Israel Weighs Full Lockdown During Passover Seder to Curb Coronavirus Spread

Coronavirus death toll climbs to 49 ■ Health Ministry says solution may have been found to coronavirus tests shortage ■ Top official: Economic activity won’t resume after Passover

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Haaretz
A member of medical staff holds a sample collected from a Palestinian worker returning from Israel, at a coronavirus disease testing site, in the West Bank, March 26, 2020.
A member of medical staff holds a sample collected from a Palestinian worker returning from Israel, at a coronavirus disease testing site, in the West Bank, March 26, 2020. Credit: Mussa Qawasma/Reuters
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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.

■ 8,430 Israelis have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 49 people have died. In the West Bank, 225 cases have been diagnosed so far. One woman in her 60s has died. In Gaza, 12 cases have been diagnosed, six of which have already recovered.

■ Laboratory material shortages are forcing Israel to reduce testing, and it is unclear when the issue will be resolved. The government has called upon citizens to wear face masks in public to better protect themselves and others from the virus. Guidelines explained

■ The ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, which has become a hotspot for the spread of the virus, has been put on lockdown. The cabinet is mulling further closures on more cities.

Haredi leaders learn harsh corona lesson as Israel sends in the troops

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■ For the Health Ministry's official website on the corovavirus outbreak, click here.

LIVE UPDATES

5:40 A.M. Number of cases in West Bank rises to 225

The Palestinian Health Ministry says three more people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the West Bank to 225. (Jack Khoury)

12:57 A.M. Government considering expanding closure to eight more cities, Jerusalem neighborhoods

The cabinet spoke tonight about the possibility of expanding the closure currently imposed on Bnei Brak to include eight more cities, in addition to ultra-Orthodox neighbors in Jerusalem. The eight cities are Elad, Modi'in Illit, Betar Illit, Beit Shemesh, Tiberias, Ashkelon, Migdal Ha'emek, and Or Yehuda. (Noa Landau)

SUNDAY

9:00 P.M. Israeli government weighs full lockdown on Passover Seder 

The Israeli government is considering a full lockdown throughout the entire country on Passover Seder eve. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Sunday evening on Channel 12 News that the aim of the move, if activated, is that "each person has Seder only with their immediate family at home."

The police, meanwhile, have already started cracking down. Police erected roadblocks at the entrance to Jerusalem on Sunday that are to remain in place until Seder night on Wednesday in an effort to keep people at home. There were also checkpoints set up at the Hemed interchange and at the entrance to Beit Shemesh, which caused widespread traffic jams.

The police don’t intend to stop, and will erect similar checkpoints at the entrances to other cities. The operation will go into high gear on Tuesday and continue until the holiday begins on Wednesday night. (Noa Landau)

9:00 P.M. Israel’s coronavirus cases rise to 8,430

The Health Ministry said that 8,430 Israelis have so far tested positive for the coronavirus, most of them in mild condition. Forty-nine patients have died, 139 are in serious condition, and 106 are on ventilators. (Haaretz)

8:15 P.M. Number of coronavirus cases in West Bank reaches 222

Six more Palestinians tested positive for the coronavirus in different villages in the West Bank, bringing total of cases to 222, four of which are kids under 15, according to the Health Ministry in Ramallah. (Jack Khoury)

7:50 P.M. Hamas, Palestinian Authority leaders discuss coronavirus crisis 

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh discussed the coronavirus crisis Sunday with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. According to the PA's speaker, the conversation was friendly, and Ishtiyah promised every possible aid to the Gaza Strip.(Jack Khoury)

7:40 P.M. Islamic Jihad leader urges Israel to lift Gaza siege, release prisoners amid coronavirus crisis 

Secretary General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Ziad al-Nakhala said Sunday that Israel "must choose between life in shelters" or lifting the siege on Gaza and agreeing to release Palestinian prisoners, in light of the coronavirus crisis. 

Border Police officers wearing protective face masks as they enter the largely ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak as Israel battles to contain the coronavirus, April 3, 2020.
Border Police officers wearing protective face masks as they enter the largely ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak as Israel battles to contain the coronavirus, April 3, 2020. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Acording to al-Nakhala, the Palestinian factions will not allow the siege in Gaza to continue in the shadow of the threat of the coronavirus.

Coronavirus in Israel: Policewomen at the entrance to Bnei Brak, as lockdown of ultra-Orthodox city begins, April 3, 2020.
Coronavirus in Israel: Policewomen at the entrance to Bnei Brak, as lockdown of ultra-Orthodox city begins, April 3, 2020.Credit: REUTERS/ Ammar Awad

The calls for the release of prisoners with an emphasis on elders, women and minors are recently growing. Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar said the organization is ready to show flexibility regarding Israeli prisoners if Israel releases Palestinian prisoners, especially the sick and elderly. (Jack Khoury)

6:45 P.M. Number of coronavirus cases in the West Bank rises to 216

Two more Palestinians tested positive for the coronavirus in different villages in the West Bank, bringing total of cases to 216, according to the Health Ministry in Ramallah. (Jack Khoury)

6:45 P.M. Israel's Arab community fears Ramadan could spark coronavirus outbreak

Israel’s Arab community has until now experienced a surprisingly low rate of coronavirus infection, but there is mounting concern that the outbreak could gain strength during Ramadan, showing the true gaps in public health between Israel’s communities.

As of Sunday evening, only 193 of around 8,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel could be found in Arab communities, according to Health Ministry figures. Not one Arab community appears among the first 60 on the Ministry’s list.

Experts say the gap can be partially explained by a relatively small number of tests conducted in Arab communities, as well as a lack of epidemiological investigation to locate those who had been in contact with COVID-19 patients, as Haaretz previously reported. As of Sunday, 6,479 people in Arab communities were tested in contrast to more than 80,000 in Jewish communities. (Nir Hasson and Jack Khoury)

>> Read full report here 

6:40 P.M. Number of Arab Israeli coronavirus patients rises to 193, with 6479 tests

The Health Ministry reported that the number of coronavirus patients in Israel's Arab community rose to 193, after 6,479 tests were conducted, a 24 percent increase from Friday's numbers. 

These numbers do not include East Jerusalem and mixed Jewish-Arab cities. (Jack Khoury)

6:15 P.M. Six out of the 12 coronavirus patients in Gaza recover, says health official in the strip (Jack Khoury) 

6:10 P.M. Police set up checkpoints at Jerusalem entrances to enforce coronavirus regulations during Passover (Aaron Rabinowitz)

6:10 Attorney general requests coronavirus regulations be passed through regular Knesset bills

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit conveyed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the justice minister and secretary of state that now that the Knesset committees have been formed, legislative action on the coronavirus should be passed through regular Knesset bills rather than as emergency regulations.

A paramedic in full protective gear inside an ambulance, Meah Shearim, Jerusalem, March 31, 2020.
A paramedic in full protective gear inside an ambulance, Meah Shearim, Jerusalem, March 31, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

"Where it is possible to promote legislation through the conventional route in the Knesset, there is a legal duty to choose that path, rather than adopting emergency regulations," Mendelblit's legal opinion said.

He further clarified that in certain urgent circumstances, where regulations can't wait for the completion of a legislative process, the introduction of emergency regulations may be justified, but only in parallel with the continuation of regular legislation in the Knesset. (Netael Bandel)

6:00 P.M. Knesset workers from ultra-orthodox Bnei Brak will no longer be allowed entry 

Under Health Ministry orders starting Monday, Knesset workers, parliamentary advisers, security guards, faction workers and other officials who reside in the ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak will not be allowed to enter the Knesset.

