Israel Registers First Coronavirus Death as Number of Cases Surges Past 800

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People wearing protective masks while walking in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market, March 20, 2020.
People wearing protective masks while walking in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market, March 20, 2020. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
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Haaretz

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As the highly contagious coronavirus spreads around the world, Israel and the Palestinians struggle to contain a local outbreak that has virtually halted daily life and led to tens of thousands of people entering quarantine.

Bypassing the necessary approval from the Knesset, the government approved the tracking of cellphones by the Shin Bet security service in order to inform people who unwittingly came in contact with confirmed coronavirus patients.

Israel saw its first fatality from the virus: Eighty-eight-year-old Arie Even, who suffered from other illnesses and arrived at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center about a week ago in critical condition.  

■ 883 Israelis have so far tested positive for the coronavirus, with the vast majority of cases mild and 36 recoveries. One patient has died and 15 are in serious condition. In the West Bank, 52 cases have been diagnosed so far, and 17 have recovered, the majority of them in Bethlehem. In Gaza, two cases were diagnosed in patients who returned from Pakistan. 

■ Israel's government approved additional measures to limit movement of citizens and trade, shuttering cultural and recreational establishments as well as schools and universities and banning gatherings of over 10 people. Read the complete guide to the lockdown

Will Israel's cyber spies let Bibi use coronavirus to kill democracy?

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■ All foreigners are not allowed to enter Israel, unless they apply for speical permits from the Foreign Ministry in advance and can prove they are able to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival. Read the full guide for tourists and Israelis

LIVE UPDATES

6 A.M. Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails threaten hunger strike

Palestinian prisoners serving sentences in Israeli jails for security-related offenses are threatening to go on a hunger strike to protest measures enforced by the Israel Prison Service, seeking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The prisoners object to searches conducted in their cells by prison guards without any protective gloves or face masks, as well as a ban on leaving cells and meeting their attorneys and family members, who the prison service fears might infect prisoners or guards with the virus if allowed into prisons.

Fear of the virus’ spread has intensified over the past week after four security prisoners were put in isolation in the Megiddo prison after coming in contact with a guard who tested positive for the coronavirus.

>> Read the full report here

Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market on March 20, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

3:13 A.M. Coronavirus is a death sentence for Palestinians caged in Gaza | Opinion 

Imagine two million human beings living in the space of just 365 square kilometers. One of the most densely populated places on Planet Earth, confined in a cage from which they cannot escape. These two million people cannot leave, even if they wanted to, without great difficulty.

They must live their lives within the confines of this rapidly deteriorating area of land, some persisting in the hope that one day things may change, but many surviving with the realization and resignation that they very well may not. No matter their degree of optimism or pessimism, all are isolated from the rest of the world. We call this place the Gaza Strip, and it has been under blockade by Israel since 2007.

It is now March 2020. The novel coronavirus, has become an issue of global concern. The disease it causes, COVID-19, has spread far from its origins in China. In a short space of time, coronavirus is seemingly everywhere. It moves as frequently as the planes and people who spread it back and forth across the world

Empty Tel Aviv from bird's-eye-viewCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

>> Read the full opinion here

2:12 A.M. UN donates to Palestinian coronavirus response

One million dollars will be released from the United Nations Humanitarian Fund to support Palestinian authorities' efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus in the West Bank and Gaza. Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov said it was an "important step, but more funding urgently needed." (Noa Landau)

People wearing protective masks against coronavirus during a protest outside the Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem on March 19, 2020.Credit: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

1:15 A.M. First coronavirus cases reported in Gaza

Gaza health authorities reported two cases of coronavirus in Palestinians who returned from Pakistan. Upon their arrival the patients had been immediately quarantined in a Rafah field hospital and did not interact with the general population, said the director of the Gaza health ministry Yusef Abu al-Rish. (Jack Khoury) 

SATURDAY

11:45 P.M. Jordan begins nationwide curfew

Jordan blew sirens at the start of a nationwide curfew on Saturday that limits the mobility of its 10 million citizens indefinitely in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus, witnesses and officials said.

Anyone violating the curfew, which severely restricts movement beyond emergency and essential services, can be jailed up to a year, the army said.

King Abdullah enacted an emergency decree giving the government sweeping powers to enforce an army-imposed curfew and other measures that restrict civil and political liberties.

