Coronavirus in Israel: Cases Rise to 4,831 as Death Toll Hits 17

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A man waits at a bus stop in Tel Aviv, March 30, 2020
A man waits at a bus stop in Tel Aviv, March 30, 2020Credit: Moti Milrod

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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.

■ 4,831 Israelis have so far tested positive for the coronavirus, with the vast majority of cases mild and 161 recoveries. Seventeen patients have died and 83 are in serious condition. One Israeli tourist died in Italy. 

■ In the West Bank, 107 cases have been diagnosed so far. One woman in her 60s died. The Palestinian prime minister ordered a lockdown as of last Sunday. In Gaza, 10 cases were diagnosed, the first two after returning from Pakistan.

■ Israel's government approved emergency measures to limit movement of citizens and trade, shuttering cultural and recreational establishments as well as schools and universities and banning gatherings.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 72

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■ For information on the Health Ministry's app that tracks contact with confirmed coronavirus patients, click here. For more information on the Health Ministry's official website on the 


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)  

10:10 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. (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)

1:06 A.M. Israeli government approves new regulations, restricts assembly to two people living in the same dwelling

The government approved a set of stricter regulations overnight Monday.

The workforce will be reduced to 15 percent, down from 30 percent until now. In workplaces not considered "essential," no more than 10 workers will be allowed inside at a time.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett was the only cabinet minister voting against reducing the workforce in the private sector to 15 percent.  

Public gatherings are now banned altogether, including prayer, with very specific exceptions for some ceremonies. Weddings can be held without guests. Funerals can be held in open spaces with up to 20 participants. Circumcision ceremonies are permitted with up to ten participlants.

Prayer at the Western Wall will be allowed with up to 10 participants at each prayer service, standing at least two meters apart from one another.

A small but significant difference in the final regulations is that only two people living in the same house will be able to go out together. According to the guidelines, going outside is only allowed for a short time and up to 100 meters from home. The regulations will go into effect on Wednesday. (Noa Landau)


11:14 P.M. Magen David Adom to open drive-through test center in ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak

Starting Monday at 9 A.M., a new drive-through test station will open in Bnei Brak, a hotspot for coronavirus in Israel.

People unable to drive to the center will be able to access it in special ambulances, the Magen David Adom rescue services, which runs the operation, said in a press release on Sunday.

It also said another station had opened in Wadi Ara, a district in Northern Israel where a majority of the population is from the Arab community. (Ido Efrati

11:10 P.M. Despite restrictions on praying in public, government makes exception for Western Wall

As per the demand of Interior Minister Arye Dery, the Israeli government permitted, against restrictions announced earlier by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to hold three prayers a day at the Western Wall in groups of ten. This in order to allow continued prayer at the site.

In addition, the government allowed the ultra-Orthodox radio station "Kol Barama" to keep holding a prayer quorum, a minyan, of ten people so they may broadcast them live. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

10:20 P.M. Government approves deploying troops for patrol

Seven hundred Israeli soldiers will join the police Tuesday in enforcing lockdown regulations. The soldiers will be unarmed, except for commanders and forces patrolling in the West Bank.

>> Fearing friction with civilians, Israel delayed deploying troops 

9:52 P.M. One coronavirus patient diagnosed in Gaza

One Gazan tested positive for COVID-19 in the Strip, raising the total number of cases to 10. (Jack Khoury)

9:42 P.M. Government to isolate Arab, Haredi patients in quarantine centers

Israel will take confirmed and suspected Arab and Haredi coronavirus patients out of their homes in the coming days and quarantine them in special centers. The ministry estimates that there are between 50 and 100 thousand people in Israel that should be in quarantine but have fallen under the government radar.

"There are entire populations that don't report to the government that they are in quarantine as they are not used to filling online forms or don't even know that they need to," said the Director of the Interior Ministry. 

In response to a Haaretz query, the government clarified that people will not be taken out of their houses by force. (Lee Yaron)

9:32 P.M. Tel Aviv hospital separating ultra-Orthodox women in maternity ward

The maternity ward in Ichilov Hospital is checking women from Haredi cities into separate rooms, testing them for the virus and separating them from their newborns after birth. "The protocol applies to women who come from areas with high rates of coronavirus contagion," a statement by the hospital said.  

