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Israel’s new COVID-19 commissioner to take office


Israel’s new COVID-19 commissioner to take office

israel coronavirus
Photo: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo

Israel’s new coronavirus commissioner Nachman Ash will assume the role today, replacing former commissioner Ronni Gamzu.

Despite the recent decline in nationwide COVID-19 infection rates, assuming the position bares significant challenges, as the recent wave of resignations in the Health Ministry hints. Ash’s predecessor Gamzu saw his authority on public health matters significantly undercut by his ally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Most notably, in late August, Netanyahu reversed a strict lockdown mandate that Gamzu had ordered due to fears of losing Ultra-Orthodox votes, a large percentage of his base.

The greatest challenge to Ash – a former Israeli Defence Forces surgeon and a relatively lesser known public figure – will likely be balancing a public safety-driven COVID-19 approach and the political considerations of Netanyahu’s regime. As the Likud leader faces unprecedented challenges at home – namely, a corruption trial and anti-government protests – he is likely to prioritize his own political survival over public health considerations in the near future.

Starting tomorrow, Israel is relaxing its COVID-19 restrictions – a situation made possible by a deal with Pfizer to be signed in the coming days. Yet, if infection rates soar prior to the sale of the vaccine, Israel may be facing another lockdown.

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