The former director of the Authority for the Economic Development of the minorities Sector, Aiman Saif, said on Monday that the chief of the national coronavirus task force, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, was right in his criticism of the Arab sector’s behavior during the coronavirus crisis, despite likening it to “a terror attack.”

According to Saif, who works in close contact with the coronavirus czar – Prof. Gamzu’s warning holds merit. The infection rate among Israel’s Arab sector had sharply increased over the last two weeks after the holiday of Eid al-Adha, which features mass celebrations, gatherings and parties.

מתחם היבדק וסע בירכאמתחם היבדק וסע בירכא

A coronavirus drive-thru testing facility in Yarka

(Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

“Although Gamzu’s statement was out of place, I do not think that is the point,” said Saif. “His intention was actually to warn Arab society about the urgency of the situation and to emphasize that this behavior must change.”

On Monday, both Saif and Gamzu toured the Druze village of Yarka, where a partial closure has been imposed due to a high number of coronavirus infections.

During the tour, Prof. Gamzu praised the local leadership, “I call on all the Arab and Druze localities to act as Yarka did, and to call on Home Front Command to assist.”

Saif said that the situation in the Arab community is indeed dire.

“Unlike the first wave, which we endured relatively peacefully, during the second wave, we see some in Arab society who are no longer afraid of the virus,” he said.

איימן סייף, צבי אקשטיין, יניב שגיאאיימן סייף, צבי אקשטיין, יניב שגיא

Aiman Saif (R)

(Photo: Rauf Abu Sana)

According to Saif, there are those in the Arab community who hold weddings and other large gatherings in clear defiance of Health Ministry regulations.

“We have family events and weddings that are the main cause of infection and the source of the very high infection rate. The numbers are still rising.”

Most believe Yarka’s outbreak is the result of the Eid al-Adha celebrations across the northern town.

“There were a lot of prayers within the village, mostly women, and that’s where the outbreak actually started. Add to this the weddings that I have already mentioned. Weddings have moved from event gardens and venues to private yards,” said Saif. “Such events are attended by 1,000-1,500 people. There are also high infection rates in most Arab communities because people don’t isolate themselves at home.”

רוני גמזו בירכארוני גמזו בירכא

Professor Ronni Gamzu during his visit to the village of Yarka

(Photo: Ido Erez)

Saif adds that Arab society tends to flout Health Ministry regulations due to a lack of fear from the pandemic.

“We must run another public service campaign, in addition to more testing, ” he said. “There is a need to work closely with the heads of Arab authorities. This is happening but it’s not nearly enough, which is why we are working together with Prof. Gamzu to establish a special desk comprised of the best experts, all in order to prevent the situation in the Arab sector from worsening.”

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