Coronavirus in Israel: Health Minister Announces He Will Resign

Almost 200 deaths in Israel ■ Coronavirus lockdowns in place for Ramadan ■ Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jail diagnosed with COVID-19 ■ Elective medical procedures to be restored as government eases restrictions

new-hdc-logo
Haaretz
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Israel's Health Minister Yaakov Litzman visits the Sheba Medical Center, February 4, 2020.
Israel's Health Minister Yaakov Litzman visits the Sheba Medical Center, February 4, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
new-hdc-logo
Haaretz

For more recent updates on the coronavirus crisis click here

As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, Israel and the Palestinian territories are working to curb the spread of COVID-19 among their populations.

0:00
-- : --
Corona keeps Bibi in power and unmasks the MossadCredit: Haaretz

■ 15,298 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 199 people have died.

■ In the West Bank, 480 cases have been diagnosed so far. Two have died. In Gaza, 17 cases have been diagnosed, eight of which have recovered.

■ The Israeli government approved a series of steps to ease the lockdown restrictions, including allowing group prayer, partial reopening of the economy and certain stores, and fines for not wearing masks in public.

■ There will be no Ramadan prayers in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque and shops in Arab areas will close at 6 P.M., as some fear a spike in coronavirus cases during Islam's holy month.

■ Last week, Israel's Health Ministry confirmed the daily number of recoveries had overtaken the number of infections, reversing the trend. However, new cases spiked again on Wednesday. 

■ Coronavirus tracker: Live statistics of cases and deaths in Israel and worldwide ■ Do's and don'ts: Israel's Ministry explains coronavirus restrictions

LIVE UPDATES

Saturday

11:38 P.M. Surfing, swimming to be allowed on Israeli beaches

Israel's health and sports ministries said they would include surfing and swimming in the list of permitted solitary activities. The decision is set to be brought to a government vote on Sunday.

The proposed regulations stipulate no "unnecessary" time at the beach and a two-meter distance between surfers kept at all times. (Itamar Katzir)

>> Click here to read the full report

9:34 Israel's Health Ministry seeks less than 300 new cases a day to ease restrictions

Israelis queue in front of a supermarket in Haifa, in northern Israel.
Israelis queue in front of a supermarket in Haifa, in northern Israel.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Israel’s Health Ministry set criteria for further easing the coronavirus restrictions in place, considered more lenient than exit strategy models proposed earlier. The Health Ministry’s criteria calls for less than 300 new confirmed cases a day and less than 300 patients in serious condition at any given moment. Going over these figures could trigger a recommendation to reimpose some restrictions. (Ido Efrati)

9:27 P.M. Israel confirms 199 coronavirus deaths

Israel confirmed 15,298 coronavirus cases, with fewer patients in serious condition. According to Health Ministry figures, 127 patients are in serious condition and 99 of them on life support. 199 people with COVID-19 died in Israel since the outbreak began. 6,435 people who tested positive for the coronavirus have recovered.

8:33 P.M. Israel's health minister announces he plans to leave post

Israel's Health Minister Yaakov Litzman told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday that he plans to resign from his position, two days after announcing that he is weighing the option.

Litzman was heavily criticized for his handling of the coronavirus crisis. In its early stages he excluded the ultra-Orthodox community from the social distancing regulations, allowing public bath houses and synagogues to remain open, even promising that the messiah would come and put an end to the epidemic. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

>> Click here to read the full report

7:55 P.M. 2,000 protest in Tel Aviv against unity government, government response to coronavirus crisis

Some 2,000 protesters  are demonstrating at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv against Benjamin Netanyahu and the establishment of the unity government. The protesters wave Israeli flags and black flags, while holding signs that read "corrupt home" and "bribery fraud." Protesters were required by police to draw chalk crosses to show that they are complying with social distancing measures, but due to ongoing rain, organizers move between people to ensure, along with policethat distances are maintained.

The protest is one of several so-called "Black Flag" protests that have taken place in past weeks.Two hunderd people are also protesting in Kiryat Tivon. 

The Sunday protest had a turn out of thousands and has received worldwide coverage. The protesters are demonstrating against the establishment of the unity government between Prime Minister benjamin Neyanyahu and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, which they call the biggest and most corrupt government in the history of the State of Israel.

"We are determined to protect democracy. We the citizens have to lead," organizers said. (Bar Peleg and Noa Shpigel)

7:26 P.M. Turkey's coronavirus death toll rises by 106

Turkey recorded 2,861 coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, and 106 more people died, taking the death toll to 2,706, Health Ministry data showed on Saturday.

The total number of cases stood at 107,773, the highest total in any country outside western Europe or the United States.

