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Israeli Army to Provide Aid to ultra-Orthodox City Under Coronavirus Closure

Entry to and exit from Bnei Brak limited ■ Health Minister Litzman tests positive, prompting Netanyahu, Mossad chief to enter quarantine ■ Israel registers 38 coronavirus deaths as cases pass 7,000 ■ West Bank cases near 150

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Border Police forces enforce the full closure in the ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, April 3, 2020.
Border Police forces enforce the full closure in the ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, April 3, 2020.Credit: Israel Police

>> This liveblog is no longer updating: For the latest coronavirus in Israel updates - click here

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.

■ 7,030 Israelis have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; Thirty-eight people have died, 115 are in serious condition and 95 are on life support. One Israeli tourist died in Italy. So far, 357 have recovered.

■ In the West Bank, 158 cases have been diagnosed so far. One woman in her 60s has died. In Gaza, 12 cases have been diagnosed, the first two after the patients returned from Pakistan.

■ Israel's government intensified restrictions on movement and 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.

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


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 Modiin elite (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 have been hospitalized in critical condition, bringing total death toll in Israel to 38. (Bar Peleg and Noa Spiegel)

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

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.

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

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

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

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)


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)

>> Read the full story

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)


10:00 P.M. 72-year-old man dies of coronavirus in Jerusalem, raising tally to 26

A 72-year-old man who was brought into Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem in severe condition on Tuesday night died on Wednesday evening, the hospital said.

His death raises the toll of coronavirus victims in Israel to 26. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

9:19 P.M. Netanyahu says Israel to tighten travel restrictions around ultra-Orthodox hotspot

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government decided to limit travel to and from Bnei Brak, a burgeoning hotspot of the coronavirus in Israel. Netanyahu added that he instructed "all ministries to provide special aid" to the city.

He also called on Israelis to wear face masks when leaving the house, beseeching those without to cover their face with a fabric or a scarf.

In addition, Netanyahu said that any Israelis returning home would be immediately put in quarantine in one of the hotels the Defense Ministry has repurposed to combat the virus.

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 grant is still pending Knesset approval.

The Finance Ministry said it was surprised by the announcement, and that it was studying the directive.

In addition, Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov asked Israelis not to purchase protective face masks due to shortage, but to cover their faces with a scarf or prepare a makeshift mask at home. The Health Ministry released a video explaining how to prepare a mask using household items. (Haaretz)

8:30 P.M. Number of coronavirus cases in Israel exceeds 6,000

According to the Health Ministry, 6,092 cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in Israel. These include 95 in severe condition, of which 81 are on respirators.

So far, 241 people have recovered. (Ido Efrati)

8:20 P.M. Israel’s Health Ministry certifies 900 nurses in a snap procedure

The Health Ministry certified 900 nurses in a snap procedure, as Israel continues to battle the coronavirus. Their licenses as registered nurses have been approved. (Haaretz)

8:01 P.M. Israel’s coronavirus death toll rises to 25

A 66-year-old man died from COVID-19, bringing toll to 25. The Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, where the man was hispitalized, said that the deceased suffered from severe underlying health problems and was intubated before his passing. (Bar Peleg)

6:57 P.M. 66-year-old woman dies, as Israel’s coronavirus death toll climbs to 24

The Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer said that a 66-year-old woman who suffered from serious pre-existing conditions passed away after a battle with COVID-19, raising death toll to 24. She is the fourth coronavirus victim on Wednesday. (Bar Peleg)

6:36 P.M. Netanyahu to end quarantine Wednesday evening

The Health Ministry said it had instructed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end his quarantine on Wednesday at 9 P.M., two weeks after meeting with close aide who tested positive for the coronavirus.

On Monday, the Prime Minister's Office Netanyahu had entered quarantine as a precaution after it transpired that he met with his advisor Rivka Paluch, who was diagnosed with COVID-19. His office added that they were not in the same room in the last two weeks.

The Health Ministry said it had concluded Paluch’s epidemiologic investigation on Wednesday. (Noa Landau)

6:18 P.M. Israel mulls refunding deduction from asylum seekers' salaries to encourage them to leave the country

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office is examining when and what sum to release from the money deducted from the salaries of asylum seekers that would provide for their basic needs but still encourage them to leave Israel.