The directive was given in light of the existing closure in the city of Bnei Brak, which has seen a surge in coronavirus cases and is considered a hotspot for the virus. (Jonathan Lis)

5:45 P.M. One more Israeli coronavirus patient dies, bringing total to 48

A 98-year-old Israeli coronavirus patient with preexisting conditions died Sunday at a Jerusalem hospital, bringing the country's total death toll to 48. (Haaretz)

5:30 P.M. Israel's unemployment rose by nearly 6,000 percent in March

Employment services reported that about 972,900 Israelis registered as unemployed in March amid the coronavirus crisis, a 6,000 percent rise in one month. The unemployment rate stood at 23.4 percent by the end of March, and is still rising in April. (Haaretz)

4:30 P.M. Israeli minister promotes legislation to offset coronavirus fines from asylum seekers' deposit money

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan appealed to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri Sunday to promote legislation that would allow offsetting fines recorded for asylum seekers for violating the Health Ministry's coronavirus regulations from their deposit money.

According to Erdan, "offsetting the fines from the deposit money will help bolster deterrence in southern Tel Aviv and prevent the spread of the virus among this population." Erdan's initiative is awaiting approval by the Justice Ministry to raise it to a vote at an upcoming government meeting.

Israel finds it difficult to collect fines that the state imposes on asylum seekers, partly because of the difficulty of locating them for collection, and because in many cases they do not have a permanent address or identity card. Recently, the Interior Ministry decided to allow asylum seekers who were fired or are on unpaid leave due to the coronavirus crisis to redeem funds from their deposit accounts for subsistence purposes. (Lee Yaron)

3:50 P.M. Police track and arrest coronavirus patient on public bus, quarantine 34 passengers

Israel Police tracked and arrested a confirmed coronavirus patient Sunday who was travelling on a public bus on its way to Jerusalem, prompting 34 other passengers to be quarantined. 

The bus driver was fined 5,000 shekels ($1,375) for violating government and Health Ministry orders. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

3:40 P.M. Police report 144 investigations against quarantine violators, 397 worshipers fined for violating orders

Israel Police said it distributed more than 12,000 tickets Sunday to people and businesses that violated coronavirus regulations, and opened 144 investigations against quarantine violators and 43 investigations against fake news distributors. 

Additionally, 85 closure orders were issued for businesses, 132 reports on weddings held in public spaces, 397 reports on prayers violating regulations, 523 for refusing instruction to disperse crowds. (Josh Breiner)

3:20 P.M. Netanyahu appoints ministerial committee to oversee Shin Bet coronavirus surveillance

Paramedics remove a patient from an ambulance at the emergency room of Sha'are Tzedek hospital, March 30, 2020.
Paramedics remove a patient from an ambulance at the emergency room of Sha'are Tzedek hospital, March 30, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed a ministerial committee to oversee the Shin Bet's surveillance of coronavirus patients' phones, chaired by Minister Yuval Steinitz, with Ministers Yoav Galant, Amir Ohana and Ze'ev Elkin. (Noa Landau)

2:10 P.M. Israelis investigated over fake news

Israel Police questioned four Israelis for impersonating Health Ministry officials and sending fraudulent text messages notifying others that they must enter quarantine amid the coronavirus crisis, creating panic among the public. They are also suspected of handing out fines to people who supposedly violated quarantine.

The case will be transferred to the State Prosecutor's Office for further examination. (Josh Breiner)

1:17 P.M. Iran's deaths from coronavirus reach 3,603

The death toll in Iran from the outbreak of the new coronavirus has reached 3,603, health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a statement broadcast live on state TV on Sunday.

One hundred and fifty one people have died in the past twenty four hours, he said.

The Islamic Republic, the Middle Eastern country worst-hit by the epidemic, now has a total of 58,226 infections, Jahanpur said. (Reuters)

1:15 P.M. Parents to be reimbursed for unprovided services, Education Ministry says

Educational institutions will reimburse parents who paid for services their children didn’t receive amid the coronavirus crisis, including field trips and meals, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.

However, the Ministry will allowe the institutions to collect money from students’ parents for extracurricular activities if they are carried out through digital means.

Parents will also continue paying for schools lending out textbooks, and purchasing tablets and laptops. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)  

12:30 P.M. Health Ministry top official: Economic activity won’t resume after Passover

Health Ministry Deputy Director General Prof. Itamar Grotto said that the Ministry does not intend to lift the strict economic lockdown next week, after the Passover holiday.

Speaking before the Knesset committee in charge of the coronavirus crisis, Grotto said that “We don’t intend or we have the ability to get the economy back on track after Passover. This should be taken into consideration. We have to wait and see if the infection rate changes after the Passover holiday, which will only happen several days after the holiday.”

Grotto added: “There’s a myth here I would like to bust. Even if we perform 200,000 tests or a million tests per day, this won’t help resume economic activity. If we test a million people, and allow those who test negative to go to work, it’s a matter of days until they start infecting others and are diagnosed with the disease. 

 “To resume economic activity, we would have to rely on serological tests (which identify coronavirus antidotes in the blood stream),” Grotto said, adding that the Health Ministry, and the Mossad are working to obtain efficient serological tests. (Jonathan Lis)

11:40 Israel’s coronavirus death toll rises to 47

A 61-year-old woman passed away from the coronavirus at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. The woman, who suffered from underlying health conditions, was transferred to Wolfson from a geriatric hospital in early March. (Bar Peleg) 

11:39 A.M. Interior minister: Infection rate in Jerusalem Haredi neighborhoods worse than Bnei Brak

Workers removes written prayers and disinfect the Western Wall during the coronavirus pandemic, Jerusalem, March 31, 2020.
Workers removes written prayers and disinfect the Western Wall during the coronavirus pandemic, Jerusalem, March 31, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Interior Minister Arye Dery, who is leading the response to the coronavirus crisis in ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities, said that the infection rate in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem is higher than in the largely Haredi city of Bnei Brak, which is now under complete lockdown.

Speaking before the Knesset committee in charge of monitoring the coronavirus crisis, Dery said that “Most of Jerusalem's coronavirus patients hail from its Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. In some of the most infected neighborhoods there, the percentage of confirmed cases is even higher than in Bnei Brak.” (Jonathan Lis)

11:19 A.M. Number of coronavirus cases rises to 215 in the West Bank

A spokesperson for the Palestinian government said that nine more people were diagnosed with the coronavirus, bringing the total to 215 in the West Bank. (Jack Khoury)

11:17 A.M. Health Ministry top official: We are working to lower infection rate in Haredi enclaves

Health Ministry Deputy Director General Prof. Itamar Grotto said that the Ministry is aiming to lower the infection rate in ultra-Orthodox communities.

Speaking before the Knesset committee in charge of handling the coronavirus crisis, Grotto said that the Health Ministry seeks to lower the average number of people every confirmed patient in the ultra-Orthodox community infects from 1.4 to 1.2.

“It may sound insignificant, but it has a huge impact,” Grotto said. (Jonathan Lis)  

11:02 A.M. Health Ministry says solution may have been found to coronavirus tests shortage 

The Health Ministry said that it seems to have found a solution over the weekend to the shortage of reagents, which has forced Israel to greatly reduce its coronavirus testing. The ministry added that it is also in contact with other suppliers, which will allow it to carry out an additional 10,000 plus tests per day in the next two weeks or so. (Ido Efrati) 

10:23 A.M. Testing clinic for refugees, migrants and the homeless opens in south Tel Aviv

Ichilov Hospital and the Tel Aviv municipality opened a testing center for the migrant and homeless populations in south Tel Aviv starting Monday. 