Magen David Adom paramedics and Border Police officers in Jerusalem's Old City as Israel combats the spread of the coronavirus, April 23, 2020.
Magen David Adom paramedics and Border Police officers in Jerusalem's Old City as Israel combats the spread of the coronavirus, April 23, 2020. Credit: Emil Salman

A total of 25,582 people have so far recovered from the new coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19. The number of tests carried out in the past 24 hours was 38,308. (Reuters)

5:40 P.M. Over 25,000 coronavirus tests performed since Thursday

The Health Ministry announced that since Thursday, over 25,000 coronavirus tests have been performed in Israel. On Friday, 11,799 tests were performed, while 13,861 tests were conducted on Thursday. (Haaretz)

5:30 P.M. U.K. Reports over 20,000 hospital deaths from virus

The death toll from the new coronavirus in hospitals across the United Kingdom has risen to 20,319, an increase of 813 in 24 hours, the latest data from the Health Ministry showed on Saturday. (Reuters)

2:50 P.M. Coronavirus crisis presents new opportunities for Gaza battered economy

For the first time in years, sewing factories in the Gaza Strip are back to working at full capacity — producing masks, gloves and protective gowns, some of which are bound for Israel.

Rizq al-Madhoun, owner of the Bahaa garment company, said he has produced more than 1 million masks in the past three weeks, “all for the Israeli market.”

Gaza may not have the advanced machinery seen in other places, but he said residents' sewing skills are unmatched. "Gaza workers are distinguished in handiwork and they are better than workers in China or Turkey," he said. (The Associated Press)

>> Read the full report

2:37 P.M. Health Ministry gearing up to restore elective procedures as Israel’s infection rate drops

The Health ministry said it is preparing to gradually restore elective medical procedures starting May 3. The decision comes amid Israel’s success in reducing the coronavirus infection rate. (Ido Efrati)

1:05 P.M. Iran's coronavirus death toll rises to 5,650

Iran's death toll from the new coronavirus has risen by 76 to reach a total of 5,650, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on state TV.

The total number of people diagnosed with the disease is 89,328, of whom 3,096 are in a critical condition, he added. (Reuters)

Israeli police officers block main roads at the entrance to a Tel Aviv suburb to curb the spread on the coronavirus, Ramat Gan, April 14, 2020.
Israeli police officers block main roads at the entrance to a Tel Aviv suburb to curb the spread on the coronavirus, Ramat Gan, April 14, 2020. Credit: Meged Gozani

11:25 A.M. Israel’s coronavirus death toll rises to 198, as confirmed cases reach 15,148

The Health Ministry said that 198 Israelis have so far died of the coronavirus. The number of confirmed cases has risen to 15,148, of whom 130 are in serious condition and 102 on respirators. (Haaretz)

9:40 A.M. An 86-year-old nursing home resident dies of coronavirus

An 86-year-old woman, who resided in a Jerusalem nursing home, died from COVID-19 at the Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot. The woman suffered from multiple underlying conditions. (Bar Peleg)

FRIDAY

8:47 P.M. Coronavirus cases in Israel 15,058, death toll at 194

The number of coronavirus cases has risen to 15,058, with the death toll rising to 194. Of those diagnosed, 137 are in serious condition, and 102 of those are on respirators. Meanwhile, 6003 people have recovered.

5:26 P.M. Government approves restricting coronavirus hot spots in Beit Shemesh, Netivot

Several neighborhoods in the two cities which were identified as hotbeds for the coronavirus will be locked down for five days starting from Sunday at 6:00 A.M. until Friday at 6:00 A.M.

During the lockdown, Home Front Command and the Defense Ministry will be responsible for providing residents with a daily supply of food and basic necessities, local services and any other required assistance.

Since the virus' outbreak in Israel, 399 patients have been diagnosed in Beit Shemesh and 83 in Netivot, with the infection rate in the former over the last three days being 22 percent, and 19 in Netivot. (Noa Landau)

4:09 P.M. Jerusalem market traders oppose decision to keep markets closed

Market workers from Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem announced on Sunday they will protest against the government's decision not to open the markets. "How does the IKEA network open its branches and we don't"? they asked.

Chair of the Mahane Yehuda Market Traders Committee, Tali Friedman, wrote that traders are demanding that the government accept the outline agreed with Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon, according to which the market will open with one entrance and exit, as inspectors will check the temperature of those who enter and check that they are wearing a mask. (Nir Hasson)

2:55 P.M. Lebanon tightens security around Palestinian refugee camp over virus

People wearing masks in Jerusalem, April 2020.
People wearing masks in Jerusalem, April 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Authorities closed all entrances to a Palestinian refugee camp in eastern Lebanon on Friday after four more people tested positive for the coronavirus, heightening concerns the virus could further spread among its overcrowded population.