The asylum seekers’ money is held back as a deposit that they would normally receive when they leave the country.

“We have to examine what would be the right moment to allow the asylum seekers to use the deposit money and what sum would enable them to provide for their basic needs for as long as they need, without hindering the initial purpose of the deposit law,” an official document formulated after an official meeting at the PMO on that matter read.

Asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea will receive the same treatment for the coronavirus as Israelis, and “for lack of choice, they will be seen as an inseparable part of the same epidemiological region,” according to an official document obtained by Haaretz last week.

However, government officials admitted that encouraging asylum seekers to “willingly leave” Israel in a time of emergency is “preferable” to providing them treatment in the community, adding that “This option was examined and was found inapplicable since all other countries have completely closed their gates, including Eritrea.” (Lee Yaron)

5:45 P.M. Israel Police bolster enforcement to curb coronavirus spread

The police said they are boosting their activity to enforce the Health Ministry emergency directives amid the coronavirus crisis.

As part of the enhanced enforcement checkpoints were set on Wednesday in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, with police officers explaining to the public the new emergency regulations and their importance in protecting the public’s health.

The police added they are also monitoring that nonessential businesses remain closed and that civilians who are supposed to be in quarantine are following Health ministry orders. (Haaretz)

5:29 P.M. Police press charges against 98 suspects of violating quarantine

The police tracked the phones of 926 suspected coronavirus patients, pressing charges against 98 of them who are suspected of violating quarantine.

Two weeks ago, the Israeli government unanimously approved emergency regulations for gathering cellphone location data and additional personal information about those diagnosed with the coronavirus or those suspected of having been infected. (Josh Breiner)

5:12 P.M 74-year-old man dies of coronavirus, bringing toll to 23

The Wolfson Medical Center in Holon said that a 74-year-old man diagnosed with the coronavirus had died, bringing toll to 23. The man was intubated and suffered from severe underlying health problems. (Bar Peleg)

4:51 P.M. Israel's coronavirus death toll rises to 22

A 69-year-old woman passed away from COVID-19, the Shaare Zedek Medical Center Jerusalem said Wednesday afternoon. The woman suffered from severe pre-existing conditions. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

4:13 P.M. Netanyahu discusses crisis in call with president of Cyprus

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on Tuesday night to discuss cooperation in the areas of policy, R&D, and supplies in the face of the coronavirus crisis. (Noa Landau)

2:27 P.M. Israel’s matriculation exams reduced amid coronavirus crisis

The Education Ministry said that it would reduce this year’s matriculation exams to 3 to 5 subjects amid the coronavirus crisis.

According to the Ministry’s outline, students will take their matriculation exams in mathematics, knowledge of language (Hebrew or Arabic), English, science and one subject of their choice.

The Matriculation exams will take place on June 22 instead of in early May as was planned before. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

1:27 P.M. All arrivals to be transferred to isolation facilities, Netanyahu's office says

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Defense Ministry to facilitate the transfer of all people arriving in Israel from abroad to hotels and other designated facilities for the isolation of potential coronavirus carriers, a PMO spokesperson said on Wednesday morning.

The decision will take effect immediately.

Previously, people coming from abroad were required to enter self-quarantine for 14 days, while providing proof they have a place to do so. (Noa Landau)

>> Welcome to Israel's 'Hotel Coronavirus' - read Ronny Linder's story on IDF-run isolation facilities

11:31 A.M. Number of unemployed in Israel passes one million

The total number of active job seekers in Israel passed the million mark just before midnight yesterday, and stands at 1,004,316 this morning, official figures show.

This constitutes 24.1 percent of Israel's workforce. 843,945 people registered with Israel's Employment Service in March alone, close to 90 percent of them on unpaid leave.

