Israel's coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu apologized on Monday for criticism he made last week about senior ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky.
Kanievsky was reported by an ultra-Orthodox publication that he told yeshiva students not to get tested for the coronavirus, prompting a rebuke from Gamzu who warned he was endangering public health.
Gamzu's rebuke caused an uproar amongst the ultra-Orthodox community, with several local and official leaders calling for his resignation.
The apology came several hours after his planned visit to coronavirus control center in the predominantly Haredi city of Bnei Brak was canceled.
"I regret the misunderstanding as a result of the biased publication of the remarks of Rabbi Kanievsky, whom I respect and admire, and take back what I said," Gamzu said.
“I checked it and it seems Rabbi Kanievsky never gave an instruction not to get checked, but was rather a decision based on the opinion of several rabbis for specific cases of yeshiva students in closed capsules, who had already taken coronavirus tests, and in accordance with policies that were set in advance.”
Commenting on the high infection rate in Israel, Gamzu said: "The battle against coronavirus is a national effort and I am determined to bring down morbidity by any means possible."
He added: "I was asked by the Knesset’s Law, Justice and Constitution Committee to increase the number of tests in Bnei Brak and other ultra-Orthodox cities, and already today drive-in complexes and inspection centers will open in all these cities. Increasing the amount of tests is essential for truncating the infection chains."