The four people infected with the virus are relatives of a woman who tested positive earlier this week and are isolating inside their home, according to a statement from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, who aded that they were so far not in need of hospitalization.

The Palestinian woman who was taken to a hospital in Beirut this week became the first refugee living in a camp in Lebanon to contract the virus, a finding that triggered a spate of testing in the camp. The five confirmed cases are residents of the Wavel camp in the city of Baalbek, known locally as the Jalil, or Galilee camp. (Associated Press)

1:30 P.M. Government passes measures to ease coronavirus restrictions

The government passed new measures Friday afternoon to ease the coronavirus lockdown. Starting Saturday night, small stores (not located in malls or major shopping centers), barbershops and beauty salons will be able to re-open.

The government also approved issuing a 200 shekel (about $50) fine to anyone who is not wearing a face mask, even without a warning. Masks are mandatory for anyone age 7 and up in a public space. The decision was made after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participated in a conference call with the leaders of Austria, Australia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Denmark and New Zealand, in which they discussed the importance of the practice in curbing the coronavirus.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan requested further restrictions on protests, saying that police had no way to enforce Health Ministry guidelines during demonstrations. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit opposed the move.

Ministers told Haaretz that there were no medical officials present at the government meeting, and no in-depth data was presented regarding the possible consequences of easing these restrictions. (Noa Landau)

1: 15 P.M. Tents set up in central Tev Aviv in protest against government's coronavirus and economic policies

Six tents were erected on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, in protest to the government's policies regarding the spread of the coronavirus and the economic crisis. The tents were erected by three activists as part of the so-called "Black Flag" protest against the disintegration of democracy in Israel. The Tel Aviv municipality initially issued an eviction order for the tents, but later the protesters were granted a permit for 48 hours. 

Israeli police with protective masks patrol an ultra-Orthodox protest in Jerusalem, April 19, 2020.
Israeli police with protective masks patrol an ultra-Orthodox protest in Jerusalem, April 19, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Police officers who arrived at the scene gave one of the organizers a written warning for not wearing a mask, after being warned about it twice a few hours earlier. A city inspector presented the protesters with conditions to limit the protest, according to which it would be approved for two days. (Bar Peleg)

12:51 P.M. COVID-19 outbreak in Istanbul now under control, minister says

Comparing Istanbul to the Chinese city where the novel coronavirus first emerged, “Turkey’s Wuhan was Istanbul,” Turkish minister Fahrettin Koca told the pro-government Sabah newspaper in an interview published Friday. 

Koca claimed the spread of COVID-19 in Istanbul was brought under control through contact tracing executed by a team of experts, as well as early treatment. The country ranks seventh in the world in the number of confirmed infections, surpassing Iran and China, according to Johns Hopkins University. (Associated Press)

11:50 A.M. Palestinian who was arrested and imprisoned in Israel has coronavirus

The Israel Prison Service said a West Bank Palestinian who had been arrested on Wednesday has tested positive for the coronavirus. The 21-year-old was taken to hospital on Thursday night and entered isolation there. Officials said he was alone in his cell for the last two days, adding that whoever had been in contact with him at the time of the arrest will enter quarantine according to procedures. (Josh Breiner)

11:10 A.M. Health Ministry reportedly supports reopening of beauty salons

Israel's Ministry of Health has reportedly agreed to a government proposal to allowing cosmetologists to offer their services, under the same limitations as hairdressers. The further easing of the coronavirus lockdown is to be approved in a government meeting currently underway. (Noa Landau)

11:10 A.M. Israel police fine surfers, arrest one

Dozens of surfers were fined and told to leave beaches in Tel Aviv and Herzliya after they were caught violating coronavirus restrictions, the Israel Police said in a statement. Most of the surfers accepted the police's request to leave – the regulations forbid going to the beach for leisure activities or sports – but those who remained in the water were given fines. One 32-year-old surfer from Tel Aviv was arrested on suspicion of refusing to leave the beach, and escalating a confrontation with the officers. (Haaretz)

10:50 A.M. Israel approves far-reaching economic package 

The Israeli government has approved a new emergency package to support self-employed Israelis as well as small businesses who have been hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis. According to the plan, which is worth 8 billion shekels ($2.27 billion), businesses are to receive a government grant proportionate to the amount of their losses. The maximum is 400,000 shekels ($113,000) per business. Self-employed Israelis can apply for a state subsidy of up to 70 percent of their salary, up to a maximum of 10,500 shekels ($3,000).

