Israel’s prime minister has announced the country will be installing rapid 15-minute coronavirus test kits in nursing homes across the country.
Benjamin Netanyahu posted a video on Twitter of himself being administered the Sofia test, developed by US firm, Quidel Corp.
“I was tested today for the first time by the rapid test for coronavirus (result within 15 minutes). Glad to announce that I came out negative,” he said, adding it could be used in airports, hotels and hospitals.
Netanyahu did not disclose the cost of the test.
With the country currently under a second lockdown following a surge in infections, the 70-year-old leader has faced criticism of his handling of the pandemic and is looking to reassure the public about the months ahead.
Frustration over a punishing second lockdown in Israel has been inflamed by national resentment directed at sections of the ultra-Orthodox community, who have refused to halt mass religious events and clashed with police attempting to disperse them.
While most of the country remained locked up at home in the hopes of curbing a raging infection rate that threatens to spiral out of control, thousands of men gathered shoulder-to-shoulder this week at a funeral for Rabbi Mordechai Leifer, 64, who died of Covid-19 complications.
Public television showed footage of a sea of black and fur hats worn by ultra-Orthodox men in the coastal city of Ashdod on Monday, with a small unit of police squeezed in the middle, fruitlessly attempting to control the crowd.
“The images we are seeing are a spit in the face of the entire country,” wrote the staunchly secular, far-right politician, Avigdor Liberman, on Facebook.
The pandemic has blown open deeply entrenched grievances between secular and religious Israel that have festered for decades.
Under deals made around the time of the state’s founding, many ultra-Orthodox Israelis avoid military service and live off government stipends, factors that have already led to bitterness.
The head of the International Monetary Fund has said the recovery in the global economy since the spring is fragile and warned policymakers against an over-hasty withdrawal of support.
In a speech intended as a curtain-raiser for next week’s annual meeting of the Washington-based organisation, Kristalina Georgieva said the unprecedented action taken by central banks and finance ministries had been a key factor in softening the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Georgieva said the IMF’s next World Economic Outlook – published next week – would show a small improvement on the 4.9% drop in global output that had been expected in June. Despite the upward revision, the WEO is likely to predict that this year will be the deepest slump in the global economy since the second world war.
Georgieva said that the world faced a “long ascent” and that it was vital that all countries, rich and small, should be attached to the same rope. She said:
The IMF in June projected a severe global GDP contraction in 2020. The picture today is less dire.
We now estimate that developments in the second and third quarters were somewhat better than expected, allowing for a small upward revision to our global forecast for 2020. And we continue to project a partial and uneven recovery in 2021.
We have reached this point, largely because of extraordinary policy measures that put a floor under the world economy.
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