IDF Search and Rescue Brigade troops deployed to Haifa to fight COVID-19

400 troops will be in the northern Israeli city for the next two weeks

IDF troops deployed to Haifa to fight in the war against coronavirus (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF troops deployed to Haifa to fight in the war against coronavirus
Hundreds of troops from the Homefront Command’s Search and Rescue brigade have been deployed to Haifa to help battle the coronavirus pandemic days after the IDF announced that the military would be staffing two wards at the port city’s Rambam Hospital.
Col. (res.) Amir Harel, who heads the Homefront Command’s Hof HaCarmel subdistrict, told The Jerusalem Post that about 400 soldiers from the brigade started work in Haifa on Monday.
The Homefront Command’s Search and Rescue brigade is better known for delivering emergency aid to natural disaster zones abroad, but during the current crisis, its troops have been stationed in Israeli cities with high infection rates.
During the first wave, soldiers were deployed in Jerusalem together with the Nahal Brigade’s Reconnaissance Battalion and they provided food and other essential goods to the elderly and infirm. The troops now in Haifa will do the same, and will also help local authorities disseminate information, assist in increasing the number of tests and will open additional drive-in and walk-in facilities in residential neighborhoods where people can arrive to be tested without requiring a doctor’s referral.
Harel told The Post that the troops have great experience in working with civilians and know how to deal with varied communities.
“The population of Haifa is very diverse,” he said, pointing to the Arab, Jewish, secular and religious communities. “It’s a microcosm of Israel and we want to succeed here. We expect our work will get done and that we may serve as a model for other authorities.”
Troops will also transport those diagnosed with the virus and people unable to safely quarantine at home to one of the three facilities in the city. They will then check whether relatives have been infected.
“We want to take neighborhoods that are red and turn them green,” Harel said. “We, as the Homefront Command, are here to save lives. The local authorities are leading and we are helping.”
The IDF has placed 100 military medical staff at Rambam Hospital’s underground car park that has been turned into a ward to treat 770 patients.
Doctors, paramedics, nurses and medics from the military will take charge of two coronavirus wards for patients in moderate condition and are expected to start treating patients within two weeks to a month.
“As far as I'm aware, this is the first time that the IDF will be treating civilians in Israel,” IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman told reporters, adding that military medical equipment will supplement Rambam’s.
According to Zilberman, the army’s help is needed in Israel’s north because it has suffered particularly badly during the second wave.