The government also renewed a decision to support those older than 67 who have lost their jobs, with a salary of up to 4,000 shekels ($1,130) in May. (Noa Landau)

8:50 A.M. Number of coronavirus cases in Israel stands at 14,882, 193 dead

Israel's Ministry of Health said the total number of coronavirus cases in Israel has increased to 14,882, with nearly 80 more diagnoses since Thursday night. The number of fatalities has reached 193, up by one. About 139 patients are currently in serious condition, of whom 107 are on respirators, while 101 are in moderate condition. The majority are in light to mild condition. (Haaretz)

4:58 A.M. Saudi G20 presidency calls for additional coronavirus response donations

In a statement, the G20 secretariat said $1.9 billion had been donated by countries, philanthropic organizations and the private sector toward an $8 billion target set by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, but more funds were needed.

"Global challenges demand global solutions and this is our time to stand and support the race for a vaccine and other therapeutic measures to combat COVID-19," Saudi G20 Sherpa Fahad Almubarak said. (Reuters)

1:59 A.M. Israel announces partnership with online genealogy platform MyHeritage to carry out coronavirus testing

MyHeritage will set up a coronavirus testing laboratory in Israel, which will carry out 10,000 tests a day, a joint Defense Ministry and Health Ministry statement said. 

It will be independent and operated by the Israeli company, using equipment provided by the Chinese company BGI. 

12:52 A.M. Israeli Cabinet to meet to discuss easing movement restrictions on Friday 8 A.M. 

A meeting scheduled for Thursday evening to discuss coronavirus-related movement restrictions was pushed to early morning Friday. (Noa Landau)

12:47 A.M. Coronavirus hot spot of Bnei Brak reports 17 deaths from coronavirus

The number was reported by city authorities on Thursday night. The ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb was put under lockdown earlier this month in order to curb a potentially disastrous coronavirus outbreak in the community. (Bar Peleg)

THURSDAY

11:33 P.M. Prominent Rabbi, kidney donation organization founder Avraham Yeshayahu Heber, 55, succumbs to COVID-19

Rabbi Heber was known for establishing Matnat Chaim ('Gift of Life' in Hebrew), a medical organization focused on kidney donations in 2009, after himself receiving a kidney transplant. Matnat Chaim celebrated its 800 transplant this year.

The 55-year-old had been hospitalized since April 12.

Several political figures, from religious parties, but not only, expressed their sadness at Heber's passing. A recipient of a presidential award in 2014, Heber was arrested on suspicion of organ trafficking in September 2017. The case was closed in 2018. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

10:50 P.M. Israel’s coronavirus death toll rises to 192, as confirmed cases reach 14,803

The Health Ministry said 192 Israelis have died from the coronavirus, adding that 14,803 have tested positive for the virus so far, of which 109 are on respirators and 5,611 have recovered. (Haaretz) 

10:10 P.M. Dubai opens restaurants and cafes, resumes public transportation

Dubai on Thursday allowed cafes and restaurants to resume business, and shopping malls to be opened partially from 12 p.m until 10 p.m, but with a maximum capacity of 30%, Dubai's media office announced in a statement.

The statement added that it would also allow resuming public transportation services including subways starting April 26. (Reuters)

10:00 P.M. Israel's health minister mulls quitting 

Israel’s Health Minister Yaakov Litzman told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that he may leave the Health Ministry and take over the Housing portfolio in the next government, pending the Gerrer Rebbe’s decision.

Sources close to Litzman, the Gerrer Rebbe’s envoy in the Knesset, said he would demand extensive authority if he moves to the Housing Ministry.

Litzman was heavily criticized for his handling of the coronavirus crisis. In its early stages he excluded the ultra-Orthodox community from the social distancing regulations, allowing public bath houses and synagogues to remain open, even promising that the messiah would come and put an end to the epidemic.

Litzman himself, according to reports, did not adhere to the public safety guidelines that his own ministry issued. He reportedly prayed in a group, refused to have his temperature taken and hid the results of the epidemiological test performed on his phone. Litzman denied the eye witness reports of people who had reportedly prayed with him.

Earlier this month Litzman himself contracted the coronavirus, together with his wife. Following his diagnosis Netanyahu, Health Ministry director general Moshe Bar Siman Tov and head of the ministry’s public health services Professor Seigal Sadetzky all entered self-quarantine.

In August the police recommended indicting Litzman for bribery, suborning witnesses, fraud and breach of trust in two cases.

In one case Litzman allegedly abused his status and position to pressure two psychiatrists to issue opinions that would prevent the extradition of Malka Leifer, a school principal charged with sexually assaulting underage girls in Australia. In another case Litzman allegedly offered subordinates in the ministry benefits to stop them from closing down a restaurant owned by one of his cronies. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

9:20 P.M. Education Ministry releases plan for return to school to begin next week

Israel's Education Ministry released its plan for the return to schools Thursday, set to begin May 3 after a long halt amid the coronavirus crisis. 

