Israeli health official resigns blasting virus response

Israeli security forces control access to a neighborhood that has been isolated following an increase in coronavirus cases in the southern coastal city of Ashdod. (AFP)
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Updated 07 July 2020

Israeli health official resigns blasting virus response

  • The resignation of Siegal Sadetzki, the health ministry’s director of public health services, came after Israel re-imposed several lockdown measures
  • Sadetzki said Israel’s effective initial response had been nullified by “the swift and broad opening of the economy”

JERUSALEM: A top Israeli health official resigned Tuesday, saying her guidance on combatting the coronavirus was being disregarded and the country’s containment efforts were “disoriented” as it faced a surging caseload.
The resignation of Siegal Sadetzki, the health ministry’s director of public health services, came after Israel re-imposed several lockdown measures in an effort to curb the virus’s spread.
“For a few weeks now, our compass for dealing with the pandemic has become disoriented,” Sadetzki wrote in a Facebook post announcing her decision to step down.
“Despite repeated warnings in different forums, we are watching with frustration as our window of opportunity (to contain the virus) is running out,” added Sadetzki, an epidemiologist.
“I’ve reached the conclusion that, in a new context where my professional opinion is not being accepted, it is no longer in my capacity to help prevent the pandemic’s spread,” she wrote.
Former parliament speaker Yuli Edelstein, an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, became health minister under a coalition government sworn in in May.
Edelstein announced Monday that he intended to name a point person to oversee Israel’s response, a new role that was likely to cut into Sadetzki’s authority.
Israel had earned praise in March and April for its fast action against the virus, including the imposition of early travel restrictions.
But its re-opening strategy has faced criticism as cases have shot up.
Sadetzki said Israel’s effective initial response had been nullified by “the swift and broad opening of the economy.”
Netanyahu, who thanked Sadetzki for her service, has warned that Israel’s health system risked being paralyzed by a flood of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
But he has also voiced concern about renewed lockdown measures that would further devastate an already battered economy.
As of Tuesday morning, Israel had recorded more than 31,000 coronavirus cases, including 338 deaths.
In recent weeks, the country of about nine million people has regularly registered between 500 to 1,000 new cases each day.
Various restrictions have been re-imposed, including the closure of event venues, clubs, bars, gyms and public pools.
Limits on the number of people allowed in restaurants and places of worship have also been reinstated.


Turkey to arrest 82 including mayor over pro-Kurdish protests

Updated 25 September 2020

Turkey to arrest 82 including mayor over pro-Kurdish protests

ANKARA: Turkish authorities on Friday issued arrest warrants for 82 people, including a mayor, over pro-Kurdish protests six years ago, officials and local media said.
The warrants relate to October 2014 protests in Turkey sparked by the seizure by Islamic State (IS) jihadists of the mainly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobane.
Police were on the hunt for the 82 suspects in the Turkish capital and six other provinces, the Ankara chief public prosecutor's office said in a statement.
The prosecutor's office did not specify what offences the 82 are alleged to have committed.
But it said crimes committed during the protests included murder, attempted murder, theft, damaging property, looting, burning the Turkish flag and injuring 326 security officials and 435 citizens.
There was also a warrant for the mayor of the eastern city of Kars, Ayhan Bilgen, Hurriyet daily reported.
Bilgen won the city in 2019 local elections representing the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which is Turkey's second-largest opposition group in the parliament.
Of a total of 65 HDP mayors returned in those elections, 47 have now been replaced by unelected officials, with some detained on terror charges, the party said last month.
The Turkish government accuses the HDP of being a political front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party -- which has waged an insurgency against the state since 1984 -- but the party denies this.
Former HDP co-leaders, Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas, were named in the investigation but both have been in jail since 2016 pending multiple trials.
The government accused the HDP of urging people to take part in the protests across Turkey that left 37 dead.
But the HDP blames Turkish police for the violence.