Health Minister Saad Jaber said on Saturday the confirmed cases of coronavirus had risen to 99 after 15 new cases were identified, with officials warning numbers could rise.

The monetary authorities have also in recent days taken several moves, including delaying loan payments, slashing interest rates and injecting liquidity to help cushion the economic impact of the crisis. (Reuters)

11:25 P.M. Over a third of latest coronavirus patients in Israel had been to synagogues

Municipal employees spray disinfectant in a children playground in the Israeli coastal city of Bat Yam on March 18, 2020.Credit: AFP

More than one-third of the coronavirus patients whose movements the Health Ministry made public this weekend visited synagogues during the period they were presumably infectious. The ministry published the movements of 95 patients; at least 32 of them visited synagogues, yeshivas or Chabad Houses in the days preceding their diagnosis.

The most recent patients whose movements were published visited synagogues between seven and 10 days ago. During this period, worship and study continued in synagogues and yeshivas, and weddings and other events with large numbers of participants were held in at least some ultra-Orthodox communities. The fear is that the latest reports signal the start of a wave of infections resulting from religious gatherings. (Ido Efrati)

>> Read full report here

10:30 P.M. Consul general of Israel in New York quarantined after bodyguar tests positive

Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan has entered self-quarantine on Saturday after his bodyguard in the city has tested positive for the coronavirus. The employee in question is also in self-quarantine and is in good medical condition. 

 “We are following all procedures required by the Health Ministry in order to protect the health or all consulate workers,” Almog Elijis, the Consulate’s spokesperson said in a statement. 

A spokesperson for Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon, who’s office is in the same building, told Haaretz Danon has not been exposed to the patient and is not in self-quarantine. 

Last week, prior to the announcement of an employee diagnosed with the coronavirus, the Consulate General in New York said they are following the instructions of local government as well as the instructions of the Israeli Health Ministry and Foreign Ministry. In doing so, the number of employees coming to work at the Consulate was reduced and several departments were instructed to work from home. Consular services too were reduced: in-person appointments and have been replaced with mail, email, Whatsapp and Facetime exchanges. The few procedures requiring in-person attendance are were being "conducted with care", as of last week.

Consulate workers are awaiting new instructions based on the latest development. (Danielle Ziri)

10:15 P.M. Turkey's coronavirus death toll up by 12 to 21, confirmed cases up 277 to 947 (Reuters)

A firefighter disinfecting a sidewalk in Kiryat Ye'arim in the Jerusalem District of Israel, March 18, 2020. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

10:15 P.M. Updated coronavirus regulations to be approved by Israeli government overnight

Updated coronavirus regulations will be approved by the Israeli government overnight, including the exemption of going to the Knesset and to court from the list of orders against leaving home, and sport activities will be allowed with a maximum of two people (down from five in existing order). (Noa Landau)

9:45 P.M. Tens of thousands of Israelis participate in 'virtual demonstraition' against Knesset shutdown 

About 50,000 people watched a "virtual demonstration" tonight under the title "Fight for Home from Home" held by several organizations, and broadcast on social networks. The protest was against the Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein's decision to halt Knesset activity which comes at a critical time with the spread of the coronavirus.  

Earlier Saturday morning, two demonstrations were held in which dozens of people took part in, in front of the homes of Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi. (Bar Peleg)

9:30 P.M. Concern grows in Israel over 'terrorist-tracking' methods to keep tabs on coronavirus patients

Senior Israeli security officials are divided over the controversial decision to task the Shin Bet security service and its digital surveillance measures to track people infected with the coronavirus and those who were in their proximity. Until now, the advanced technology was solely designed and used to combat terrorists and criminals.

Most senior officials, both current and former ones, concede that in light of the crisis, the use of such digital measures in a restrained and supervised manner is an “unavoidable necessity.” However, many expressed concern with the way the decision was made. “I am concerned that Israel, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has concentrated too much power and authority in his hands, will embark on a slippery slope,” said Ephraim Halevy, a former Mossad chief. (Yossi Verter)

>> Read full report here

08:50 P.M. Netanyahu says coronavirus can kill thousands in Israel

Palestinian volunteers sprays disinfectant a street at al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City on March 16, 2020.Credit: AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday night on Channel 12 News that the coronavirus crisis "can cause thousands of deaths. It's not a spin, it's not a whim, it's reality ... I'm trying to stop it from becoming a huge outbreak."