Kindergartens will operate on and off, primary grades (first to third) will study five days a week separated into smaller groups, grades 11 and 12 will begin taking the matriculation exams starting June 22, and grades four to nine will continue with remote classes. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

8:20 P.M. Israeli troops enter East J'lem beyond separation wall to enforce coronavirus rules

Israeli police, soldiers and municipal inspectors entered a neighborhood within Jerusalem’s boundaries but outside the separation barrier to enforce the coronavirus social-distancing and lockdown restrictions.

The army’s activities in the area are not at all routine, in part because soldiers do not have the authority to make arrests in Jerusalem.

On Thursday, in the northern neighborhood of Kafr Aqab, the forces removed signs put up by the Palestinian Authority but did not issue fines or make arrests. (Nir Hasson and Hagar Shezaf)

>> Read the full report here

8:00 P.M. ICRC donates vital medical equipment to Gaza in coronavirus crisis

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Thursday donated vital intensive care equipment to Gaza hospitals but said they remain underequipped for any wider outbreak of the new coronavirus in the territory.

With passage through Gaza's borders tightly controlled by neighbouring Israel and Egypt, only 17 people have tested positive in the Palestinian territory for the novel coronavirus.

The ICRC aid included a ventilator, monitors, defibrillators and suction devices and pumps. (Reuters)

>> Read full report here

7:00 P.M. Tel Aviv cancels Independence Day celebrations 

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality has decided to cancel the planned annual celebrations for Independence Day this year in light of the coronavirus crisis.

The desire to save expenses that are not essential for addressing distressed residents and the need to prevent unnecessary crowds led the municipality to decide to cancel the firework shows that were planned to take place in the city. In addition, trucks that were supposed to roam the neighborhoods and broadcast music were also cancelled. (Bar Peleg)

5:00 P.M. Justice Ministry investigating police assault during coronavirus enforcement

The Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers launched on Thursday an investigation into two border police officers suspected of assault on April 4 in the Mea She'arim neighborhood of Jerusalem during an operation to enforce emergency regulations against the coronavirus epidemic.

It is suspected that during a disturbances in the neighborhood, police officers unjustifiably pushed a man as he walked down the street, the man then fell on the pavement and was injured.

The officers were released under restrictive conditions at the end of the investigation, which is still ongoing. (Josh Breiner)

4:51 P.M. Government will not declassify coronavirus meeting minutes, state tells High Court

The Israeli government told the High Court of Justice Thursday that it has no intentions of clearing the minutes of government meetings during the coronavirus crisis for release. This came in response to a petition to publish the minutes filed by Haaretz, attorney Shachar Ben Meir and the Movement for Freedom of Information. Media outlets Globes, Calcalist and the Public Broadcasting Company also joined the petition.

The petitioners claim that the Basic Law on the Knesset states that government meetings can only remain confidential if they are discussing particular subjects, most of them security-related, as determined by the legislation. The coronavirus crisis is not one of those subjects, the petitioners say, and transparency is vitally important during this period.

Government representatives told the High Court that they have a legal basis for keeping the meetings classified to prevent the documents from being examined, as the government’s statutes are what determines the security classification of meeting transcripts. With this, they did send some of the minutes of the meetings – longer versions of the discussion summaries, rather than detailed transcripts – after the petition was filed. (Noa Landau and Netael Bandel)   

1:05 P.M. Six more coronavirus cases registered in West Bank, raising total to 480

The Palestinian Health Ministry said six additional people tested positive for the coronavirus in the West Bank, bringing the total number of cases there to 480. (Haaretz)

12:43 P.M. Number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel’s Arab community reaches 723

The emergency committee monitoring the coronavirus crisis in Israel’s Arab community said that the number of confirmed cases there stands at 723, a 19.3 percent rise since Monday. The data doesn’t include communities with Jewish-Arab mixed population and East Jerusalem. (Jack Khoury)

11:08 A.M. Israeli security forces enter East Jerusalem neighborhoood to hand out fines

Israel police officers, soldiers, and Jerusalem Municipality inspectors have begun an operation to hand out fines to individuals violating coronavirus restrictions in East Jerusalem’s Kafr Aqab.

Israel defense forces soldiers usually don’t operate in Kafr Aqab, since they don’t have the authority to arrest East Jerusalem residents. (Hagar Shezf)

9:18 A.M. Israel’s coronavirus death toll rises to 191, as confirmed cases surpass 14,500

The Health Ministry said 191 Israelis have died from the coronavirus, adding that 14,592 have tested positive for the virus so far, of which 107 are on respirators and 5,334 have recovered. (Haaretz)

WEDNESDAY

9:15 P.M. Despite curfew, police to let bereaved congregate in cemeteries on Memorial Day

Israel Police do not intend to confront bereaved families to prevent them from entering cemeteries and memorial sites on Memorial Day, despite curfew orders, law enforcement sources say.

