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IDF steps up readiness to battle spread of virus, obtain medical equipment and care for patients

By Yaakov Lappin

(JNS) The Defense Ministry announced on Thursday that its Directorate of Production and Procurement will be taking over the mission of purchasing all of the needed medical equipment needed to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

This will include 2,500 ventilation machines purchased in Israel and abroad. Some 1,000 machines will be assembled in Israel, and another 1,500 bought abroad and flown in.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces unveiled a new operational order, given by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi on Thursday, which will see significant military participation in assisting civilian health systems deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a statement by Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, international IDF spokesperson, the military is being guided by three objectives: ensuring a continued ability to defend the country; actively defending against enemy threats, which have not vanished, on land, in the air and at sea; and supporting national efforts to medical authorities in their battle against the virus.

In terms of assisting national efforts, the IDF Home Front Command has almost completed preparations to open the recovery center at the Dan Jerusalem Hotel, while the Tel Aviv center, based at the Dan Panorama, is up and running. Home Front Command personnel are managing the hotels.

The Home Front Command has also set up a national information online portal in three languages to pass on vital information to civilians, while personnel are also staffing a call center together with Magen David Adom (MDA) paramedics.

In addition, the IDF has also initiated a blood drive with the target of obtaining 7,000 portions of blood to support shortages in hospitals.

Military vehicles will begin transporting corona test kits to labs from the homes of civilians. They will also be used as ambulances to beef up the number of emergency medical vehicles.

As part of the new effort, the IDF’s technological units have begun developing new solutions for hospitals and MDA paramedics. One such unit is adapting a respiratory mask to match the specific needs of corona patients.

Another technological unit in the Intelligence Directorate has developed an application that will help medical teams manage tests and speed up the process in which it takes to get back results.

The Intelligence Directorate is factoring in and tracking virus spread developments in its overall assessments.

‘Current and future contingencies’

Looking ahead, the IDF is preparing for the scenario of broader infection. Should that occur, it will begin sending its own medical staff into Israeli hospitals for assistance. Personnel will also begin assisting the elderly and other vulnerable segments of the population.

It would also take steps to ensure that supply lines in the country—and to the country from abroad—will continue delivering food, medical supplies, and other necessities.

The Home Front Command’s Nuclear Biological and Chemical Battalion is also readying for the possibility of being called on to decontaminate infected areas.

The “Ray of Light” order deals with “current and future contingencies,” said Conricus, and one of its first acts is stepping up military readiness to level two out of four, due to a need to step up health-related measures.

Within the units, stricter implementation of units will begin, particularly among combat units, that are key to national security. Officers will begin active inspection of units to ensure that prevention measures are being observed.

Units will also create a shift system to ensure that key personnel in each unit remain independent of one another, thereby preventing the scenario of the entire staff being infected at once, even if some of the unit comes down with COVID-19 disease.

The army has limited the use of public transport and set up dedicated transportation for soldiers in areas with limited mass transport. It has also opened a facility in the southern city of Ashkelon to care for mildly sick soldiers, in order to alleviate pressure on civilian hospitals.

Earlier on Thursday, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett ordered the Home Front Command to set up an emergency national system for helping the economy and civilians deal with the emergency. The new civilian assistance center, which will include government ministries and voluntary organizations, will act as a central management center for civilian assistance efforts. It will provide help to local authorities and the general public in the areas of food, medical assistance, mental health, transportation and other areas.

The Home Front Command also launched a hotline for citizens that can be reached by dialing 104.

Some 5,600 IDF personnel are in quarantine. The IDF has 10 soldiers are confirmed as being infected with the virus; none are in serious condition.

Main Photo: IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi during a meeting with the soldiers of the Home Front Command assisting in the national effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). (Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

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