"I think I’m taking the right steps. I’m getting a lot of compliments," added the prime minister. (Haaretz)

8:20 P.M. Israeli Transportation Minister quarantined after contact with patient

Yamina MK and Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich has been quarantined after coming in contact with a recently diagnosed coronavirus patient on Tuesday and will remain in isolation until March 31. (Osnat Nir)

8:00 P.M. Netanyahu says open shopping centers will remain open for now

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided that the open shopping centers will remain open at this stage, and this decision will be re-examined in three days. A store that fails to comply with the Health Ministry (up to 4 people per register and keeping 2 meter distance between people). (Noa Landau)

7:15 P.M. 28,000 more Israelis register for unemployment benefits

The Government Employment Agency reported an increase in the number of Israelis applying for unemployment benefits after 28,000 applied in a day, bringing total to 503,915 so far since the beginning of the month. (Lee Yaron)

7:00 P.M. Israeli courts operate as usual, despite conflicting reports, says Supreme Court Justice

Israel’s Superme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut released a statemment to “clarify that courts keep operating across the country, as a vital service.”

According to Hayut’s statement, denying some media reports on restrictions to the court system’s activity, an operating justice system is “important… particularly in such unprecedented time.” (Netael Bandel)

6:45 P.M. Israelis begin testing for coronavirus at a drive through testing station in Tel Aviv

More than 350 Israeli citizens have been tested for the coronavirus at the "test and drive" station at the Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv in Tel Aviv so far.

Three more drive through testing stations will begin operating soon across Israel. 

In total, since the virus began to spread worldwide, Magen David Adom's paramedics have taken test samples from about 14,000 people across the country. (Magen David Adom)

6:30 P.M. Turkey imposes curfew on elderly, chronically ill citizens (Reuters)

6:25 P.M. Algeria's coronavirus cases rise by 44 to 139 (Reuters)

3:30 P.M. Health Ministry calls on Israelis to "stay home despite the beautiful weather"

The health ministry released a statement Saturday afternoon calling on the public not to go outdoors despite the good weather, after people were crowding parks and public places in defiance of government orders.

The Director General of the Health Ministry Moshe Bar Siman warned the public of "a significant outbreak,' calling on them to "stay home, whoever has gone out, please return home." (Health Ministry statement)

3:15 P.M. Tel Aviv residents take advantage of sunny day and crowd parks, violating orders

Despite the Health Ministry's instructions, many Tel Aviv residents took advantage of the sunny Saturday afternoon to go to Hayarkon Park and other public places throughout the city and Gush Dan. Some of them played sports as permitted by the guidelines, but some also went out in the sun with their families.

A police patrol and a municipal security patrol passed by and called for people to evacuate, shouting: "We ask that you please return to your homes, you are violating Health Ministry orders and you are endangering your health. Everyone in the park is asked to leave." (Bar Peleg)

1:36 P.M. Security prisoners threaten to go on hunger

Security prisoners jailed in Israeli prisons have threatened to go on hunger strike due to the measure employed by the Israel Prison Service in an attempt to prevent the coronavirus from spreading among the inmates.

The security prisoners are protesting against the fact that the wardens are searching their cells without wearing protective masks or gloves and that they are prohibited from meeting their family members and lawyers.    

Concerns about the spread of the disease have grown stronger this week after four security prisoners were put in quarantine because they came into contact with  a warden that tested positive for the virus. (Josh Breiner) 

1:09 P.M. First coronavirus fatality in Israel named

Arie Even, 88, became the first coronavirus patient who passed away Friday night. He was a Holocaust survivor who immigrated to Israel alone in 1949 from Hungary. He and his wife, Yona, were sent by the Foreign Ministry to several of Israel's overseas diplomatic missions as part as his service as a public servant.

Even is survived by four children, 18 grandchildren and one great-grandson.  

"He was a beloved and dear man, lived a full life, was dedicated to his family, and showed strength until his very last moments," Arye's son said in a statement.

"We lament that he had to spend his last moment without his family by his side. We would like to thank the medical staff at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center for their devoted treatment and the empathy they demonstrated," the statement read. (Nir Hasson) 

12:33 P.M. Amazon suspends free shipments to Israel amid coronavirus

American retail giant Amazon suspended its free shipments to Israel for purchases over $49, and limited the total number of products sold to Israeli costumers, as the world struggles to halt the coronavirus pandemic.

