Israel's coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu apologized on Sunday for remarks he made about the recent virus outbreaks in the Arab sector, likening them to "terrorist attacks."
"Prof. Ronni Gamzu wishes to clarify that what he meant by the term 'mass attacks' was in the context of the virus and its morbidity and not the Arab community," the statement said.
Prof. Gamzu, said earlier that the behavior of the Arab sector during the coronavirus crisis has been so irresponsible that it is akin to carrying out "a terror attack" that would have resulted in hundreds of new patients in the country.
Many Arab and Haredi communities emerged as COVID-19 hotspots since the start of the outbreak, with some cities and neighborhoods put in temporary lockdowns. The Druze village of Yarka in northern Israel last week became the latest Arab community, where a partial closure has been imposed.
"The Arab sector in the last two weeks, after the Eid al-Adha holiday, almost carried out an attack that would have resulted in hundreds of patients," he told Ynet. "Gatherings, riots, parties, complacency, apathy - thinking coronavirus would not hurt them."
He said coronavirus spread within the Arab sector "like a mass terror attack".
"I say to the Arab community, to their leaders and local authorities - you have the power. Do not wait for the government. Get help from the Home Front Command, from us [the Health Ministry]. Only that way the infection rate can be reduced."
Gamzu "out of hand" rejected the claims the Health Ministry's policy toward the Arab sector during the health crisis has been "racist," saying the czar tasked with managing the outbreak in the community is Arab himself.
"I received a phone call from Yarka a week ago," he said. "They described to me what was happening there and said, 'Come in, restrict, people here are sick.' Why don't you impose a closure on Yarka ... You call that racism?"
He added that a nationwide lockdown during the Jewish High Holidays this September is a "possibility," but he has not discussed it "in depth".
"I have so much to do until the Tishrei holidays. Is it a reasonable option? Definitely yes but we need to think well how to do it. There are prayers, these are High Holidays, it's complicated."