The clinic, which is located by the Central Bus Station, is intended for those who have been showing symptoms of the virus. (Bar Peleg)

10:05 A.M. Iranian president says low-risk economic activities to resume from April 11

Iran's president said on Sunday "low-risk" economic activities would resume from April 11 in the Middle Eastern country worst-affected by the new coronavirus.

"Under the supervision of the health ministry, all those low-risk economic activities will resume from Saturday," President Hassan Rohani said in a televised meeting.

"Two thirds of all Iranian government employees will work out of office from Saturday ... the decision does not contradict stay at home advice by the health authorities." (Reuters) 

08:45 A.M. IDF, Defense Ministry to help Health Ministry with  nursing homes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that the Defense Ministry and the IDF's Home Front Command were instructed to assist the Health Ministry with operational aspects in nursing homes as part of Israel’s national effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Noa Landau)

8:21 A.M. Israel’s coronavirus cases surge past 8,000

The Health Ministry said that 8,018 Israelis have so far contracted COVID-19, most of them in mild condition. Forty-six patients have died, 127 are in serious condition, and 106 are on ventilators.

On Saturday, 182 more coronavirus cases were confirmed in Israel. The biggest increase was registered in Jerusalem, where 58 more cases were confirmed. Overall, 1,311 cases were registered in Jerusalem.

In addition, 26 more people tested positive in the largely ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, bringing the total there to 1,218.

In other ultra-Orthodox enclaves, only a slight increase of new cases was registered on Saturday.

An epidemiology expert told Haaretz that the low number of cases registered over the weekend stems from the low number of tests performed and doesn’t indicate that a trend reversal had occurred.(Aaron Rabinowitz and Ido Efrati) 

8:10 A.M. 63-year-old man dies of coronavirus, raising toll to 46

A 63-year-old man diagnosed with coronavirus passed away on Sunday morning, bringing Israel’s death toll to 46.

The Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Karem said the man suffered from severe underlying health conditions. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

7:47 A.M. Israel’s coronavirus death toll rises to 45

An 84-year-old woman, who suffered from severe underlying health conditions, died of the coronavirus at the Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva.

The woman resided in a nursing home where five have already died of coronavirus. (Almog Ben Zikri)

SATURDAY

10:20 P.M. Number of coronavirus cases in West Bank rises to 205

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah confirmed one more coronavirus case in a Palestinian village near Nablus in the West Bank, bringing total to 205. (Jack Khoury)

9:25 P.M. One more Israeli dies of coronavirus, bringing total to 44

An 88-year-old Israeli coronavirus patient with preexisting conditions died on Saturday, bringing Israel's total death toll to 43. (Bar Peleg)

9:00 P.M. Coronavirus cases in Israel reach 7,581

According to the latest statistics from the Health Ministry, the number of Israel’s confirmed coronavirus cases reached 7,581; the vast majority of which are mild. 

So far, 43 Israeli died, while 126 are in serious condition, 108 of which are on ventilators. Aditionally, 458 patients have recovered. (Haaretz)

8:45 P.M. Turkey's coronavirus death toll rises above 500 

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Turkey rose by more than 3,000 to 23,934 on Saturday with deaths related to COVID-19 rising by 76 to 501 people, Heath Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter.

In the last 24 hours, 19,664 tests were conducted bringing the total performed in Turkey so far to 161,380, Koca, said. (Reuters)

8:35 P.M. Israel Police disperse service in Nahariya synagogue

Israel Police dispersed Saturday a prayer service at a Nahariya synagogue where 15 people were taking part, violating Health Ministry orders, after local residents reported them to the police. (Noa Spiegel)

8:30 P.M. Dubai imposes two-week lockdown to fight coronavirus outbreak (Reuters)

8:30 P.M. Health Ministry considering closure of several coronavirus hot spots in Israel 

The Health Ministry is discussing the closure of localities and neighborhoods where an abnormal rise in coronavirus related morbidity has been recorded. 

Among those communities are Elad, Modi'in Illit, Mea Shearim, ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Beit Shemesh, Tiberias, Migdal Ha'emek and Ashkelon.

The government's decision from Thursday authorizes a ministerial committee to declare a city or neighborhood a restricted area, but those who are expected to make an actual decision are the prime minister, in collaboration with the the National Security Council. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

>> Read full report here 

8:00 P.M. Palestinians fear coronavirus surge as workers return to West Bank from Israel over Passover

The Palestinian Authority is bracing for a return of tens of thousands of workers over Passover, amid fears they may add to the incidence of coronavirus infection in the West Bank.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Friday that the next two weeks would be critical with regard to the virus’ spread, citing the anticipated return of some 45,000 workers from Israel over Passover.

None of those returning to the West Bank will be permitted to resume work in Israel afterwards, and Israel is worried about a possible labor shortage as a result.

Shtayyeh has strongly urged Israeli authorities to test the workers for the coronavirus before they return to the West Bank. But while many would be heading through official crossings, those without valid permits may seek to return via bypass routes, reducing their likelihood of being tested. (Jack Khoury and Hagar Shezaf)

>> Read full report here 

7:45 P.M. Israel police to intensify lockdown enforcement during Passover week 

Israel Police intend to intensify lockdown enforcement this week, with emphasis on Passover eve, fearing that many Israelis will be attempting to go out and visit their families for the holiday.

As part of the preparations, police are expected to deploy during the week, especially on Wednesday, traffic patrols, including checkpoints to exits from cities and main roads, with a senior police official emphasizing that the intention is to "act harshly" against the violators. (Josh Breiner)

7:45 P.M. Six more Palestinians test positive for coronavirus in West Bank, bringing total to 204

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah announced six more coronavirus cases in the West Bank, bringing total to 204, while in the Gaza Strip the number of cases stands at 12. (Jack Khoury)

6:20 P.M. Egypt launches virtual tours of archaeological sites amid pandemic

Egypt's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has launched a series of virtual and guided video tours of museums and archaeological sites around the country.

The move comes as the spread of the novel coronavirus has locked down countries and forced visitors and tourists to stay at home as part of measures to fight the pandemic.

The tours are available on the ministry's official website and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter under the slogan: "Experience Egypt from Home. Stay Home. Stay Safe." (DPA)

5:00 P.M. Five more Palestinians test positive for coronavirus in West Bank, bringing total to 198

The Palestinian Authority said Saturday that five more people tested positive for the coronavirus in the West Bank, specifically in Ramallah and Hebron and are in isolation. 

The number of coronavirus patients in the West Bank rose to 198, and 12 in the Gaza Strip. (Jack Khoury)

4:20 P.M. Medics at Egypt's main cancer center test positive for coronavirus

At least 17 medics in Egypt’s main cancer hospital have been quarantined after testing positive for the coronavirus, officials said Saturday, raising fears the pandemic could prey on health facilities in the Arab world's most populous country.

Egypt has reported around 1,000 confirmed cases and 66 fatalities from the global pandemic. (Reuters)

4:00 P.M. Israeli couple dies a week apart from coronavirus

Within a week, the couple Danny and Julia Avrahami both died of the coronavirus. The 70-year-old woman died on Friday at a Tel Aviv Hospital a week after her husband had died at the age of 80.