This move is viewed as significant after Amazon has been working for months on expanding its presence in Israel. (TheMarker)

11:44 A.M. Number of coronavirus cases in Israel surges to 883, 15 in serious condition

Israel's Health Ministry said that an additional 178 people have been diagnosed with the disease, raising the tally of confirmed coronavirus cases to 883, with the vast majority of them mild and 36 recoveries.

Fifteen of the patients are in serious condition and 19 are in moderate condition.

On Friday night, Israel saw its first fatality from the disease, an 88-year-old man with a history of health issues. (Haaretz)

9:25 A.M. Four more Palestinians test positive, bringing toll in the West Bank to 52 

The Palestinian Health Ministry said that four additional people have been diagnosed with the virus, raising the number of confirmed patients in the West Bank to 52.

Three of the new cases were registered in Ramallah and one in Hebron. (Jacky Khouri)

8:46 A.M. Jordan activates sirens to start nationwide curfew to contain coronavirus spread

Jordan blew sirens at the start of a nationwide curfew, limiting the mobility of its 10 million citizens indefinitely to combat the spread of coronavirus, witnesses and officials said.

Anyone violating the curfew, which severely restricts movement beyond emergencies and essential services, can be jailed up to a year, the army said.

The curfew, in which thousands of soldiers have been deployed inside cities and on main highways across the country, is in place until further notice. (Reuters)

SATURDAY

11:41 P.M. Elderly patient hospitalized in critical condition

An 82-year-old coronavirus patient has been hospitalized in critical condition in Hasharon hospital in the central city of Petah Tikva. The patient was put in quarantine in the nearby Wolfson Medical Center in Holon and transferred to Hasharon hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus. Upon his arrival to Hasharon he required resuscitation. (Ido Efrati)

10:06 P.M. First Israeli coronavirus patient dies

An 88-year-old man became the first coronavirus patient to die of the disease in Israel. He was a resident of a Jerusalem assisted living home that has become a local center of the coronavirus outbreak in the past few days. 

The Health Ministry said the man suffered from other underlying illnesses, and had arrived at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center about a week ago in critical condition. He also experienced a cardiac event during the week, for which he needed CPR. Within the past few hours, the ministry said, his condition deteriorated and the doctors pronounced him dead. (Ido Efrati) 

9:34 P.M. Police disperse three mass weddings in Arara

Police dispersed three weddings, attended by hundreds of guests, in the town of Arara in Israel's northern Triangle region. After breaking up the weddings, the police took in the event organizers for questioning on the grounds of violating a government order. (Josh Breiner)

8:03 P.M. Police preparing to shut Shoafat crossing

For an hour today, the Shoafat checkpoint, near Jerusalem, was closed, and police are saying that it will be closed for all of Saturday. Residents say they were told that the temporary shutter is part of preparations to close the checkpoint completely.

The National Security Council supports the closure, despite the fact that several thousand Palestinian residents who live in Jerusalem neighbordhoods on the other side of the separation barrier will be completely disconnected from the city if the decision is approved.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon strongly opposes the closure. (Nir Hasson)

7:12 P.M. Italy coronavirus deaths surge by 627 in a day

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has leapt by 627 to 4,032, officials said on Friday, an increase of 18.4, by far the largest daily rise in absolute terms since the contagion emerged a month ago. (Reuters)

5:00 P.M. National Security Council planning full closure of Qalandiya and Shoafat border crossings

The National Security Council is planning a complete closure of the Qalandiya and Shoafat border crossings. Several thousand Palestinian residents who live in Jerusalem neighbordhoods on the other side of the separation barrier will be completely disconnected from the city, if the decision is approved.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon strongly opposes the closure. No final decision has been made on the matter. (Nir Hasson)

4:55 P.M. Government workers move to emergency protocols; Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry object

The government officially approved a measure that will have state employees work under emergency protocols. The Defense Ministry, Health Ministry and Welfare Ministry are exempt. At the rest of the government ministries about 30 percent of workers will continue to arrive to the office, while the rest will take vacation at their own expense. 

The Justice Ministry and Foreign Ministry object to the decision, claiming it interferes with their ability to do their work, which is still necessary at this time, and claim that it was possible for employees to continue working from home.

