Regev Responds

Reports of widespread flouting of health regulations among Haredim

Israeli health authorities are increasingly concerned

Israeli health authorities are increasingly concerned about the serious coronavirus outbreak among Hasidic groups, amid reports of widespread flouting of health regulations and plans for mass gatherings over the upcoming Sukkot holiday, following such prohibited gatherings over Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

Woman wearing surgical mask, Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay Woman wearing surgical mask, Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

News reports on these troubling developments can be seen here (in Hebrew)

Ultra-Orthodox Israelis are 2.5 times more likely to test positive for the coronavirus, the government’s COVID-19 czar, Ronni Gamzu, reportedly told ministers during Wednesday’s coronavirus cabinet meeting. Roughly 28.6 percent of virus tests administered in Haredi communities returned a positive result in recent days, compared to 13.4% of the tests from Arab communities and 11.9% of the tests in the rest of the country, data Gamzu presented to ministers showed, according to Channel 12.

Figures cited by Israeli Channel 12 TV indicated that the vast majority of those infected with the coronavirus in the ultra-Orthodox community are boys and men between the ages of 17 and 24, indicating the virus is primarily spreading in yeshivas. 

On a popular Israeli radio show, Prof. Moti Ravid, General Manager of Maayan Hayeshua Hospital in Bnei Brak, was asked about the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox sector. He replied, "A not insignificant group, I think there are over a hundred thousand people in the country, are completely wild, living in their own world - with rabbis who probably think their greatness will be in killing a few more people."

The professor added: "I wouldn’t be worried, if it wasm’t one community within another, because most of them are young, but they then infect others. They return home to parents and grandparents; and to meals and prayers; where there is a mix of young and old, and they will infect more people. It will surely increase the numbers of patients in critical condition and deceased."

Ultra-Orthodox society [Constituting 10% of the population - UR] is responsible for 34% of Israel’s total morbidity.

Also very recently, Hezi Levi, the Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Health spoke at a briefing for ultra-Orthodox journalists: "Ultra-Orthodox society [Constituting 10% of the population - UR] is responsible for 34% of Israel’s total morbidity." He said one in three ultra-Orthodox Israelis has been found to be infected with COVID-19. He also said: "There is an increase in the number of patients and also in the number of ultra-Orthodox deaths."

"We see ultra-Orthodox cities maintaining high morbidity rates. This is true of Elad, Beitar, Modi'in Illit, Bnei Brak, Emanuel and Rekhasim. And the picture before us is that ultra-Orthodox society is responsible for 34% of the total morbidity." He said there are 1,687 new ultra-Orthodox patients today, which means that the percentage of positive tests is on the order of 28.5% in ultra-Orthodox society, which is almost double the general population, which means that one in three ultra-Orthodox people who are tested are confirmed to be infected."

Hezi Levi told the ultra-Orthodox journalists that one of the things that worries the health system is the upcoming Sukkot holiday. "There is potential for events that have an impact on infection. This is something that must be addressed and a solution must be found because it affects not only the ultra-Orthodox population but also the morbidity in general and the hospitals in particular."

Netanyahu himself is concerned and has reached out to leaders of these ultra-Orthodox communities. During the Prime Minister’s recent conversation with the Rebbe of Vizhnitz, the Rebbe told Netanyahu that if Shabbat were observed in Israel, then the COVID-19 pandemic would disappear from the world.

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