8:24 P.M. Total number of COVID-19 cases in Israel stands at 4,695

The Health Ministry announced 4,695 cases of coronavirus in Israel to date, a 10.5 percent increase in 24 hours. (Haaretz)

8:22 P.M. Netanyahu, family and close staff test negative for coronavirus 

Benjamin Netanyahu, his family and close aides tested negative for coronavirus, according to the prime minister's spokesperson. He is still in quarantine, per health ministry directives. (Noa Landau)

7:44 P.M. Netanyahu announces tighter restrictions on public

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday further restrictions on the public, which include barring public gatherings of more than two people.

The restrictions have yet to go into effect, and need to be approved by the government overnight.

Netanyahu commended the majority of Israeli citizens for following the restrictions, but said a rebellious minority endangers the rest of the public. He added that security forces were instructed to enforce movement restrictions in areas where people have statistically been flouting government directives, without elaborating on where these areas are.

According to Netanyahu, praying would only be permitted to individuals and not groups, and is disallowed in public. Weddings will be held in the presence of the nuclear family. Funerals are limited for up to 20 people and circumcisions for up to ten.

In addition, the private sector's scope of work would be minimized from 30 percent to 15 percent.

Netanyahu also announced an 80 billion shekels ($22 billion) economic rescue package, "that's 6% of the GDP and it's a lot," said Netanyahu.

The package will allocate 10 billion shekels ($2.8 billion) to the health system, 30 billion shekels ($8.4 billion) to welfare and unemployment and 32 billion shekels ($9 billion) to aid small and large businesses and 8 billion shekels ($2.2) to economic stimulus. (Haaretz)

7:31 P.M. Israeli embassy employee tests positive for virus 

WASHINGTON - A worker at the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., has tested positive for the coronavirus. The worker, who is an Israeli citizen working at the embassy in a non-diplomatic role, began having symptoms approximately two weeks ago and was sent home immediately, according to an embassy spokesperson. 

In reply to a Haaretz query on the subject, the embassy wrote that it is going through a disinfection process, "in accordance with the regulations of the Foreign and Health Ministries" in Israel. It remains open and "continues to serve the public," although many staff members are working from home. (Amir Tibon)

6:50 P.M. Israeli employers to insure Palestinian workers

The Israeli Interior Ministry intends to force Israeli employers of Palestinian workers to provide them with health insurance during the coronavirus crisis, according to a legal memo published Sunday. Until now, Palestinian workers were insured in Israel for work accidents only. Their health insurance, deducted from their salary, was transferred to the Palestinian Authority.

There are currently an estimated 40,000 Palestinians working and staying overnight in Israel that due to lockdown will not be able to return to the West Bank should they need medical treatment. (Hagar Shezaf)

6:45 P.M. Unemployment rate at 23.1 percent

More than 800,000 Israelis have registered for unemployment benefits in March, raising the unemployment rate to 23.1 percent. (Lee Yaron)

6:38 P.M. Police enforces lockdown with fines

The Israel Police gave more than 2,100 fines Monday for violation of regulations intended to curb the spread of coronavirus. (Josh Breiner)

6:37 P.M. Nursing homes to be quarantined for 21 days

The welfare ministry intends to prohibit visits to homes for the elderly, disabled and minors in foster care, according to a legal memo published Sunday. Public housing institutions will be quarantined for three weeks and residents will be prohibited from meeting family members. (Or Kashti)

5:54 P.M. Plasma from recovered patients to be used for treatment

Israel’s Magen David Adom medical rescue service is preparing to collect blood plasma donations from coronavirus patients who have recovered, in an effort to produce an antibody treatment for COVID-19 patients who are in serious condition.

The evidence on the subject in the medical literature is limited and preliminary at this point. A Chinese military doctor, Shangen Zheng, reported that his team has so far treated 10 patients in Hubei province with plasma, and data from additional patients are being assessed.

Last week in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration approved the experimental use of plasma from recovered coronavirus patients as an emergency treatment for people in critical condition. It is already being used in New York, the largest coronavirus hotspot in the country. (Ido EfratI)

>> Read the full report here

5:27 P.M. Arab city warns of shortages as more test positive

Nazareth hospitals have just 30 intensive care beds, half of them for ventilated patients, despite having to serve a population of a quarter million residents. At least five more patients tested positive for COVID-19 in the city's English Hospital Monday.