4:40 P.M. Foreign Ministry calls Israelis abroad to return to Israel immediately

Israel's Foreign Ministry has asked all Israelis currently abroad to return to Israel as soon as possible, in light of the mass flight cancelations and border closures around the world.

On its website, the ministry published a list of countries with instructions on how to return to Israel from each country.

4:17 P.M. Israel Prison Service working to release 500 prisoners to house arrest

The Israel Prison Service recommended to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to release some 500 prisoners to house arrest in order to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus from spreading through the prison system.

The prisoners recommended for release to house arrest are criminal prisoners (as opposed to security prisoners) who are residents of Israel and whose sentences are almost complete. (Josh Breiner)

4:02 P.M. Gantz: There will be no government without a functioning Knesset

Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz said that "there will be no government in Israel if there isn't a functioning Knesset, as democracy mandates." 

Gantz's comments come in response to comments by Netanyahu, who lent his support to shutting down the Knesset amid the coronavirus outbreak. On Thursday, Gantz's party filed a petition with the High Court against Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein's decision to adjourn the Knesset.

4:00 P.M. Finance Ministry drafting plan to pay teachers for remote schooling

The Finance Ministry is drafting a plan that will allow Israel to pay teachers for remote teaching. The amount of payment will correspond to the teaching field and age-levels taught, and will not be the teachers' full salary, but an amount that will be agreed upon with the teachers union. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

3:59 P.M. Jordan announces a curfew as of Saturday to combat coronavirus

Jordan will impose a curfew early on Saturday to prevent people from moving except for emergencies to combat coronavirus, the government said.

The curfew across the country would start from 7 A.M. local time (0500 GMT) on Saturday until further notice said Amjad Al Adailah, government spokesman.

King Abdullah had enacted an emergency decree last Tuesday that gives the government sweeping powers invoked in times of war and calamities to enforce an army imposed curfew and other measures. (Reuters)

3:43 P.M. Israel coordinated transfer of hundreds of coronavirus testing kits to Gaza

Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories coordinated the transfer of hundreds of coronavirus testing kits to the Gaza Strip through the Erez border crossing. Meanwhile, about 1,000 sets of protective gear and 100 liters of disinfectant were transfered to the Palestinian Authority. (Yaniv Kubovich)

3:35 P.M. West Bank town under lockdown after resident tests positive

The Salfit district governor announced the closure of the town of Qarawat Bani Hassan in the northern West Bank after a resident who had recently returned from Pakistan tested positive for the coronavirus.

The man was quarantined, the district governor said, but only after he had physical contact with about 250 people. The town will close and carry out testing for those who had contact with the patient. (Jack Khoury)

3:15 P.M. Netanyahu backs halting Knesset activity

Netanyahu joined three ministers from his Likud party to support halting Knesset activities due to coronavirus regulations. The four argued that keeping Israel's parliament in session would endanger the health of its members, especially those with a higher risk of complications from the disease. (Noa Landau)

>> Read the full report here

12:30 P.M. Over 450,000 Israelis registered for unemployment benefits since March 1st

The Government Employment Agency registered 450,256 Israelis for unemployment benefits since the beginning of this March until Friday morning, an 81,574 increase from Thursday's report.

The registration rate continues to be around 6,000 an hour.

The employment service site has been significantly expanded and meets the major loads. In the event of an abnormal load, a message is directed to the Gov.il website and for several days. On Sunday, the Employment Service will begin sending Social Security reports at a rate of 100,000 each day to pay the unemployment benefit. (Lee Yaron)

12:30 P.M. Netanyahu asked the Director General of the PM's office to look into resuming distance learning online for schools (Noa Landau) 

12:25 P.M. Iran coronavirus death toll jumps 149 to 1,433 (Reuters)

12:15 P.M. Likud ministers sought Israeli parliament closure under new coronavirus regulations

As the cabinet debated the new emergency closure orders applied to all Israelis from Friday morning, three Likud ministers demanded that the Knesset not be exempt from those orders, arguing for the shut down of Israel’s legislative body.

During a cabinet meeting, conducted by telephone conference call Thursday night, several ministers said that the Knesset must not be allowed to continue work as part of compliance with the regulations, according to people who participated in the conversation. (Yossi Verter)

>> Read full report here

12:05 P.M. Israel confirms 705 cases, 10 in serious condition

705 Israelis have so far tested positive for the coronavirus, the Health Ministry said. Most of them are in mild condition, but 10 are in serious condition.