"We will work with maximum sensitivity," the sources told Haaretz.

According to regulations approved on Wednesday by Israel’s cabinet, intercity travel will be banned on from Monday, 4 P.M. until end of day Tuesday, during the annual day to commemorate Israel's fallen. According to the directives announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, cemetery gates are meant to be locked. (Josh Breiner)

9:05 P.M. Israel sees drop in people on ventilators

According to the Health Ministry, 14,498 Israelis have contracted the virus. Of those, 106 are on ventilators and 189 have died. So far, 5,215 have recovered. (Haaretz

7:35 P.M. Israeli soldiers distribute food to Jaffa residents ahead of Ramadan

Home Front Command soldiers are helping the Tel Aviv Municipality in distributing food to elderly people in Jaffa ahead of the month of Ramadan.

The municipality, in cooperation with the Welfare Ministry, NGOs and independent donors, has distributed over the past month thousands of toys, food packages and meals to hundreds of elderly people and needy families in Jaffa. (Haaretz)

6:21 P.M. Over 10,000 Israelis file for unemployment benefits amid coronavirus crisis

Israel’s employment service said that 10,873 people have filed for unemployment benefits on Wednesday, up from 7,565 on Tuesday, despite the government’s announcement of a series of steps to ease coronavirus restrictions on Sunday.    

Since the beginning of this week, 3,131 people who were put on unpaid leave said they have returned to work. (Lee Yaron)    

5:24 P.M. Israel carried out over 11,000 coronavirus tests in past two days, Health Ministry data shows

The Health Ministry said that it had performed 11,422 coronavirus tests on Tuesday and 13,342 on Monday, surpassing it initial goal of 10,000 tests per day. (Haaretz)

4:31 P.M. Israel approves coronavirus curfew on Independence Day, Ramadan

The Israeli government approved a nationwide closure on Memorial Day commemorating Israel's fallen soldiers, Israel Independence Day and the month of Ramadan, as part of the emergency regulations to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Memorial Day

Starting Wednesday and until Memorial Day eve on Monday at 4 P.M. Israelis will be allowed to leave the house to visit military cemeteries and official memorial sites for fallen IDF soldiers and terror victims.

After Monday at 4 P.M. and on Memorial Day itself on Tuesday people will be barred from visiting cemeteries and memorial sites. 

Independence Day

Starting Tuesday at 5 P.M. until Wednesday at 8 P.M. Israelis will be allowed to leave their homes only to purchase medical supplies and essential necessities. Those requiring essential services will also be allowed to leave their homes, but must stay within their communities, unless those essential services are not provided there.

Public transportation will also be suspended until the end of Independence Day.

People celebrating Independence Day must do so at home. Buying food during Independence Day eve and the holiday itself will be forbidden. Israelis will be allowed to exercise and leave the house to “get some air” in the vicinity of their home, similar to the regulation announced on Passover seder.

Ramadan

In communities whose population is mainly Muslim, businesses and stores will be closed from 6 P.M. and 3 A.M. the next day, excluding pharmacies. Businesses, however, will be permitted to operate delivery services. These regulations will come into effect on Thursday, when Muslims begin marking the month of Ramadan and until May 3.

Additional regulations

The government approved additional emergency regulations which permit leaving the house for a job interview, holding weddings in open areas and with the attendance of up to 19 people while maintaining at least a two-meter distance between each participant. (Noa Landau)

4:07 P.M. Israel allows four Gazans with Israeli ID card to return to Strip

For the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus, Israel approved the request of four Gaza residents who hold an Israeli identification card to leave Israel and reunite with their families in the coastal enclave.

The Gisha non-profit organization, which advocates for the freedom of movement for Palestinians, filed the request on behalf of the four Gazans who entered Israel to visit their relatives before the coronavirus erupted and then had to stay in Israel some four months.

The Gazans requested to return to the Strip immediately after the outbreak, but their request was denied. Noe they will have to enter 21-day quarantine in Gaza. In addition, Israel notified the four that if they wish to enter Israel again, they would have to enter 14-day isolation and will have to stay in Israel until the end of the coronavirus crisis.  