The husband had a chronic lung disease and was hospitalized a few weeks ago in an internal ward in Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, where the virus spread. His daughter has accused the hospital of not doing enough to prevent him from contracting the virus. Wolfson hospital has rejected these claims since. (Bar Peleg)

3:50 P.M. Saudi authorities lock down several Jeddah neighbourhoods (Reuters)

2:09 P.M. Health Ministry approves only limited amount of coronavirus tests in nursing homes 

Despite the high mortality rate in nursing homes and professional recommendation to expand the number of coronavirus tests in such facilities, the Health Ministry approved performing a limited amount of tests there and only after one confirmed case has been registered. (Ido Efrati)

1:05 P.M. Drive-through stations limit activity amid shortage of coronavirus testing component

The Health Ministry instructed Magen David Adom paramedics to reduce the operation of drive-through testing stations for the coronavirus due to shortage of specific testing components.

As a result, the drive-through station have been operating for only three or four hours a day over the weekend and many suspected coronavirus patients who are currently in quarantine received text messages saying that their appointment to get tested at the drive-through has been postponed.    

In addition, laboratories performing coronavirus tests have reported a shortage of a reagent necessary to carry out the tests over the few past days.

Nevertheless, the number of home tests paramedics are performing on suspected patients wasn’t reduced. (Ido Efrati)      

>> Read full report here 

12:58 P.M. Iran's coronavirus death toll rises to 3,452

Iran's death toll from the coronavirus outbreak climbed to 3,452 on Saturday, with 158 more fatalities recorded over the past 24 hours, Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpur said.

The total number of cases diagnosed with the disease reached 55,743, of whom 4,103 are in critical condition, he said on state TV.

Iran is the country worst affected by the pandemic in the Middle East. (Reuters) 

12:31 P.M. Daughter of coronavirus fatality blames hospital

The daughter of an 80-year-old man who died from COVID-19 is blaming the the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon for not doing enough to prevent him from catching the coronavirus after he was admitted to the hospital for his chronic lung disease.  

Danny Avrahami spent several weeks at Wolfson before he was diagnosed with the virus. He passed away last Friday, and his 70-year-old wife, Hulia Avrahami, died of the virus a week later at the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.

Wolfson rejected the claim Avrahami came down with the virus at the hospital. (Bar Peleg)

11:50 A.M. 76-year-old man dies of coronavirus, bringing Israel’s death toll to 42

The Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon said that a 76-year-old man had passed away from COVID-19 on Friday night.

The man was hospitalized last week, and he was intubated before his passing. This brings Israel's coronavirus death toll to 42. (Ido Efrati) 

11:34 A.M. Police arrest 10 Haredim suspected of assaulting cops enforcing coronavirus restrictions in J'lem

The police said they arrested 10 people early Saturday while attempting to disperse worshipers in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem who gathered to hold mass prayers in synagogues and open spaces, violating Health ministry directives.  

The police added that those arrested are suspected of assaulting  police officers in the line of duty.

Moreover, residents were spotted praying in synagogues and public spaces across Jerusalem, with police forces dispersing them. Over 30 tickets were handed out to the lawbreakers. (Josh Breiner)

11:22 Number of coronavirus cases in West Bank climbs to 193

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, among the new cases are two teenagers, aged 11 and 15, who probably contracted the disease from their father.

The Ministry added that a significant part of those infected are Palestinian laborers who worked in Israel. (Jack Khoury)

10:09 Number of Coronavirus deaths in Israel reaches 41

A 67-year-old woman with severe underlying health conditions passed away from COVID-19 at the Soroka Medical Center in the southern city of Be’er Sheva, raising Israel's coronavirus death toll to 41.

The woman was a resident at a nursing home in Be’er Sheva and she is the fourth coronavirus fatality who caught the disease there. 

So far, 29 elders residing in the nursing home and 13 staff members have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The Health Ministry agreed to test the nursing home’s residents and crew only after the elders’ families staged a protest earlier this week, demanding that everyone be tested to stem the outbreak in the facility.

On Monday, Health Ministry professionals issued a recommendation to expend the criteria for coronavirus tests, and test suspected patients who are not showing symptoms in nursing homes, prisons, assisted facilities and other closed surroundings where a coronavirus patient had been diagnosed. (Ido Efrati and Almog Ben Zikri)    

10:04 A.M. Coronavirus cases surge past 7,500, 15 in serious condition

The Health Ministry said the number of Israel’s confirmed coronavirus cases reached 7,589. 

Forty-one people have died, 115 are in serious condition and 96 are on ventilators. (Haaretz)  

8:31 A.M. 88-year-old woman dies of coronavirus is the fifth victim in a nursing home

An 88-year-old woman diagnosed with COVID-19 passed away at the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. The woman suffered from severe underlying health conditions. This brings Israel's coronavirus death toll to 40.

The woman was the fifth victim claimed by the virus in the same nursing home in Be’er Sheva. (Ido Efrati)  

8:07 A.M. Number of coronavirus cases in West Bank rises to 182

The Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed one more coronavirus case in the West Bank, bringing tally to 182. (Jack Khoury)

2:18 A.M. World Bank sees 'major global recession' due to pandemic

World Bank Group President David Malpass on Friday said the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic was expected to cause a "major global recession" that would likely hit the poorest and most vulnerable countries the hardest.

"We intend to respond forcefully and massively with support programs, especially for poor countries," Malpass said in a posting on the LinkedIn networking site, adding that he planned to speak soon with the leaders of Ethiopia, Kenya and other countries. (Reuters)

FRIDAY

10:20 P.M. Government promotes move that will require food chains to prioritize deliveries to the elderly

The Israeli government is promoting a move that will require large food chains to prioritize deliveries to the elderly, and deliver their orders within a day. The directive will be laid down in a law that will be a temporary order for the duration of the fight against the coronavirus. (Jonathan Lis)

9:00 P.M. Coronavirus cases in Israel rise to 7,428

According to the latest statistics from the Health Ministry, 7,428 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Israel, an 8.3 percent increase in a day. The vast majority of cases are mild; 113 Israelis are in serious condition with 96 on ventilators. Thirty-nine Israelis have died, and 403 have recovered. (Haaretz)

8:15 P.M. Thousands of Palestinian laborers in Israel to return to West Bank amid coronavirus fears

An estimated 45,000 Palestinian laborers will return to the West Bank after having worked and stayed in Israel for weeks, causing grave concern in the Palestinian Authority that they may aggravate the spread of the coronavirus.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh warned that the next two weeks will be critical as many Palestinian workers will be returning to their homes in villages and cities across the West Bank because of the Jewish Passover holiday.  

Shtayyeh demanded that Israel perform coronavirus tests on workers wishing to return to the West Bank, and that their employers compensate them for lost work days. He said that there are talks with Israel to coordinate the healthy return of workers. He also noted that many workers don't have permits and use indirect travel routes, making it difficult for Palestinian authorities to monitor and test them.