“We must assume self-employed Israelis are in a similar position, if not worse," commented Rami Graur, director of the Employment Service, saying that, according to their estimates, "at least 125,000 self-employed Israelis have been significantly hit by this crisis.” (Lee Yaron)

11:20 A.M. Palestinian Authority reports 15 people tested positive for coronavirus, all workers in Israeli industrial zone in the West Bank

Members of the group, from Ramallah and Jerusalem, have had contacts with others, who are currently being tested, Palestinian Authority spokesperson Ibrahim Milhem said.

All 15 worked in a poultry farm in the Atarot industrial area, which is Israeli-owned but located in the West Bank, north of Jerusalem. (Jack Khoury)

10:42 A.M. Israeli HMOs to open new coronavirus testing centers in Arab communities

Health maintenance organizations in Israel are slated to open new testing centres in Arab communities, Israel's Health Ministry announced on Wednesday morning.

Official figures suggest that a relatively low infection rate in Arab cities and towns might be due to undertesting, Haaretz reported earlier this week.

Four testing stations are expected to open in Jerusalem, one at Damascus Gate, run by the Maccabi organization, two in the Shuafat refugee camp, run separately by Clalit and Meuhedet, and one in Beit Safafa, in sout Jerusalem, run by Leumi. The last three are all located beyond the Green Line.

Other centers will open in Tamra (Clalit), Nazareth (one by Clalit and one by Maccabi), Sakhnin (Meuhedet) and Umm al-Fahm in nothern Israel. (Haaretz)

- updated at 12:14 to include Clalit, Leumi testing centers

10:18 A.M. Israel Police detains six people suspected of holding prayer services against Health Ministry regulations in Modi’in

Jerusalem police detained six people on suspicion of holding prayer services in a synagogue in the central Israeli city of Modi'in.

The suspects did not respond to police requests to disperse and refused to identify themselves, facing off with officers. The police then detained six people on suspicion of violating emergency regulations. (Haaretz)

9:59 A.M. Number of people testing positive in Haredi coronavirus hotspot of Bnei Brak jumps by nearly a third

The number of residents of the ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak diagnosed with the coronavirus jumped to 730 in figure released on Wednesday morning. They stood at 571 on Tuesday night, a rise of 27.8 percent.

On Tuesday morning, the tally had stood at 508. Jerusalem also saw a major jump in confirmed cases, from 650 to 781 as of Wednesday morning.

Other ultra-Orthodox communities experienced a similar trend. In the West Bank settlement of Modi’in Ilit, there were 64 confirmed cases as of Wednesday morning, up 33 percent, from 48 on Tuesday. In Elad, the numbers increased by 14.7 percent, from 68 to 78, while in the settlement of Betar Ilit, they rose from 38 to 44 residents.

On Tuesday, Haaretz reported that the rate of infection in predominantly ultra-Orthodox communities was substantially higher than in cities, where the populations are diverse. As of Wednesday morning, 292 Tel Aviv residents had tested positive, up from 278 on Tuesday evening. In Haifa, the numbers for the comparable period went from 67 to 72. The Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Letzion had 106 infected residents as of Wednesday morning, up from 103 the evening before. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

>> Read the full story here

8:40 A.M. Israel says cases up to 5,591, one more person dies, bringing total to 21

A new tally released on Wednesday adds 233 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection to Tuesday night's figures.

One more person succumbed to the illness, a 98-year-old woman with underlying conditions, according to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, where she was being treated. This brings the total to 21.

97 patients are in serious condition, with 76 on ventilators. (Ido Efrati)

7:25 A.M. Gaza's health ministry confirms another two test positive for coronavirus, total cases up to 12

The two new cases were found among people already in isolation, according to the ministry.

7:23 A.M. IDF chief of staff coronavirus test returns negative

Aviv Kochavi, who entered self-isolation after he and two other high-ranking officers came in contact with a diagnosed COVID-19 patient, will remain in isolation until the end of the week, the Israeli military said in a statement on Wednesday morning.


23:26 P.M. Oman reports first death from coronavirus

Oman's health ministry reported its first death from coronavirus, a 72 year-old Omani man, state TV said on Twitter. Oman reported as of March 31, 192 coronavirus cases in the sultanate. (Reuters)

10:18 P.M. Tunisia extends lockdown by two weeks

Tunisia will extend a lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus by two weeks to April 19, the presidency said in a statement on Tuesday.

