with the virus as well as provide them with medical care as needed. According to Zilberman, 115 patients have entered the two facilities since they opened.Despite reports that the military is also currently discussing the process of establishing a field hospital in the south of the country for patients who are lightly ill with the virus, Zilberman denied the reports, saying that the military is not equipped to build such facilities. The field hospitals that the military can build are better suited for natural disasters such as earthquakes.Rather, the holiday village at Ashkelon of “Yahad – United for Israel’s Soldiers” will be converted into an inpatient facility for soldiers who have been diagnosed with the virus and will open as early as Friday morning managed by the military’s Medical Corps.
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