Public Security Ministry asks IDF for 16 battalions to enforce lockdown

Report comes as neighboring countries see troops on the street to impose government mandated lockdowns in the fight against COVID-19

IDF Hiram (769 Brigade) base (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF Hiram (769 Brigade) base
With the militaries of neighboring countries imposing coronavirus lockdowns, the Public Security Ministry has asked the IDF to provide 16 battalions to help the police enforce a nationwide quarantine should one be imposed.
On Sunday, public broadcaster KAN reported that as part of the request, each police district will be assisted by two battalions, which will enforce the lockdown as well as assist in supplying essential equipment.
New emergency regulations to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus took effect Sunday at 8 a.m., which requires all citizens to remain at home unless going to work or doing essential tasks such as buying food or walking pets.
The police have also received the new guidelines regarding enforcing quarantine and other government regulations, including dispersing a gathering of more than 10 people and arresting those who violate isolation orders.
The police on Sunday reported that officers have made more than 14,000 visits to patients under quarantine to make sure they were complying with isolation orders. Some 126 investigations were opened against those violating the order. Police also dispersed 42 large gatherings, and 18 businesses that “blatantly violated” the Health Ministry’s guidelines were shut down.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, troops were seen on the streets of Lebanon and Jordan enforcing the government-ordered lockdowns.
According to Lebanon’s Naharnet, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the government “tasked the army, Internal Security Forces, General Security and State Security to implement the order for citizens not to leave their homes, except out of extreme necessity, and prevent gatherings contravening” the emergency order.
“The plans include staging patrols and erecting checkpoints on roads to enforce commitment to the taken measures,” he added. Lebanon’s Health Ministry has said there are 206 citizens diagnosed with the virus.
On Thursday, Jordan imposed a strict curfew after citizens ignored recommendations by the government to remain at home. Jordan’s military sealed off the capital from the rest of the country and placed Amman’s 10 million residents under a curfew, which began at 7 a.m. on Saturday and will be in effect until March 24.
“The government will announce on Tuesday, March 24, certain times when citizens will be allowed to run errands,” read a government decree. The curfew bans people from moving around except for emergencies.
While the IDF has not yet been ordered to enforce the quarantine, the military is testing Israelis for the coronavirus along with crews from Magen David Adom.
Starting Thursday morning, 100 crews will travel to the homes of people suspected of carrying the virus. According to a report by Army Radio, an MDA paramedic will be part of each crew and will be taking samples from the patients. IDF Spokesman Hidai 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 IDF announced that 16 servicemembers have been diagnosed with the virus.
Authorities have been predicting a large spike in the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus as testing across the country sped up, with the Health Ministry’s deputy director-general Itamar Grotto stating that they have boosted tests to around 3,000 per day and 5,000 per day by next week.
On Saturday night, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted that while he congratulated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to carry out mass tests, the goal must be 30,000 a day and then transfer all those slightly ill with the virus to quarantine facilities set up across the country to slow down the spread of the coronavirus and “avoid a tsunami of hospitalizations.”
On Sunday, officials from the Health Ministry told KAN that the Defense Ministry under Bennett was trying to take control of the country’s efforts to deal with the pandemic in an attempt to gain political credit.
His office responded to the attack, telling The Jerusalem Post that Bennett believes that tens of thousands must be checked every day for the virus to be one step ahead of the outbreak.
“The current policy is not satisfactory and will not cover the public. We will never know how many people have the virus... there may be 5,000 patients and not the 1,000 that we currently know about. Our ambition is to do as many tests as possibly to get an indication of where we are in respect to the spread of the virus, and if we see a decrease then to ease the restrictions on the economy.”