Tunisia has confirmed 362 cases of the coronavirus and nine deaths and has imposed a general lockdown for over a week, preventing people from leaving their homes except to buy necessities or work in certain jobs. (Reuters)

9:33 P.M. Israeli cases pass 5,300

The Health Ministry reported 5,358 confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday night, up from 4,831 this morning. Of those, 94 are in serious condition. 224 have recovered, a significant rise from the 161 reported recoveries this morning.

9:06 P.M. Pompeo: U.S. might ease Iran sanctions in light of epidemic

U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held out the possibility on Tuesday that the United States may consider easing sanctions on Iran and other nations to help fight the coronavirus epidemic but gave no concrete sign it plans to do so. The comments reflected a shift in tone by the U.S. State Department, which has come under withering criticism for its hard line toward sanctions relief even in the face of a call by the UN secretary-general to ease U.S. economic penalties.

Speaking to reporters, Pompeo stressed that humanitarian and medical supplies are exempt from sanctions Washington reimposed on Tehran, however, broader U.S. sanctions deter many firms from humanitarian trade with Iran, one of the nations hardest hit by the coronavirus epidemic.

Asked if there might come a point at which the United States might reevaluate its stance on easing sanctions, Pompeo told a news conference: "we evaluate all of our policies constantly, so the answer is – would we ever rethink? – Of course." (Reuters)

>> Read the full report here

8:45 P.M. 8,000 Israelis tested, half of them in drive-in stations

Some 8,000 people were tested for coronavirus on Tuesday, Magen David Adom, Israel's rescue service said. About half of those were tested in drive-in testing stations.

Magen David Adom asks that anyone experiencing coronavirus symptoms who can drive themselves to a drive-in testing station should do so, as to allow its medical teams to quickly arrive to the homes of those who cannot to test them there.

8:45 P.M. Knesset approves continued Shin Bet coronavirus tracking

The temporary Knesset subcommittee for the Shin Bet approved the government's decision to give the Shin Bet authority for the rest of the month to collect data on civilians that need to quarantine themselves, a Knesset announcement said. Head of the foreign and defense committees, Kahol Lavan MK Gabi Ashkenazi, said "We will guard the right balance between the need to protect public health and safeguarding the right to privacy of Israel's citizens, as much as possible. We've reduced the amount of data to be transferred to the bare minimum."

The committee implemented a number of alterations that Knesset ordered: It clarified that it is completely forbidden to listen to the content of conversations, and that the information will not be transferred to the Health Ministry, Defense Ministry, or any other authority. The information will also not be able to be used in investigations or legal proceedings. It also decided that the Shin Bet must erase the data that it transfers to the Health Ministry within a week, and completely erase it at the end of its participation in tackling the coronavirus crisis. The Health Ministry will need to erase the data 60 days after the end of that period. (Jonathan Lis)

8:42 P.M. UN Security Council congratulates Israel, Palestinians for coordination against virus

After holding a video conference yesterday about the Middle East, The UN Security Council released an official statement saying that it "congratulates the coordination between Israel and the Palestinians in dealing with this shared challenge."

Council members also called on both sides to increase their joint efforts to restrain the coronavirus. The council also praised the UN's work in coordinating between Israel and the Palestinians. (Noa Landau)

8:39 P.M. Israel retools missile production line to mass produce ventilators

Israel has converted a missile production facility to mass produce ventilators and offset a shortage of the life-saving machines as the coronavirus continues to spread, the Israeli Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has warned that Israel only has 2,000 ventilators and needs many more of the breathing devices to help victims recover from the respiratory illness.

The Israeli initiative is a collaboration between the Defense Ministry, state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and medical device maker Inovytec.

Some 30 ventilators have been delivered to Israel's health ministry, the statement said. It did not indicate how many machines it planned to produce daily or whether they were being made available for export as well as local use.The rapid retooling of the missile production line was completed in days, the statement said. (Reuters)

8:35 P.M. Israeli death toll reaches 20

A man in his 90s became the 20th Israeli to die of the coronavirus on Tuesday night. He was in severe condition and had been sedated and ventilated at Wolfson Medical Center in central Israel. (Bar Peleg)

8:25 P.M. Quarantine facilities planned for Arabs, ultra-Orthodox who cannot self-isolate at home

The Israeli Interior Ministry and local social welfare authorities are planning to provide accommodations for ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis who are required to go into home quarantine due to exposure to the coronavirus but cannot do so at home.