Israel stressed that allowing the Gazans to return to the Strip is not a sweeping policy, adding that it is currently examining similar requests. Gisha said that to their knowledge, two families in Gaza are currently trying to arrange the return of their relatives to the Strip from Israel.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) refused to provide Haaretz with data about the number of families whose relatives are awaiting approval from Israel to return to the enclave. (Hagar Shezaf)

3:10 P.M. Israel freezes bill to allow police surveillance of suspected coronavirus patients 

The Israeli government froze the bill permitting the police to track the cellphones of suspected coronavirus patients who are in quarantine.

As of Wednesday night, the police will be barred from tracking those individuals, as they have done thus far. The police, however, will still be allowed to pay surprise home visits, overseeing people are not violating quarantine.

The bill, which was supposed to allow the police to track cellphones of 500 indivisulas per day, was frozen following deliberations in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Sources familiar with the matter told Haaretz that suspending the bill stemmed from questions that came up during the deliberations. (Noa Landau and Jonathan Lis)

2:47 P.M. Health Ministry official says there may more waves of virus 

Deputy Health Ministry Director Prof. Itamar Grotto said in an interview with ynet that "it's possible to say that the current wave has most probably exhausted itself." So, he said, "we need to see that we act quickly. Every 200 new people [infected with the virus] in a day could always have the potential to be a big flame." Therefore, he added that 'we should make sure that we put it out quickly, explaining that an outbreak could be met with intervention, if there will be a need."

2:13 P.M. After a month-long closure, Israeli zoos reopen

Israel's zoos opened this morning after being closed for more than a month. According to the zoo organization, today the follow zoos will reopen: Ramat Gan Safari, the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, the Negev Zoo in Be'er Sheva, Gan Buru in Nir David, the Haifa Zoo and the Hai Park in Kiryat Motzkin.

According to the announcement, tickets will sold in advance and admission will be permitted to specific hours, with attendance being limited to two hours. Visitors are required to keep a distance from each other and pass and have their temperature checked at the zoo entrance. Visitors are also required to wear masks inside the zoos. (Nir Hasson)

9:32 A.M. 14,326 Israelis have been diagnosed with virus, 187 have died

According to Health Ministry figues, 14,326 people have been diagnosed with the coroavirus in Israel, of which 111 on ventilators, and 148 are in serious condition. Meanwhile, 187 people have died of the virus and 4,961 Israelis have recovered.

TUESDAY

10:00 P.M. Interior Minister to allow business owners exemption from paying property tax for three months

Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced monday that he signed regulations that would allow local authorities to grant businesses three months' exemption from paying property taxes. However, local authorities will be able to choose an alternative route of providing a total discount of 25% on the municipal tax payment for 2020. According to the announcement, a budget of 2.8 billion shekels ($ 788 million) will be allocated to compensate the local authorities for the loss of income. (Lee Yaron)

8:45 P.M. Israel's confirmed cases reach 13,942, death toll at 184

According to the Health Ministry, 13,942 Israelis have contracted the coronavirus. Of those, 4,507 have recovered, 139 in serious condition, and 113 are currently on ventilators.

7:50 P.M. Netanyahu announces closure on Independence Day

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel will be under full closure on Independence Day, similarly to Passover. Netanyahu also announced that this year people will not be allowed to visit cemeteries or memorial sites on Memorial Day, which police will close the access routes to. Instead, bereaved families were called to visit cemeteries in the days leading up to Memorial Day, with limited visitations in accordance with social distancing regulations. (Noa Landau)

6:50 P.M. Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians advises against phone surveillance of coronavirus patients 

The Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians forwarded to the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees, MK Gabi Ashkenazi, a position paper in which it was argued that at this stage of the coronavirus spread there is no justification for using the surveillance measures used by the state to locate patients and enforce their isolation.

The committee is currently debating the Criminal Procedure Bill (Enforcement Powers - Communications Data) which authorizes the police to obtain the cellular data of coronavirus patients or those who should be in isolation according to a list produced by the Health Ministry. "There is no evidence of the effectiveness of these measures in reducing the spread, and they can also jeopardize public health and public trust at the expense of using common and effective tools for epidemiological investigations," write the union's representatives.

Doctors say that there are acceptable alternatives to surveillance, saying they should expand the use of district physicians' powers, increase epidemiological investigations, and incorporate additional personnel to do so. Among other things, the association recommend increasing the use of laboratory tests for the asymptomatic population; Strengthening personnel and establishing a national or regional call center; Operation of the National Center for Disease Control. (Rafaella Goichman)

6:40 P.M. Two more coronavirus cases found in Gaza

Two more Palestinians tested positive for coronavirus in the Gaza Strip, raising total number of cases to 17, eight of which have already recovered, reports the Health Ministry in the Strip. (Jack Khoury)

6:30 P.M. Experimental coronavirus treatment with blood of recovered patients shows initial success 

Israeli doctors treating coronavirus patients with the plasma of those who have already recovered from the illness report seeing improvement in the patients’ condition after the experimental treatment. 