There are currently 188 confirmed coronavirus cases in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority noted that the majority of tests last week were given to workers in a poultry factor in Atarot. The factory has 500 workers, 41 of them were confirmed with the virus while another 250 are in quarantine. (Jack Khoury)

7:10 P.M. 22 more Palestinians test positive for coronavirus in West Bank, bringing total to 181

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced that another 22 people had been diagnosed with coronavirus in the West Bank on Friday, bringing total of cases to 181. In the Gaza Strip 12 people have been diagnosed so far. (Jack Khoury)

6:50 P.M. 70-year-old Israeli dies, bringing death toll to 39 

A 70-year-old with preexisting conditions died Friday evening after being hospitalized with the coronavirus, bringing total death toll in Israel to 39. (Bar Peleg)

6:32 P.M. Palestinian Authority extends lockdown in West Bank

Emergency regulations in the West Bank will be extended for another 30 days, said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a televised speech.

He called on the tens of thousands of Palestinian workers currently staying in Israel to obey the authority's instructions upon their return to their villages and cities in the West Bank.

Abbas also called on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners, stressing that "Israel carries full responsibility for the wellbeing of all prisoners." (Jack Khoury)

5:24 P.M. Number of coronavirus cases in ultra-Orthodox hotspot surpasses 1,000

The number of coronavirus cases in the ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak, de facto a neighborhood of Tel Aviv, has jumped to over 1,000 on Friday. The rate of the increase has slowed down, however: as compared to the previous days’ 25 percent hikes, the number of cases grew by a mere 14 percent on Friday.

The overall number of patients grew to 1,030 from 900 the previous day. Meanwhile, the number of cases has also grown significantly in Kokhav HaShahar (to a total of 11), Tiberias (84), Safed, Kochav Yaakov (31) and Modi’in Ilit (97). (Aaron Rabinowitz)

5:00 P.M. National Security Advisor: 'There are signs of slowdown in spread of the coronavirus'

The National Security Adviser and Head of National Security Council Meir Ben Shabat said Friday that there are signs of a slowdown in the spread of the coronavirus in Israel following the measures taken.

However, he said the situation is unstable, "there is volatility and there are communities where the situation is not good." He added that "there could be an outbreak in such areas, which would affect the overall effort to curb the severe morbidity." Ben Shabat further noted that there is thought about the exit strategy, "but the current effort is still to ensure containment." (Noa Landau)

4:00 P.M. Israel will import millions of eggs from Europe amid shortage 

The Prime Minister's Office announced that the Treasury and Agriculture ministries will subsidize the import of millions of eggs from Europe next week in order to overcome the existing market shortages. (Aaron Rabinowitz and Noa Landau)

4:00 P.M. Qalandiyah refugee camp near Ramallah quarantined

The Palestinian Authority will put the entire Qalandiyah refugee camp near Ramallah in quarantine until at least Tuesday, following the discovery of coronavirus cases in the camp. (Jack Khoury)

3:20 P.M. Two more Israeli coronavirus patients die, bringing total to 38

A 75-year-old with several preexisting conditions and a 79-year-old passed away on Friday after both coronavirus patients had been hospitalized in critical condition, bringing total death toll in Israel to 38. (Bar Peleg and Noa Spiegel)

2:35 P.M. Over 200 Israelis return from abroad

In the past day, 210 Israelis returned to Israel from abroad, most of them on one El Al flight that returned from Berlin this morning, the Foreign Ministry said. 

There are currently 1,877 Israeli citizens abroad who are trying to return, including 48 who were added to the Foreign Ministry's list since Thursday.

2:11 P.M. Police to reduce Bnei Brak presence during Shabbat

The police are expected to reduce their forces and take down roadblocks within the city of Bnei Brak on Saturday in accordance with the Shabbat. This is due to "the need to respect the residents," police sources said. 

Although there will be fewer officers on the street than the 1,000 currently stationed there today, "if there are blatant violations and we're notified, we'll arrive with increased forces to deal with it," sources said. According to one police source, there is a rabbinical order that allows for reporting violations on Shabbat as well.

Following requests from residents, police also decided that the Border Police forces patrolling the city will no longer be armed. There will also be undercover forces patrolling the city, along with drones, to enforce lockdown measures on Shabbat as well. (Josh Breiner)

1:18 P.M. Ten more Palestinians test positive in West Bank

The Palestinian Authority announced that 10 more have tested positive for the coronavirus in the West Bank. According to the statement, the new cases were from Tul Karm, Bedu, Katna and Hizma; all of the patients had had contact with other carriers. 

There are now 171 cases in the Palestinian territories, and 12 in the Gaza Strip.

The PA said that about 250 workers were quarantined until their test results return, and 1,500 tests were carried out overnight in the West Bank. 

Earlier today, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced a presidential order extending the emergency measures in the West Bank for another month. (Jack Khoury)

1:10 P.M. IDF to be deployed for Bnei Brak aid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the IDF to provide aid to the locked-down city of Bnei Brak. According to a statement from Netanyahu, the police will continue enforcing the closure.

Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, IDF chief of staff, met with Interior Minister Arye Dery to discuss the military aid. The IDF will soon be helping the civilian population of the city as it copes with the coronavirus outbreak, but neither Netanyahu nor the military specified what kind of aid will be given. (Yaniv Kubovich)

1:09 P.M. Iran's coronavirus death toll rises to 3,294

Iran's death toll from the new coronavirus rose on Friday to 3,294 as it claimed 134 lives in the past 24 hours, according to Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpur.

The total number of people confirmed to be infected is 53,183, he said on state television, adding that 4,035 were "under observation," a term that may mean they are in critical condition.

Of the total number of people who were diagnosed with the disease, 17,935 have recovered, he said. (Reuters)

12:21 P.M. One quarter of Israelis unemployed

Employment services reported that on Thursday, 15,544 more Israelis registered as unemployed. Since the beginning of march, 882,577 people registered – 89 percent of them on unpaid leave. The unemployment rate now stands at 24.9 percent. 

11:55 A.M. Health minister's epidemiological investigation completed

The Health Ministry completed their epidemiological investigation of Yaakov Litzman, who tested positive for the coronavirus overnight yesterday. Anyone who had contact with Litzman was notified personally, the ministry said. 

"Contrary to media reports," the ministry statement said, "the minister's personal phone was tracked, as is done for almost all Israeli citizens who test positive. The places the minister visted were included to the list of locations where coronavirus patients were."

11:35 A.M. Deputy Bnei Brak mayor: Closure 'death trap for the elderly'

Gedalyahu Ben Shimon, deputy mayor of Bnei Barak, said that the strict closure put on the city, a coronavirus hotspot, will only lead to more infections.

"The current closure is a death trap for the elderly," he said. "Many residents are rushing to the few supermarkets and raising the risk of infection. Instead of a closure where the military takes full responsibility for food and medicine for the thousands of civilians, they did half the work. That raises the risk of infection and may cost human lives. We need to calculate a new route." (Bar Peleg)

10:30 A.M. Over 7,000 cases confirmed in Israel

According to the latest statistics from the Health Ministry, 7,030 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Israel. The vast majority of cases are mild; 115 Israelis are in serious condition with 95 on ventilators. Thirty-six Israelis have died, and 357 have recovered.

The Health Ministry revised the number of fatalities from 37 to 36, after a patient who passed away Thursday tested negative for the virus post-mortem. (Ido Efrati)

9:10 A.M. Two test positive at assisted living home

At the Mishan Assisted living home in Be'er Sheva, two residents out of 151 have tested positive for the coronavirus. The two patients feel well, and have not developed symptoms. All of the home's residents were tested and 149 were found to be negative; the staff are waiting to get their results.

The facility's management says that they took severe quarantine measures immediately after the first resident was diagnosed. (Almog Ben Zikri)

8:30 A.M. 71-year-old man dies at Sheba Medical Center

A 71-year-old man, who had been treated in the coronavirus ward of Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, passed away. He suffered from severe underlying conditions. 