The Health Ministry is to provide the Interior Ministry with information about the individuals, who have been diagnosed with the virus or have been exposed to a carrier, so that social workers from local governments can make home visits and decide whether the homes meet quarantine requirements.

If it is decided that the requirements cannot be met at home, for example where there are large number of children and a single bathroom, the individual will be asked to move to motel-type lodgings provided by the Interior Ministry. (Lee Yaron)

>> Read the full report here

8:10 P.M. Bnei Brak mayor: 'We can't turn Bnei Brak into a ghetto'

Bnei Brak Mayor Avraham Rubinstein commented on the possibility of enacting a full closure on the city: "It's impossible to build a new prison," he said. "Bnei Brak Prison. Reality won't allow this. The residen'ts won't stand for this and this suggestion will just have the opposite effect."

Rubinstein, who is in home quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus, added, "We cannot turn Bnei Brak into a ghetto; a closure won't cure the illness."

One third of coronavirus tests in Bnei Brak have come back positive. As of Monday, the infection rate in the town was 2.5 per 1,000 residents, significantly higher than the national average. (Bar Peleg and Aaron Rabinowitz)

8:12 P.M. Saudi minister tells Muslims to wait on making haj plans

Saudi Arabia is urging Muslims to wait before making plans to attend the annual haj pilgrimage until there is more clarity about the deadly coronavirus pandemic, the kingdom's minister for haj and umrah said on Tuesday.

Some 2.5 million pilgrims usually flock to the holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina each year for the week-long ritual, which is a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim and a major source of income for the kingdom. (Reuters)

7:47 P.M. Turkey's death toll rises

Turkey's death toll from the coronavirus outbreak increased by 46 to 214 on Tuesday, while the number of confirmed cases of the disease rose by 2,704 to 13,531, health ministry data showed.

Some 243 patients have recovered from the virus so far.

The ministry also said 15,422 tests had been conducted on Tuesday – the highest since the start of the outbreak – bringing the total number of tests carried out in Turkey to 92,403 since the outbreak began. (Reuters)

7:30 P.M. Nineteenth Israeli dies of coronavirus

Another Israeli has died of the coronavirus, bringing the death toll of the disease in the country up to 19. A 72-year-old man, who suffered from underlying illnesses, passed away at Assuta Ashdod Medical Center in southern Israel. (Ido Efrati)

6:57 P.M. Government transparency activists request minutes from coronavirus meetings

After Haaretz reported that the protocols of the many government meetings about COVID-19 are confidential, many organizations for government transparency have contacted the Prime Minister's Office and the attorney general to request to clear them for release.

Those requesting the information, including former Meretz head Tamar Zandberg, say that government conversations on public health, unlike security-related discussions, do not need to be classified. Making them available to the public, they say, is necessary for government oversight and strengthening the public's faith in the decision-making process, which includes emergency regulations. (Noa Landau)

6:30 P.M. Unemployment climbs to 23.8 percent

Another 22,829 Israelis filed for unemployment on Tuesday, an Employment Office statement said, bringing the country's unemployment rate up to 23.8 percent, up .7 percentage points from yesterday.

There are now 988,957 people out of work, 89.7 percent of them on unpaid leave from their jobs. (Lee Yaron)

6:00 P.M. Netanyahu: Israeli institute progressing in developing coronavirus vaccine

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he spoke to Professor Shmuel Shapira, the head of the Institute for Biological Research in Nes Tziona, who told him that research and development for a coronavirus vaccine is progressing significantly, and that the institute believes that they will soon have a "model for starting animal testing."

Earlier this month, Haaretz reported that the institute expects to declare that they have developed a vaccine for the virus soon. According to medical sources, the scientists have recently had a significant breakthrough in understanding the biological mechanism and qualities of the virus, including better diagnostic capability, production of antibodies for those who already have the virus and development of a vaccine.