The first plasma treatment for the virus  in Israel was undertaken at the Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center near Tel Aviv on April 9, and 12 additional hospitals throughout the country have begun incorporating it since. As of today, 37 coronavirus patients in mild to serious condition have been treated with plasma donated by patients who have recovered. The treatment consists of two doses, the second administered 24 hours after the first, according to a treatment protocol formulated by the Health Ministry.

The medical basis of plasma treatments is the assumption that patients who have recovered have developed antibodies against the virus, and administering a concentrated amount to patients will help their bodies recover from the disease. Antibody treatments are a recognized medical practice, used to treat measles, rabies and other maladies.

Doctors added that they are not sure whether this improvement is due to the plasma treatments, due to  other treatments patients underwent at the same time, or if it happened spontaneously as part of the virus’s process.

In the case of COVID-19, the medical basis for these treatments is still uncertain at this point, and is based mainly on Chinese studies that included 10 patients, and an additional study of just three patients. (Ido Efrati)

5:00 P.M. Israel Police began enforcing order to wear masks outside the home

Israel Police began to enforce the order to wear a mask outside the home. According to police data, 31 fines totaling NIS 200 ($56) have so far been distributed to civilians who violated the regulations. According to regulations approved by the government earlier this week, it is mandatory to wear a mask upon leaving the house and to wear it in closed buildings, traveling in public transport and gathering in an open place. A citizen who disobeys the guidelines will receive an alert for the first time and will be fined NIS 200 ($56) for the second time. (Josh Breiner)

4:30 P.M. Health Ministry: over 12,000 coronavirus tests conducted Monday

The Health Ministry published the number of coronavirus diagnostic tests done in recent days. According to ministry data, 12,281 tests were conducted on Monday - a record number so far. 

It was also reported that 9,419 tests were conducted on Sunday, 10,012 tests on Saturday and 10,038 on Friday. (Ido Efrati)

1:36 P.M. Cabinet approves extending emergency regulations for Israelis returning from abroad

The cabinet has approved the extension until May 6 of emergency regulations that require Israelis returning from abroad, or those who are supposed to self-isolate but cannot, to enter government-run quarantine facilities. (Noa Landau)

12:45 P.M. 13 residents, 7 employees at Bnei Brak retirement home test positive

Thirteen residents and seven employees at the Shlomo Mamelech retirement home in Bnei Brak were diagnosed with the coronavirus on Monday. None of the 20 showed any symptoms, and the 13 residents were brought to a geriatric center in Nes Tziona. The director of the nursing home says he believes the test results were mistaken and that he had requested further tests to make sure that the residents are not unnecessarily put near coronavirus patients by being sent to other locations. (Bar Peleg)

11:12 A.M. 100-year-old Israeli dies

A 100-year-old woman, a resident of Rehovot, has died of the coronavirus. Kaplan Hospital, Rehovot, said the woman's daughter was provided with full personal protective equipment so she could be with her before she died. (Haaretz)

10:30 A.M. Russia's confirmed coronavirus cases surge past 52,000 

Russia recorded 5,642 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, bringing its nationwide tally to 52,763, the Russian coronavirus crisis response centre said on Tuesday. Fifty-one people with the virus died in the last 24 hours, pushing the death toll to 456, it said.
The number of coronavirus cases in Russia began rising sharply this month, although it had reported far fewer infections than many western European countries in the outbreak's early stages. (Reuters)

8:45 A.M. Number of cases in Israel rises to 13,883

The Health Ministry says the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel has risen to 13,883. A hundred and forty-two patients are in serious condition, of whom 113 are on respirators. A total of 181 people have died. (Haaretz)

8:40 A.M. Man in Bedouin town of Rahat forcibly quarantined

A man in the Bedouin town of Rahat who was confirmed to have coronavirus but refused to enter government-run quarantine facilities as required has been forcibly quarantined. A statement from the police said the man was also fined 5,000 shekels ($1,400) and specified he did not resist security forces and medical personnel when they came by ambulance to collect him. (Almog Ben Zikri)

7:20 A.M. A 48-year-old Israeli man with no underlying conditions has died from the coronavirus 

Tel Aviv's Ichilov hospital said a 48-year-old Israeli man has passed away from the coronavirus. Its statement specified he did not suffer from underlying conditions. The new death brings the total number of coronavirus fatalities in Israel up to 178. (Bar Peleg) 

Read previous updates

Watching the sunset on Tel Aviv's seaside promenade after coronavirus restrictions were eased, April 19, 2020.
Watching the sunset on Tel Aviv's seaside promenade after coronavirus restrictions were eased, April 19, 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod

Comments