Netanyahu Warns Against Fake Cornovirus News as Election Interference

Passengers wear protective masks to protect against the spread of the Coronavirus as they
MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned against attempts to tamper with the electoral process ahead of next week’s poll through the dissemination of false reports about coronavirus. 

“There could be all kinds of elements, including foreign elements, which could interfere in the elections this way. We have an interest in stopping this,” Netanyahu said during a special assessment at the Health Ministry emergency situation room.

He added that Israel Police and the Shin Bet security agency would be tasked with combating any efforts to influence the vote.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also expressed his fear that fake reports about the virus will sway voters.

“We can’t ignore that we’re a week and a half before the elections and of course there is a concern there will be implications of the corona on the elections themselves and actors who will attempt to damage the integrity of the elections by disseminating false reports — fake news — on the issue in order to influence the voting percentage in certain areas,” Erdan said, adding that any attempts at doing so constituted a criminal act.

Netanyahu said he would appoint a ministerial team to convene on a daily basis in order to deal the challenges presented by the virus.

“We are continuing preparations to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus in Israel. We are holding daily assessments,” he said.

Israel has barred entry to foreigners who have been to China, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea and Japan in the past two weeks. Netanyahu on Sunday said Australia and Italy were being added to the list.

The one confirmed case of coronavirus among Israelis was a woman who was quarantined on a cruise ship in Japan and who did not return home until tests were clear. The other 11 Israeli passengers were finally evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken cruise ship Thursday where they had spent over two weeks in quarantine off the coast of Japan. They are now in quarantine in Israel.

On Saturday more than 200 Israeli students and teachers were requested to self-quarantine after coming in contact with a group of South Korean tourists who tested positive for the virus.

Netanyahu on Sunday said Israel has been stricter than any other country and will continue to become more strict regarding entry to foreign nationals as needed.

“We will continue to do whatever is necessary to prevent the spread of the virus in Israel,” he said.

“We have also issued guidelines to Israelis who are returning to the country and we demand that these guidelines, which we are releasing to the public, be strictly adhered to,” he added.


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