Even so, the development process requires a series of tests and experiments that can take a year before the vaccination is deemed effective or safe to use. (Noa Landau)

5:20 P.M. Over 3,000 Israelis ticketed for violating movement restrictions

Police handed out about 3,134 tickets to people who left their homes for unnecessary reasons on Tuesday. Of those, they gave out 1,022 tickets for going out into a public space, 553 for being in a forbidden area, 110 for violating quarantine and 240 for refusing an order to break up a gathering. (Josh Breiner)

5:07 P.M. Over one million Israelis will be unemployed in coming months

Data from the National Insurance Institute's research department projects that 1.1 million Israelis will be out of work by April-May of this year.

According to both the optimistic and pessimistic scenarios, the department said, the institute will find itself in a 8.1 billion shekel deficit in May-June. (Lee Yaron)

4:55 P.M. Russian Russian doctor who met Putin last week diagnosed with coronavirus

A doctor who gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a tour of Moscow's main coronavirus hospital last week said on Tuesday he had himself been diagnosed with the virus.

Putin visited the Kommunarka hospital last Tuesday where he chatted to the doctor, Denis Protsenko. Neither man was wearing protective equipment during their conversation, TV footage from the visit showed.

Protsenko, writing on Facebook said: "Yes, I have tested positive for coronavirus, but I feel pretty good. I've isolated myself in my office. I think the immunity I've developed this month is doing its job."

The Kremlin said that Putin was being regularly tested for coronavirus and that "everything is okay," the RIA news agency reported.

It has previously said that Putin is being protected from viruses and other illnesses "around the clock".

Putin donned a hazmat suit and a respirator during his visit to the hospital last week when dropping in on patients. But he did not have his protective gear on during a meeting with Protsenko, with whom he was photographed shaking hands. (Reuters)

4:37 P.M. Israeli charged for spreading fake news

A 33-year-old resident of Rishon Letzion was charged pending a hearing with spreading disinformation via computer and online harassment, the cyber division of the State Prosecutor's office said. Adi Teffer allegedly sent out fictitious updates resembling those of the Health Ministry, saying that the recipients' telephones were being tracked by government authorities.

The cyber division of the State Prosecutor's Office has carried out 10 inquiries in the past month into social media profiles posing as official Health Ministry pages and sending out false information relating to the coronavirus outbreak. The division also took action against a man who called on others not to obey government guidelines and not to report their symptoms to the authorities.

The division is working with Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and other social networks to ensure that those looking for coronavirus updates on the internet quickly and easily find factual information. The State Prosecutor's Office emphasized that a number of cases have been passed on to the cyber division on suspicion of spreading fake news. (Bar Peleg)

4:16 P.M. IDF chief goes into quarantine

Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Chief of the IDF General Staff, along with Home Front Command head Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai and Operations Directorate commander Gen. Aharon Haliva, has gone into isolation. All three attended a meeting ten days ago in which a commander in the reserves, who later tested positive for the coronavirus, participated.

The commander in question is the head of the Home Front Command's liaison unit to local authorities in Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb where 508 residents had tested positive for the virus as of Monday – more than double what the figure was four days earlier.

An IDF Spokesperson's Unit statement said that Kochavi feels well, is not displaying symptoms, and will soon be tested for the virus. (Yaniv Kubovich and Amos Harel)

3:50 P.M. Most Israeli virus cases transmitted between different generations

There is a high incidence in Israel of inter-generational coronavirus infection in Israel, a new study shows. One third of infections between known virus patients in the country were transmitted between people with an age gap of 20 to 40 years.

An analysis by the National Center for Information and Knowledge in the Fight Against the Coronavirus studied 1,000 cases of known viral transmission between 3,800 confirmed coronavirus patients. Most of these transmissions, they found, took place between family members.

The researchers recommend emphasizing the importance of avoiding family gatherings, such as meals and events, specifically with the Passover holiday approaching. They also stress proper hygienic practices in the home, particularly in larger households. (Rony Linder)

3:20 P.M. Bennett: We must reopen the market or more will die

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett warned against further shutting down the economy: "It's better not to close more businesses because that's not where the problem is," he said.