7:50 A.M. Roadblocks, 1,000 police officers in Bnei Brak as full lockdown begins

Police have erected dozens of barricades at the entrances and exits of Bnei Brak, as over 1,000 police officers have been dispatched to the ultra-Orthodox city under full lockdown. 

Police are manning observation posts and using drones to ensure that no one is entering or exiting the city, which residents can only do with a permit or under specific circumstances. Only food and medical necessities can be brought in as needed. 

Forces are being concentrated in main areas, but a police source said that they will "not chase after anyone escaping by foot" to neighboring Ramat Gan. But, he added, "We expect that the residents will understand that this is a different situation." Police have taped off the Ramat Gan borders.

Residents can request permits to enter, exit or bring in other supplies must contact the municipality through a dedicated hotline, where a representative will decide if it is necessary. (Bar Peleg and Josh Breiner)

5.20 A.M. French death toll jumps as nursing homes included

The coronavirus death count in France surged to nearly 5,400 people on Thursday after the health ministry began including nursing home fatalities in its data.

The pandemic had claimed the lives of 4,503 patients in hospitals by Thursday, up 12% on the previous day's 4,032, said Jerome Salomon, head of the health authority. A provisional tally showed the coronavirus had killed a further 884 people in nursing homes and other care facilities, he added. (Reuters)

12:48 A.M. World coronavirus cases surpass 1 million

Global virus cases surpassed 1 million on Thursday, with more than 51,000 deaths as the pandemic further exploded in the United States and the death toll climbed in Spain and Italy, according to a tally by researchers at the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. (Reuters)

THURSDAY

11:37 P.M. Prime Minister tests negative for virus

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today received a coronavirus check, the results for which came back negative, according to Netanyahu's spokesperson. (Noa Landau)

10:19 P.M. Bnei Brak designated as restricted zone, entry and exit limited

After the government approved a regulation allowing the closure of coronavirus hot spots, the city of Bnei Brak has been declared a restricted zone, meaning entry and exit will only be allowed for essential needs or in extraordinary circumstances. The government said it would form a ministerial committee headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu with the authority to declare other areas restricted zones. According to the new regulation, anyone who wants to enter or leave a restricted zone would need to present a permit. (Noa Landau)

>> Read the full report

10:14 P.M. Two more Israelis die of virus, bringing toll to 36

An 84-year-old man died of the coronavirus at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem. The man had several underlying illnesses and had been hospitalized in moderate condition before his condition deteriorated. A 91-year-old man with serious underlying illnesses died at Beilinson Hospital, Rabin Medical Center, Petah Tikva. This brought Israel's coronavirus death toll to 36. (Haaretz)

9:57 P.M. Israel approves regulation allowing limiting access to hot spots

The Israeli government approved new regulations to limit access to areas identified as coronavirus hot spots. The regulations, in effect as of Thursday, are expected to be imposed on the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, where cases have ballooned after authorities  projected a business-as-usual attitude and ignored restrictions that were imposed nationally. A ministerial committee must approve the closure of any specific location. (Noa Landau) 

9:35 P.M. Report given to top Israeli officials last year said country unprepared for pandemic

A report provided to the Prime Minister's Office and senior defense officials last year said the country was unprepared for a natural disaster or disease outbreak that would require a declaration of emergency, a senior defense source told Haaretz.

The report also pointed to major gaps between rich and poor areas in terms of food, basic supplies, and the providing of essential services. A number of locations are not prepared for the possibility of distributing food to residents, according to the report, including Tel Aviv, because of its size. "The numbers show that less than a third [of local authorities] will be able to keep their head above water without collapsing," another defense source said.  (Yaniv Kubovich)

9:23 P.M. TV report: Health minister, now diagnosed with virus, violated coronavirus regulations by praying in synagogue

According to a report on Channel 12 on Thursday, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who was diagnosed with the coronavirus earlier in the day, violated official guidelines by praying in a synagogue and at a private residence in the past week. The report cited worshippers and residents who live near Litzman in Jerusalem. The health minister denied the report. (Haaretz)

9:20 P.M. Iraq has thousands more cases than reported, medics say 

Iraq has thousands of confirmed COVID-19 cases, many times more than the 772 it has publicly reported, according to three doctors closely involved in the testing process, a health ministry official and a senior political official. The sources all spoke on condition of anonymity. Iraqi authorities have instructed medical staff not to speak to the media. Iraq's health ministry, the only official outlet for information on the coronavirus, dismissed the sources' reading of the spread of the disease. The ministry said in its latest daily statement on Thursday that the total recorded confirmed cases for Iraq were 772, with 54 deaths. (Reuters)

9:15 P.M. Israel announces more cases, bringing total to 6,857

Israel announced several more cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 6,857, with 108 in serious condition. (Haaretz)

8:12 P.M. Health Ministry video instructs Israelis on homemade masks

After the prime minister called on all members of the public to wear masks outside the home, the Health Ministry released a video on how to easily make your own masks at home using nothing but a sheet and hair ties, in case you can’t find any at a local store, or can’t afford them. (Ruth Schuster) Read the full report...

7:59 P.M. HMO chief's claim that 38% of city's residents probably infected was likely based on calculation error

The CEO of the Maccabi HMO, Ran Sa'ar, said Thursday that he thought about 38 percent of Bnei Brak's residents were likely infected with the virus, but this may be based on a miscalculation. While the Health Ministry found that 35 percent of the coronavirus tests provided by Maccabi in the city did come out positive, most of those tested showed early symptoms of the virus. This means that the proportion of people infected with the virus in Bnei Brak is likely unusually higher than the national average, it is still far from 38 percent. The true number may be only about 10 percent of that assessment. (Amos Harel)

7:50 P.M. Public security minister proposes ban on entering or leaving Bnei Break for a week

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan proposed declaring the city of Bnei Brak as a restricted zone for a week amid the outbreak, with entry and exit banned except for extraordinary cases. This could be extended to 21 days. According to Erdan's proposal, Bnei Brak residents will be allowed to leave the city only for essential needs like medical treatment, legal proceedings or the funeral of an immediate family member. (Josh Breiner)

7:40 P.M. Israel Prison Service says it has started producing protective masks

The Israel Prison Service said it began mass production of reusable protective masks, meant first for prisoners and prison staff, and later to other security forces. (Josh Breiner)

7:08 P.M. 98-year-old dies of virus, bringing Israel's toll to 34

A 98-year-old woman died of the virus at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem. She suffered from underlying illnesses and was hospitalized for 10 days before her death. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

6:54 P.M. Number of coronavirus cases in Israel rises to 6,808

The total number of coronavirus cases in Israel reached 6,808, a daily increase of 640, or about 10%. (Aaron Rabinowitz) 

6:48 P.M. Town of Kiryat Ye'arim,  settlement of Betar Ilit to ban non-residents

The town of Kiryat Ye'arim and the West Bank settlement of Betar Ilit said they would refuse entry to non-residents in light of the virus' spread. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

6:45 P.M. Iran's parliament speaker tests positive, is in quarantine

Iran’s parliament speaker Ali Larijani has contracted the coronavirus, the highest-ranking official among several senior government figures to catch the disease. The parliament in Iran, the regional epicenter of the coronavirus, announced Larijani’s illness on its website, saying he was receiving treatment in quarantine. (AP)

