AGENCIES, Jerusalem: As the highly contagious COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world with alarming speed, the Middle East region of Israel and the Palestine struggle to contain a local outbreak. The latest tally for Israel is like this: 2,693 Israelis have so far tested positive for the coronavirus, eight patients have died and 46 are in serious condition and 70 have recovered. Palestine has been put under lockdown and now the Israeli government is stepping up its efforts to contain the spread of the virus by literally going underground.
Israeli authorities have been given permission to use a war bunker in the Jerusalem hills. The bunker, known as the “National Management Centre”, was built more than a decade ago because of concern about Iran’s nuclear program and missile exchanges with Lebanese Islamist movement Hezbollah or Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The bunkers, according to Israeli officials are quite well-equipped and accommodation includes living quarters and command facilities that can be accessed from the government complex in Jerusalem and the western foothills leading to Tel Aviv.
“This (bunker) is another tool for managing, controlling, oversight and tracking” the coronavirus, said an Israeli official. “We understand that this crisis will accompany us for an extended period of time yet. We are not under a missile attack that would require us to be underground.”
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz had earlier joked in an interview with Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM that the bunker had limited usefulness now as “it protects from bombs, but not from microbes”.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering a nationwide lockdown soon.