IDF now seeing coronavirus cases from the Jewish High Holy Days

Dozens of outbreaks are being reported across the military, from training bases to operational Air Force squadrons • infected commander without a mask infects 25 soldiers

The IDF prepares for the holidays in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the security situation. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
The IDF prepares for the holidays in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the security situation.
With the end of the Jewish holidays, the Israeli military is now paying the price for allowing soldiers to celebrate with their families, as dominoes topple at the bases and one soldier after another comes down with coronavirus.
There have been outbreaks across military bases. On Tuesday some 36 soldiers from the INS Lahav were diagnosed with the virus and dozens more were forced to quarantine after one soldier came down with a high fever last week.
According to Army Radio, the soldier did not fit the criteria to get tested by the IDF’s medical corps and paid hundreds of shekel out of his own pocket to get a private test. He later tested positive for the virus.
The soldiers join the 1,192 service members who have been diagnosed with the virus and the 5,089 others who are in quarantine.
With numbers spiking across the country at the end of September, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi ordered all combat soldiers, as well as those currently in training and those in units where they don’t go home on weekends, to stay on base for an extended stay for a period of up to one month.
At open bases, soldiers were instructed to work in shifts while maintaining capsules in an attempt to reduce contact.
Two weeks later, the number of cases among the civilian population is on the decline, but within the IDF the numbers continue to rise. There are 10 bases across the country which have been labeled as “red” due to the high infection rate, from training bases to the Air Force’s 253rd Negev Squadron at the Ramon Airbase.
On Monday evening it was reported that a company commander from the elite Commando brigade violated regulations, praying at the base of the Commando school’s synagogue without a mask despite being confirmed to have the virus. He infected another 25 soldiers and will be subject to disciplinary action.
A larger outbreak has hit another training base, with 102 female cadets at the IDF’s Camp Dotan (Base 80) having been diagnosed with the virus after a fellow cadet returned sick to base following a furlough at her parent’s home for the Rosh Hashanah holiday.
There have also been outbreaks at the Bahad 1 officer’s training base and at the Kfir and Nahal training bases.
With the growing number of cases across the military, the IDF is reportedly contemplating enforcing stricter regulations and reducing the number of soldiers in capsules. But will that really nip the virus in the bud? Or is it too late?
It can take two weeks for symptoms to surface, and soldiers may not know whether or not they are carrying the virus. And if they do turn out to be sick, there is a good chance that they transmitted the virus to their comrades in arms before they were able to be safely quarantined.
Senior military officers have stressed the importance of troops and their parents informing the military if they are feeling unwell because even one case can lead to dozens more.
We are already seeing that happen, and like at Camp Dotan, the lack of proper quarantine for troops allowed for cross-contamination which only led to healthy cadets coming down with the virus.
There are also troops who return to base knowing they are sick, like at the Commando training school, and then infect other troops.
The numbers from the High Holy Days will keep rising, and though the military says its operational readiness hasn’t been affected, does it really want to take the chance that it just might be?