Netanyahu calls for unity government to combat virus

By: AFP      Published: 01:22 AM, 13 Mar, 2020
Netanyahu calls for unity government to combat virus

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called for the “immediate” formation of a national unity government to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, and ordered schools closed.

In a live television address, Netanyahu said it was necessary to form a government “to save the lives of numerous citizens”.

“I call for the formation of an emergency government for a limited time, from this evening,” he said.

Final results of the March 2 elections released on Wednesday showed the prime minister falling short of the 61 seats required to form a government.

His main rival, Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party, has been trying to form a coalition in recent days.

The nationalist Yisrael Beitenu, which won seven seats and holds the balance of power, also called on Thursday for the formation of a unity government to respond to the coronavirus crisis.

Netanyahu also ordered the immediate closure of Israeli schools and universities.

Authorities have banned assemblies of more than 100 people.

The Israeli Rabbinate have called for faithful to accept official instructions as “a religious obligation”.

Entry to Israel has been barred for all foreigners except those who can prove they can remain in isolation.

Everyone arriving in the country must be quarantined for two weeks, Netanyahu announced Monday.

Israel’s health ministry has reported 109 COVID-19 cases in Israel and says more than 32,000 people are in quarantine.