Israel mulls declaring ‘state of emergency’ over coronavirus outbreak

TEL AVIV: Israel is considering declaring a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak that has infected dozens in the occupied territories.

Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan said he was going to consider the need to announce a state of emergency, which would give the regime enhanced powers to deal with the epidemic.

“We are living in challenging times, between the coronavirus and the complicated political situation which we’ve been in for too long,” he said at the opening of a new fire station in Jerusalem al-Quds on Sunday.

The Israeli minister also announced that he had ordered the suspension of all visits to Palestinian prisoners, citing the spread of the coronavirus in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

“Cessation of visits to prisons is a necessity,” Erdan said. “The coronavirus’ arrival in prisons could result in mass infection of inmates and guards, and we must do our utmost to prevent such a scenario from materializing.”

Israel’s health ministry announced on Sunday evening that 39 Israelis had been infected with the deadly flu-like virus so far. Nevertheless, more than 80,000 Israelis are living under home quarantine.

The Israeli military said on Friday some 1,262 soldiers had been quarantined on suspicions of the new coronavirus infection.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israel canceled a major joint military drill with the United States, dubbed Juniper Cobra, over coronavirus fears.

A former American counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer of the CIA has said that the “coronavirus did not occur naturally through mutation but rather was produced in a laboratory, possibly as a biological warfare agent.”

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