"The private sector is the heart of the mission. If we don't handle this properly, we'll get to a point where, God forbid, there will be more dead from suicide than from the coronavirus, so we need to proceed the right way, understand the crisis that's threatening millions of Israelis who don't know how they'll pay their rent tomorrow."

Bennet said that Israel must take steps now to reopen the economy after the end of the Passover holiday, which begins next week.

3:00 P.M. Cave of the Patriarchs exempted from lockdown rules

At the behest of former MK Orit Strook, The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Shas Chairman Arye Dery requested that the Cave of the Patriarchs, a site holy to Jews and to Muslims in Hebron, be exempted from the new, stringent guidelines that ban public prayer gatherings.

The request will be formally approved by the head of the IDF's Central Command later today. The site will hold a reduced prayer quorum of 10 people three times a day on a nearby road. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

2:33 Israel's coronavirus death toll climbs to 18

The Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot said that a woman in her 90s died Tuesday morning from COVID-19. The woman suffered from pre-existing conditions. (Bar Peleg)

2:23 P.M. Defense Minister to hold a Q&A session on coronavirus

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett will hold a Q&A, which will be livestreamed on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. Bennett will take questions from the public and media concerning the coronavirus crisis. (Haaretz)

12:35 P.M. Swab testing may miss coronavirus carriers, posing a dilemma for doctors

The Israeli medical system has been relying on swab-sample testing to check patients suspected to have the coronavirus, and making decisions regarding isolation and treatment based on these their results. However, doctors face a dilemma when patients test negative but have clear symptoms of infection.

Results of a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association — based on 1,070 tests on 205 patients — found that swab-sample testing through the nostrils spotted only 63 percent of those infected with COVID-19, and that those whose samples were taken from their throats only identified 32 percent of those infected. Experts suggest that performing both tests increases the accuracy to 70 percent, assuming that the samples are properly obtained. (Ido Efrati)

>>Read the full report here

12:09 P.M. Israel's unemployment rate surpasses 23 percent

Israel's Employment Service reported that since the beginning of March, 811,824 people filed for unemployment benefits, with 90 percent of them put on unpaid leave, and 6.4 percent fired.

The total number of those seeking unemployment benefits now stands at 969,693. Israel's unemployment rate, which in early March stood at 4 percent, now stands at 23.3 percent. (Sivan Klingbail)

11:52 A.M. Israel's Health Ministry director general says 'still no trend reversal'

Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov expressed concern that the number of coronavirus confirmed cases would spike during Passover, saying "We still don’t see a trend reversal."

Siman Tov added that on Monday Israel saw a significant rise in coronavirus patients.

Referring to the issue of protective masks, Siman Tov said that the World Health Organization officially determined that COVID-19 is transmitted through droplets, and is not airborne.

"This led several countries, including Israel, to recommend those who leave the house to wear masks. We are currently examining, together with other experts if the public can make do with improvised masks, because the medical staff need the masks we have in stock," Siman Tov added.

Moreover, Siman Tov said that the Health Ministry is preparing, at the request of Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, to impose lockdown on entire communities.

"This kind of lockdown demands extremely high involvement of the Home Front command and the police," Siman Tov said.

In addition, Prof. Sigal Sadetsky, head of public health services in the Health Ministry, said that "According to the information we have today, a person who was infected with the virus once, cannot catch the virus again. If the virus mutate, we'll of course face a different situation." (Ido Efrati)

10:45 A.M. Health Ministry recommends expanding coronavirus tests in nursing homes, prisons

A special Health Ministry task-force has recommended expanding the number of the current coronavirus tests carried out per day, focusing on those who work with the most at risk populations.

In its recommendations, the special team also said that people with respiratory symptoms, cough, or difficulties in breathing – as well as individuals who are not showing any signs of the virus but work with someone who was diagnosed with the illness – should be tested.

The team put an emphasis on staffers working in nursing homes, hospitals and prisons. (Ido Efrati)

10:30 P.M. Health Minister recommends to Netanyahu to impose closure on ultra-Orthodox city

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman recommended to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to impose a closure on the largely ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak.