271 patients are treated in hospitals and 15 have recovered.

12:00 P.M. Israel Police partially close most gates of J'lem Old City for Friday prayer at Al-Aqsa

Israel Police partially closed most of the gates of the Old City on Friday morning to minimize the number of worshipers for the Friday noon prayer on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Temple Mount, only allowing the area's residents to pass after crossing a checkpoint.

Many hundreds of worshipers attended the Friday morning prayer on the Temple Mount, most of whom made sure to stand apart from each other and remained outside. However, due to the rain, several dozen worshipers crowded in covered areas near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, despite the Health Ministry's instructions.

Three gates, Gate of the Tribes, Council Gate and Chain Gate, remained open. (Nir Hasson)

>> Read full report here 

11:30 A.M. 17 Palestinians cured of coronavirus in Bethlehem, while one more tests positive

One more Palestinian tests positive for coronavirus in the Saflit area in the West Bank, bringing total number of cases in the territory to 48. Subsequently, 17 coronavirus patients who were isolated in a closed compound in Bethlehem were cured and will be released to their homes, where they will remain in home isolation. (Jack Khoury)

11:00 A.M. Turkey raises death toll to four as coronavirus cases jump to 359 (DPA)

10:15 A.M. Twenty-three Israeli remain stuck in Peru

Twenty-three Israelis remained in limbo in Peru after many Israelis who did not register for the government organized flights to return stranded citizens home in advance arrived at the airport Thursday and boarded the flights.

The Foreign Ministry is trying to find solutions for these young people in cooperation with the embassy in Lima.

About 1100 Israelis flew back home on the four planned flights, a greater number than planned, due to the unexpected arrival of the additional Israelis. (Noa Shpigel)

10:00 A.M Israeli doctor at hospital with four coronavirus patients tests positive for virus 

A doctor at the Baruch Padeh Medical Center, where four Israeli coronavirus patients are being treated, tests positive for coronavirus and is currently in isolation in light condition. The four patients at the coronavirus dedicated unit of the medical center are all in light condition.

The Infection Prevention Unit is conducting an epidemiological investigation. Additional actions will be taken if necessary and in accordance with the Health Ministry guidelines, said the medical center's spokesmwoman. (Ido Efrati)

8:00 A.M Israeli government approves new emergency measures to reduce movement of people

The government unanimously approved additional emergency regulations to reduce the movement of the Israeli population to prevent the spread of the coronavirus Friday overnight. As part of the regulations, activities in the public space are reduced and restricted, and restrictions on trade, recreation and leisure activities were set for an initial period of 7 days.

According to these regulations, Israelis will only be allowed to leave home to get to work, for employees not working from home or on leave, to buy food and medicine, receive medical care, donate blood, protest, and attend court hearings and religious ceremonies.

The Health Ministry is set to issue detailed guidelines on activities in trade and markets.

It was emphasized that the right to demonstrate will be preserved, provided that the Health Ministry regulations and guidelines apply. (Jonathan Lis)

8:00 A.M. Turkey postpones events until end of April over coronavirus

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan issued a decree on Friday postponing all events related to science, culture and art, as it seeks to contain a surge in coronavirus cases.

The country's death toll has reached four, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on Thursday, after an 85-year-old woman died of the coronavirus.

The number of confirmed cases in the country has surged since the first case was announced last week, reaching 359 on Thursday. The cases have roughly doubled every day since Sunday. (Reuters)

6:00 A.M. Israel's sick health system is at the heart of the coronavirus crisis

The heart of the problem in Israel’s battle with the coronavirus – even before its flawed preparations, which are now being exposed – is the overall state of its health system.

The public health system has been starved for years, its staff and equipment systematically cut. Hospitals suffer from chronic insufficiency, and every unusually severe seasonal flu threatens them with collapse.