6:35 P.M. Israel's unemployment rate rises to 24.9%

The unemployment rate has reached 24.9%, with a total of over a million Israelis seeking a job. Since the crisis began in early March, 879,372 people have joined the ranks of those who have registered as unemployed – 89.2% of them were on unpaid leave, and 6.6 were fired. (Lee Yaron)

6:32 P.M. Lawmaker, Knesset guard enter quarantine over contact with health minister

Lawmaker Israel Eichler and a Knesset guard were instructed to go into isolation after a review of security footage showed them having contact with Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who has tested positive for the virus. (Jonathan Lis)

6:30 P.M. Police hand out fines totaling over 7.6 million shekels in week after new regulations imposed

Police handed out fines totaling more than 7.6 million shekels (about $2 million) in the week after the government imposed new regulations limiting citizens' movements. Police can hand out fines of 500 shekels for going further than 100 meters away from one's home without a valid reason, and of 5,000 shekels if someone who is part of a public gathering refuses to disperse. (Josh Breiner)

6:12 P.M. Tel Aviv hospital to let families in protective gear to visit dying relatives

Ichilov Hospital, Tel Aviv, has come up with a plan to permit the families of dying coronavirus patients to be able to come say goodbye at their bedside. Around the world, people are dying in hospital wards without their loved ones, who are not allowed in for fear of further spreading the virus. Ichilov plans to allow immediate relatives wearing personal protective equipment provided by the hospital to visit dying patients in their final moments. (Noa Landau)

6:01 P.M. Military says total of 100 soldiers infected

The military released a statement saying that 100 soldiers have been diagnosed with the virus, while 3,000 are in isolation and 13 have recovered. There are 12,000 members of the military who are helping to deal with the outbreak, the military said. (Yaniv Kubovich)

5:57 P.M. Ministers' plan has 4,500 senior citizens from Bnei Brak put in isolation facilities

Interior Minister Arye Dery and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett agreed on a plan to put 4,500 residents of Bnei Brak aged 80 and over in isolation facilities, as the city struggles to halt the spread of the virus. (Noa Landau)

5:50 P.M. Average age of coronavirus deaths in Israel so far is 79

The average age of coronavirus fatalities in Israel stands at 79, based on official figures provided by the Health Ministry. Of the 33 people who have died, 21 were men and 12 were women. Similarly to the global average, which shows that 95 percent of fatalities from the virus are over the age of 60, two of the deaths in Israel were younger than 60. All the fatalities have been described as having underlying illnesses, but in most cases these conditions were not specified.  (Haaretz)

5:26 P.M. Palestinians report five more cases in West Bank

The Palestinian government said it had confirmed five more coronavirus cases in the West Bank, bringing the total number of Palestinian cases to 160, of which 12 are in Gaza. (Jack Khoury)

5:05 P.M. Maccabiah Games postponed from 2021 to summer 2022

The Maccabiah Games, in which Jewish athletes from all over the world come to compete in Israel, was postponed from 2021 to July 2022 over the virus.

3:55 P.M. Ten of 18 assisted living residents test positive, won't be evacuated for treatment

Ten of the 18 residents left in the Mishan assisted living center in Be'er Sheva have tested positive for the coronavirus, and the Ministry of Health is refusing to evacuate them for treatment.

The manager of the Mishan chain, Omri Cohen, said of the situation: "We're helpless, for both the patients and their families. Our demand from the Health Ministry that they be evacuated to a center for treating coronavirus patients was not accepted." (Almog Ben Zikri)

3:53 P.M. Government discussing emergency regulations to allow imposing curfew on Bnei Brak

The government convened to discuss emergency regulations that would allow authorities so impose a curfew on the hard-hit city of Bnei Brak. A decision was not expected to be made on Thursday. (Noa Landau)

3:18 P.M. Saudi Arabia imposes 24-hour curfew in Mecca and Medina

Saudi Arabia imposed a 24-hour curfew in Mecca and Medina on Thursday, the interior ministry said, extending measures taken to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 1,700 people and killed 16.

The interior ministry said in a statement there were some exceptions, including for essential workers and in order for residents to buy food and access medical care. The curfew had previously been from 3:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M. (Reuters)

2:49 P.M. Netanyahu says disabled to get 500-shekel grant amid coronavirus crisis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that people with disabilities would receive a 500-shekel grant as Israel grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu also said he would ask the Finance Ministry to provide a special Passover grant to families that will include 500 shekels per child up to the fourth. A similar grant for senior citizens was announced.

The grants are still pending Knesset approval. (Noa Landau)

2:33 P.M. IDF halts demolition of illegal populated structures in the West Bank

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories has informed the United Nations that the Israeli army would stop all planned demolitions of illegal populated structures in the West Bank as long as the coronavirus outbreak persists.

Demolition of water and electricity infrastructure, as well as of illegal unpopulated structures, will proceed as usual. (Hagar Shezaf)

2:25 P.M. Iran's death toll from coronavirus rises to 3,160

Iran's death toll from the coronavirus has reached 3,136, with 124 deaths in the past 24 hours, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told state TV on Thursday, adding that the country had 50,468 cases of infection.

"We have 3,956 infected people in critical condition ... There was 2,875 new cases of infected people in the past 24 hours... 16,711 people have recovered from the disease," Jahanpur said. (Reuters)

1:40 P.M. Israeli government approves grants for small businesses amid coronavirus crisis

The government approved grants for small and medium-sized businesses via vote by telephone, as Israel struggles to contain the coronavirus.

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon presented an 80 billion shekel ($22.3 billion) rescue plan to help the economy get through the impact of the pandemic. (Noa Landau)

1:50 P.M. Israel's coronavirus death toll climbs to 33

The Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv said that a 90-year-old man had died from COVID-19, adding that he suffered from various underlying health conditions. (Bar Peleg)  

1:14 P.M. Arab panel petitions Israel’s top court to help Bedouin community to battle coronavirus 

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee petitioned the High Court of Justice on Thursday, asking the state to immediately help the Bedouin community in the Negev in an attempt to handle the coronavirus outbreak.

The petition was filed after a number of requests were made by civil society organizations, who warned the steps the government was taking in its fight against COVID-19 were not being implemented in Bedouin communities.

The petition was submitted by the regional council for unrecognized villages in the Negev and Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority.

Civil society groups, including the association of Arab doctors in the Negev and the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality demanded to conduct a situation assessment concerning the number of those infected with the virus among the Bedouin community in order to provide easier access to urgent medical care and help take preventative medical action by providing disinfectants and protective gear.

The organizations also proposed to examine putting up isolation tents in the Bedouin villages. They noted that this group has no access to coronavirus testing and that residents who develop symptoms of infection have no ability to follow the instructions for isolation issued by the Health Ministry.

According to the ministry’s instructions, those who develop symptoms are to remain in their homes until Magen David Adom paramedics arrive to take blood samples, but the ambulances do not enter the unrecognized villages. Israeli authorities have not provided a solution for these problems. (Jack Khoury)

12:51 P.M. Health Ministry releases Passover guidelines amid coronavirus crisis

The Health Ministry released emergency guidelines ahead of the Passover holiday, approved by Israel's Chief Rabbinate.

According to the new regulations, it’s forbidden to dip cookware for Passover in the mikveh (ritual purification baths) and burn non-kosher for Passover food in public spaces in preparation for the holiday. In addition, the Ministry said normal cleaning supplies are sufficient for cleaning the home, and there’s no need to disinfect it.  