In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth that was published Tuesday, Litzman said that the situation in the city is "terrible and frightening, and each day raises fears of [violating] 'pikuach nefesh,'" referring to the concept in Judaism that saving human lives is above all else.

Litzman added that he had discussed it with the heads of the Prime Minister's Office, the Health Ministry and the Interior Ministry will look into the possibility of imposing such a measure.

Referring to the spike of cases among the ultra-Orthodox public, Litzman added, "It's true that carrying out Jewish laws are not damaging, but we're seeing the effects of Purim now," referring to the Jewish festival that took place on March 10. "With God's help, I hope it will pass in a few days." He denied asking to exempt synagogues and ritual baths from the coronavirus restrictions. (Haaretz)

10:10 A.M. Coronavirus patient jumps out of hospital window

The Poriya Hospital in Tiberias said that a 34-year-old man diagnosed with the coronavirus had jumped out of his hospital window.

The man was admitted to the hospital a week ago in light condition, after entering home quarantine. He is currently in serious condition and will probably need to undergo surgery.

The police are investigating the circumstances leading to the incident. (Noa Spiegel)

9:45 A.M. Twenty-seven ventilators, eight million masks arrive in Israel

The Health Ministry said that a shipment of 27 ventilators has arrived in Israel, as well as eight million masks.

The Health Ministry, the Prime Minister's Office, the Defense Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces worked in cooperation to bring the ventilators and medical gear to Israel as soon as possible, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry said. (Ido Efrati)

9:38 A.M. Diagnosed coronavirus patient tests negative after passing away, death toll drops to 17

A 56-year-old, who was at first diagnosed with the coronavirus, tested negative after passing away at the hospital, therefore changing the coronavirus death toll reported before from 18 to 17. (Bar Peleg)

9:27 A.M. Israeli hospital to temporarily close maternity ward amid coronavirus crisis

The Assuta hospital in the southern city of Ashdod announced it would temporarily close its maternity ward to diminish the exposure of newborns to the virus. (Almog Ben Zikri)

8:14 Coronavirus death toll in Israel climbs to 18, with two fatalities in one day

A 49-year-old woman passed away after a battle with COVID-19, raising the death toll to 18. She is the second fatality in one day. The woman, Israel's youngest coronavirus fatality, was admitted to the Assaf Harofeh Hospital on Thursday. She suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure.

She leaves behind four-year-old twins. The twins' father passed away from cardiac arrest shortly after they were born. (Bar Peleg)

8:10 A.M. Coronavirus toll in Israel climbs to 4,831, with 83 cases in serious condition

The Health Ministry said Tuesday that 136 more people tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing toll to 4,831. Eighty-three patients are in serious condition, 69 of which are on ventilators. (Ido Efrati)

8:04 A.M. Coronavirus death toll in Israel rises to 17

A woman with underlying health issues in her 50s died from complications of COVID-19 Tuesday morning, raising the death toll in Israel to 17.

The woman was hospitalized in the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer for 10 days before she succumbed to the disease. She left behind three children. (Bar Peleg)

7:04 A.M One more Palestinian tests positive, bringing total coronavirus toll in the West Bank to 107

A spokesperson for the Palestinian government in the West Bank said that one more confirmed coronavirus case was registered in the territories, raising the toll there to 107. He added that all those diagnosed with the disease in the West Bank are in a light condition.

The spokesperson said that the Palestinian Authority doesn't have exact data about the number of confirmed cases in East Jerusalem. (Jack Khoury)

5:10 A.M. U.S. coronavirus death toll surges past 3,000, with 540 fatalities in one day

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic climbed past 3,000 on Monday, the deadliest day yet in the country's mounting crisis, while New York cheered the arrival of a gleaming 1,000-bed U.S. Navy hospital ship as a sign of hope in the city's desperate fight.

In a grim new milestones marking the spread of the virus, total deaths across the United States hit 3,017, including at least 540 on Monday, and the reported cases climbed to more than 163,000, according to a Reuters tally. (Reuters)

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