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Operation Golden Guards: IDF and defense establishment take responsibility for elderly population care

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has delegated responsibility for Israel’s elderly population care to the IDF and Defense Ministry via Defense Minister Naftali Bennett.

Bennett will formulate a national pandemic strategy to address the needs of the elderly population including nutrition, medical needs, prolonged isolation, those living alone, and more.

In a preliminary hearing last night attended by the IDF Home Front Commander, Deputy Chief of Staff, and the Defense Minister’s special assistant, the initial direction of action was agreed upon and the IDF will work with local authorities to canvass the elderly population and note their various needs, increase public awareness, bolster logistical centers, and more.

The full plan will be presented for approval by Minister Bennett in coming days:

“The IDF and Defense Ministry take responsibility for maintaining and protecting the elderly population of the State of Israel. We are embarking on Operation Golden Guards,” Bennett said. “The coronavirus harms the older population much more severely than the young. So at the heart of the national plan is to guard the elderly and high-risk populations.

“For this purpose, the Home Front Command, IDF, and defense establishment are fully committed to carrying out the mission, and we will rise to the mission,” the Defense Minister assured.

Earlier today, IDF Spokesman Brigadier General Hedi Silberman made a statement on the operation of the IDF in light of the coronavirus epidemic, describing the ways in which both the army and Home Front Command are assisting the government in its battle against the spread of the pandemic.

Silberman said that in the event of a general shutdown restricting all Israeli civilians to their homes, IDF units would be deployed to all eight police districts covering the entire country, to assist police in enforcing the shutdown.

To date, 23 IDF soldiers have contracted the coronavirus, and 5,600 soldiers are in quarantine, of which 240 are “lone soldiers.”

IDF recruitment continues as usual, as does combat training, with adjustments made in order to comply with the guidelines of the Health Ministry. If public transportation is shut down, as is expected to be announced in the coming days, the IDF will arrange its own transportation service in accordance with its needs.

There are units under curfew, especially fighter units, and soldiers strictly adhere to Health Ministry guidelines and receive extra laundry services. If public transportation in Israel is stopped, the IDF is prepared to maintain an internal IDF travel network.

An IDF Spokesman said that sometime today an IDF internal laboratory for coronavirus testing will be opened, in which 300 soldiers will be examined each day.

At the same time, the Home Front Command is managing coronavirus recovery hotels across the country where hundreds of patients are in light condition. The IDF is also helping to screen Magen David Adom’s drive-in complexes, and female soldiers are caring for medical staff and hospital staff’s children.

UPDATE

According to IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman, roughly 1,000 soldiers from the Home Front Command will take part in this effort.

The troops were working with local government officials to locate each town’s elderly residents and determine how best to assist them, Zilberman said.

The Prime Minister’s Office said it gave the military the task based on advice of the National Security Council.

“The decision was made after a series of discussions led by the NSC on the elderly population, which assessed the policies toward this population in reference to the coronavirus,” the PMO said.

“It was agreed that the main food distribution centers around the country must be mapped and that available personnel must be linked with resources and needs, such as the channeling of assistance and personnel to where they are lacking,” the office said.

As the coronavirus appears to most severely affect elderly carriers of the disease, the rest of the population has been instructed to avoid contact with older people in order to better protect them from the infection. This has included the closure of all nursing homes to visitors.

However, Israeli officials fear this has had a negative impact on elderly Israelis’ ability to purchase food and other necessities, as well as on their mental well-being.