Joint List & Hadash Head, Ayman Odeh, Tests Positive for COVID-19

The head of the Joint List MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) announced on Sunday, October 4, that he has tested positive for coronavirus. Odeh, made the announcement on Facebook, just hours after Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel from the Likud also revealed that she has contracted COVID-19.

MK Ayman Odeh (left) at a football match held in the Arab city of Sakhnin in the north of the country, June 29, 2020

MK Ayman Odeh (left) at a football match held in the Arab city of Sakhnin in the north of the country, June 29, 2020 (Photo: Al Ittihad)

“This morning I had a fever, I did a test and the results came back positive,” Odeh wrote. “Everyone I have been in contact with should follow the instructions. I will enter self-isolation and ask everyone to take the virus seriously.” “Apart from a slight fever I feel fine and will continue to work for the public while in isolation,” Odeh said. “I urge everyone to be more careful. The virus is real, dangerous, and contagious.” A statement from Hadash said that Odeh is suffering from mild symptoms and is feeling well.

According to Health Ministry data, as of Monday morning, October 5, Israel has recorded 268,175 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, with 65,063 active cases, 878 of them serious, and 314 in moderate condition. 1,719 people in Israel have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic.

Since late August, Israel’s rate of daily confirmed infections has been among the highest in the world, reaching seven to eight thousand new cases per day in the last two weeks, for a country with a population of just nine million. Israel is currently under a purportedly severe lockdown, with persons restricted to a radius of 1 kilometer from their homes. However, adherence to regulations varies greatly among different sectors of the country, and many people working in what have been termed “essential” services and industries are able to work and are eager to do so; thus the traffic on the country’s highways and streets is only at best moderately less than during pre-pandemic levels.  By contrast, the most devastatingly impacted economically are small businesses and shops, including restaurants, bars, gyms, outdoor markets, etc., where enforcement of the lockdown is relatively easy for the authorities, and schools are currently all closed. Unemployment figures once again began to swell as tens of thousands of  employees of small businesses have been furloughed, often for the second time. Two sectors singled out in recent weeks for non-compliance with the lockdown regulations are Jewish Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) communities ostensibly due to the reluctance to forego adherence to High Holiday season customs, and scores of Arab locales around the country where it is a tradition to conduct mass weddings celebrations during the summer months.

In general, since the start of the second wave in July, the government’s handling of the pandemic has suffered from frequent shifts in policy which only have reduced the public’s confidence and understanding, but also what are clearly politically-driven concessions and constraints integrated into the regulations at any given time. Thus, together with the Haredi and Arab sectors must be linked tens of thousands of demonstrators against PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s remaining in office following his indictment and trial on charges of corruption. These “leftest” masses have been blamed/scapegoated by the political right in providing the most blatant and egregious example of non-compliance to regulations, thereby ostensibly providing an example for other parts of the population not to abide by regulations.This has led to sense of total arbitrariness bordering on chaos, and is currently manifesting itself most visibly in the gradual erosion of Blue & White ministers in Netanyahu’s coaltion and the virtual certainty of new elections sometime next spring.

As the winter season approaches with an anticipated increase in morbidity due to the common flu and other ailments, Israel finds itself seemingly afloat with no rudder. The main concern of the public health officials is that the country is approaching the brink regarding the ability of the health care system, which has been running at full throttle since March, to meet possible challenges ahead, a legacy of a generation of neo-liberal under-budgeting of the public health system and social services.

The current lockdown regulations will be in effect until October 11, but are very likely to be extended with specific modifications at that time.