Based on conversations with many professionals, this is the main problem, before even mentioning the severe shortage of coronavirus test kits and protective equipment for medical staff. This is a frightening, years-longfailure that stems from the health system being pushed to the bottom of the priority list. (Amos Harel)

>> Read full analysis here 

4:00 A.M. California issues 'stay home' order for 40 million residents; U.S. death toll hits 200

Governor Gavin Newsom said modeling has shown that 56 percent of California residents were expected to contract COVID-19 over the next eight weeks, requiring nearly 20,000 more hospital beds than the state could currently provide. Los Angeles would be disproportionately affected, Newsom said. (Reuters)

2:00 A.M. Trump cancels G7 at Camp David over coronavirus, to hold videoconference instead

President Donald Trump will cancel an in-person meeting of G7 leaders at Camp David in June because of the coronavirus and will hold a videoconference instead, the White House said on Thursday.

The decision comes as nations around the world seal their borders and ban travel to stop the virus' spread. (Reuters)

>> Read full report here

THURSDAY

11:37 P.M. Israel Police expected to boost presence on Friday

"We are far from the stage of roadblocks or checkpoints but there will definitely be a police presence on the streets," said a police official.

The intention is to deliver "a deterrent and unequivocal message to the public," Israel Police said, in line with government regulations on civilian movements expected to be tightened even further in the near future.

Representatives of the force admitted they will find it very difficult to enforce the new regulations, however. They expect enforcement tomorrow to focus on businesses that open in contravention of regulations, and people breaking quarantine orders.

Police officers do not intend to enforce directives on gatherings in synagogues, but say they will only do so in "defiant" cases. (Jodh Breiner)

11:30 P.M. 12 currently hospitalized for virus, 89-year-old in critical condition

12 patients are currently hospitalized for the coronavirus Hadassah Medical Center. They are being treated in a ward which is separated from regular hospital wards. Among those hospitalized is a 89-year-old who is experiencing rapid respiratory deterioration, two people in a moderate condition and the remainder in a mild condition. (Ido Efrati)

11:13 P.M. Coronavirus death toll in Turkey rises to four, 359 confirmed cases

The death toll in Turkey due to the coronavirus rose to four, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on Thursday, adding there was a total of 359 confirmed cases in the country.

The number of confirmed cases was 191 on Wednesday. Koca said 1,981 tests had been conducted in the past 24 hours, 168 of which came back positive. (Reuters)

11:00 P.M. Saudi Arabia suspends prayers in the arenas outside Mecca, Medina holy mosques

Saudi Arabia said on Thursday it suspended Muslims from conducting their five daily prayers and the weekly Friday prayer in the overflow area just outside the walls of the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina to limit the spread of coronavirus.

On Tuesday, the Kingdom said it will no longer allow Muslims to conduct prayers inside mosques as part of efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus but said prayers will continue only at the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina, the holiest places in Islam. (Reuters)

10:51 P.M. Under emergency law, Jordan seals capital to contain coronavirus

Jordan's army sealed off the capital from the rest of the country on Thursday as the country put its 10 million people on lockdown to combat the spread of coronavirus, witnesses and officials said. 

The government has not announced a formal curfew but called on people to stay at home and move only for emergencies. Health Minister Saad Jaber said confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to 69 from 56 people on Wednesday. (Reuters)

10:12 P.M. Israel confirms dozens more cases, bringing total to 677

Israel's Health Ministry confirmed 677 coronavirus patients, up over 100 from the latest count, provided only two hours earlier.

644 patients are in mild condition and six are in serious condition. Fourteen have so far recovered.

9:41 P.M. Israel's top court rules no Shin Bet tracking without Knesset oversight

Israel’s High Court of Justice issued Thursday an interim order barring use of Shin Bet technology to track confirmed and suspected coronavirus patients, as long as a Knesset panel to oversee its use isn’t set up by Tuesday at noon.

Justices also ruled that police will be barred from tracking Israelis under quarantine, to ensure compliance. (Netael Bandel)

9:15 P.M. Netanyahu announces emergency measures, vows enforcement

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced new measures to restrict movement, urging citizens to stay at home as much as possible. “It is not a recommendation, but an obligation, which will be enforced,” he told a press briefing.

The government is set to vote on the emergency measures late Thursday, and they would be in effect for a week. According to these regulations, Israelis will only be allowed to leave home to get to work, for employees not working from home or on leave, to buy food and medicine, receive medical care, donate blood, protest, and attend court hearings and religious ceremonies.

“The number of patients increases daily… We might end up with many fatalities,” Netanyuahu said, calling on citizens to comply with the new regualtions and vowing to expand further the number of tests carried out daily.

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