Furthermore, the Ministry stressed that the Passover seder should be kept to the nuclear family only. (Haaretz)

12:40 P.M. Number of coronavirus deaths in Israel rises to 32

A 77-year-old man passed away from COVID-19, raising Israel’s death toll to 32. The Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon said the deceased was hospitalized last week and transferred to the Intensive Care Unit when his situation deteriorated several days ago. He suffered from many underlying health conditions. (Almog Ben Zikri) 

12:26 P.M. 21 new cases confirmed in the West Bank, raising total to 143

Twenty-one more Palestinians tested positive for the coronavirus in the West Bank, nine of which in the Jerusalem area, 11 in Ramallah and one in Hebron. Most of the new patients are Palestinians who have been working in Israel and the settlements.

This brings the total of confirmed cases in the West Bank to 143. (Jack Khoury)   

11:28 A.M. Hadassah CEO to enter quarantine

Hadassah Medical Center Director Zeev Rotstein will go into isolation after meeting with Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who was diagnosed with the coronavirus. (Haaretz)

11:19 A.M. Netanyahu to re-enter quarantine

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is required to self-quarantine for a second time after coming into contact with Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who tested positive for the coronavirus overnight Wednesday.

Netanyahu will remain in quarantine until Wednesday.  

Netanyahu ended his self-isolationon Wednesday at 9 P.M. after meeting with a close aide, Knesset Affairs Advisor Rivka Paluch, who was diagnosed with the virus. (Noa Landau)     

10:55 A.M. Israeli Health Ministry: Two-thirds of hospital beds are allocated for coronavirus patients

The Health Ministry said that Israel’s hospitals are preparing to absorb a large amount of coronavirus patients, allocating two-thirds of hospital beds for coronavirus patients, while patients suffering from other problem will occupy the remaining one third of beds. (Jonathan Lis)  

10:32 A.M. Israel’s unemployment rate reaches 24.6 percent

Israel’s unemployment rate continues to grow amid the coronavirus crisis, hitting 24.6 percent.

The Employment Service said that 866,907 people filed for unemployment benefits since early March, with 89 percent of them put on unpaid leave and 6.6 percent fired. (Lee Yaron)

10:24 A.M. Health Ministry issues order limiting protests

Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov issued a new order limiting the number of protesters allowed in a demonstration as Israel tries to curb the coronavirus spread.

According to the new guidelines, as of Thursday, a protest can be held only in groups of up to 10 people, while keeping a distance of at least 2 meters between each participant. A larger distance will need to be kept between groups of protesters. Siman Tov added that the “Order doesn’t hinder the police’s authority as far as protests are concerned.” (Josh Breiner) 

10:07 A.M. Israeli lawmaker introduces bill to release discharged soldiers’ grant amid coronavirus crisis

Lawmaker Ofer Shelah of Yesh Atid, who chairs the Knesset committee monitoring the coronavirus crisis, proposed a bill to release a sum of up to 10,000 shekels from the discharge grants conscript soldiers receive after completing their military service. (Haaretz)     

10:02 A.M. Israeli Health Minister’s entire staff goes into isolation

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman’s entire staff entered quarantine after Litzman tested positive for the coronavirus.

Litzman’s advisors, aides and secretaries will continue working from home and be in contact with the minister. (Haaretz) 

9:33 A.M. Number of coronavirus deaths in Israel jumps to 31

A 72-year-old man died from the coronavirus on Wednesday, according to the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.

The man was admitted to the hospital last week with serious underlying health conditions. (Bar Peleg)

9:18 A.M. Israel’s Health Ministry director general to enter quarantine

Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov and top official Sigal Sadetsky will enter quarantine after having met with Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who tested positive for the coronavirus overnight Wednesday. (Haaretz)

9:13 A.M. 87-year-old man succumbs to COVID-19, bringing coronavirus death toll to 30

The Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva said that an 87-year-old man diagnosed with COVID-19 had died Thursday morning.

The man, transferred to the hospital from the nursing home he resided in, was in critical condition upon his arrival to Soroka. (Almog Ben Zikri)

9:02 A.M. Israel’s coronavirus cases rise to 6,211, with 107 in serious condition

The Health Ministry said that 6,211 coronavirus cases have been so far diagnosed in Israel. According to the Ministry, 107 are in serious condition and 83 are intubated.

Twenty-nine people have died from the virus, all of them suffering from serious underlying health conditions. (Haaretz)

8:33 A.M. 78-year-old coronavirus patient passes away, raising death toll to 29

A 78-year-old man with severe underlying health conditions died overnight Wednesday after testing positive for COVID-19. He is Israel’s 29 coronavirus fatality.

The Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon said that the man was admitted last week and his situation deteriorated and he was intubated over the weekend. (Ido Efrati)

8:08 A.M. 95-year-old man passes away, bringing Israel’s coronavirus death toll to 28

The Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer said that a 95-year-old man with serious underlying health problems died on Wednesday evening, raising Israel's coronavirus death toll to 28. (Bar Peleg)

8:01 A.M. 77-year-old man dies from COVID-19, raising Israel’s death toll to 27

Haemek Hospital in Afula said that a 77-year-old coronavirus patient passed away overnight Wednesday. The man suffered from serious underlying health conditions. (Noa Spiegel)

7:40 A.M. Israel’s Health Ministry top official: Police to enforce order to wear face masks

In an interview with Army Radio, Professor Itamar Grotto said that the recommendation to wear protective face masks would soon become a Health Ministry order, enforced by the police.

Grotto added that the infection rate in countries where face masks are worn is lower than countries where wearing masks as a protective measure is less common.

“This coincides with the World Health Organization unequivocally saying that the disease is transmitted through droplets, and is not airborne. Therefore, the Health Ministry views thae masks as efficient in protecting those who haven’t been infected yet,” Grotto said.   

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the public to wear face masks when leaving the house in order to diminish the infection rate within the community. (Haaretz) 

7:24 A.M. Israeli army to assist ultra-Orthodox coronavirus hotspot to battle the pandemic

The Israeli army will set a headquarters designed to assist the largely ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, which has become a hot spot for the spread of the coronavirus.

The army will help the Home Front Command and the Bnei Brak Municipality in battling the disease, while providing them organizational and logistical assistance. (Amos Harel)

2:25 A.M. Mossad chief and head of National Security Council to enter isolation

Following Health Minister Yaakov Litzman's diagnosis of the coronavirus, Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen and the head of the National Security Council, Meir Ben Shabbat, will be required to enter isolation in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines. 

After the results of epidemiological investigations, messages to self-quarantine will be sent to those who have been exposed to the minister and his wife in the past two weeks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was updated with details. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

1:56 A.M. Health Minister and wife diagnosed with coronavirus

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and his wife were diagnosed with the coronavirus, according to an announcement made by the Health Ministry.

Litzman and his wife feel well, and will remain in isolation under supervision. in accordance with the Health Ministry guidelines. Those who have been in contact with Litzman in the past two week will be required to enter home quarantine, the ministry said, adding that Litzman will continue to maintain his regular schedule from his home. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

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12:31 A.M. Defense Ministry: All returning passengers to be checked for virus symptoms upon landing in Israel

The Defense Ministry issued a statement saying that all those returning from abroad will have their temperature checked, and be checked for other coronavirus symptoms. Anyone who has a high fever will be referred to Magen David Adom for treatment, while all other passengers will have to sign a form attesting that they will be able to self-isolate at home. (Yaniv Kubovich)

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