MK Aida Touma-Sliman from the Joint List, along with Adalah civil rights organization, asked the government to transfer more ventilators to the Arab hospitals, warning that "the health ministry's neglect to test and prepare the Arab population may lead to disaster." (Jack Khoury) 

>> Israel's coronavirus blind spot: The Arab community

5:11 P.M. Symbolic Patient 16 makes full recovery

Israel's first coronavirus patient to be hospitalized in serious condition, Patient 16, has recovered after three and half weeks. Johnny, a 38-year-old tourist bus driver from East Jerusalem was released from Poriya Hospital. He was treated with Remdesivir drug, only approved for compassionate use. (Noa Shpigel)

4:49 P.M. Ultra-Orthodox city tests highest for COVID-19

Data obtained by Haaretz shows a significantly higher number of people testing positive for coronavirus in ultra-Orthodox cities compared to secular Jewish or mixed cities.

In Bnei Brak, 35 percent of coronavirus tests came back positive. The city now has 2.5 confirmed patients per 1000 residents. In Elad and Beitar Illit the numbers were lower but still significantly higher than the national average.

In Jerusalem, ten percent of tests came back positive. It has 0.5 coronavirus patients per 1000 residents, a rate similar to Tel Aviv's. (Aaron Rabonowitz)

4:29 P.M. Prime minister's staff self-quarantines

Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesperson Shir Cohen, Director of Prime Minister's Office Asher Hayoun and political spokesperson Naor Yahia enter voluntary self-quarantine after Knesset Affairs Advisor Rivka Paluch tests positive for COVID-19. 

Paluch was in the Knesset Thursday during the vote for Knesset speaker. It is still unclear which legislators she had come into contact with. (Noa Landau)

2:22 P.M. Prime Minister Netanyahu to enter quarantine

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he will enter quarantine along with his close advisers. Netanyahu's aide on Knesset affairs tested positive for coronavirus on Monday. The PMO said the step was a precaution and is being taken even before the epidemiological investigation has been concluded. (Noa Landau)

2:00 P.M. Residents of ultra-Orthodox neighborhood throw stones at medics who came to conduct coronavirus tests

Residents of the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim threw stones at Magen David Adom staff that arrived to collect coronavirus testing samples in the area.

A paramedic was slightly injured by the stones and a Jerusalem municipality vehicle which was used to conduct the tests was slightly damaged. (Haaretz)

1:50 P.M. Health ministry opens coronavirus service center for Arab community

At the request of Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, Magen David Adom Director General Eli Bin, in coordination with Arab-majority Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi, announced the operation of a special coronavirus service center for the Arab community. 

Services will be provided starting Monday in Arabic, in line with the target audience. (Haaretz)

1:30 P.M. Two drive-through coronavirus testing stations begin operating in Arab town

Magen David Adom and the Health Ministry will open two drive-through coronavirus testing stations Monday in the Arab Wadi Ara region of the north.

As part of the efforts being taken to continue to increase the number of testing throughout the country, four mobile testing stations have already been established. (Haaretz)

12:25 P.M. Police enforce regulation in ultra-Orthodox neighborhood Mea Shearim 

Israel police have been enforcing the Health Ministry's coronavirus regulations at the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea She'arim in Jerusalem since Monday morning, and have given out tens of tickets to those violating orders, while four were arrested and taken for questioning. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

12:00 P.M. 58-year-old Israeli dies after testing positive for coronavirus, death toll rises to 16

A 58-year-old Israeli from Holon with serious pre-existing conditions died Monday after being hospitalized with COVID-19 on Saturday. (Bar Peleg)

11:45 A.M. Senior Health Ministry official: We ordered 11,000 ventilators, preparing for 5,000 patients who may need ventilators

Dr. Orly Weinstein, who is responsible for protective and respiratory equipment at the Health Ministry, said 11,000 respirators, 7,400 monitors and 21,000 transfusion pumps were ordered. She added that 5,000 more ventilators were bought as a backup. 

"We are preparing for the scenario where 5,000 people will require ventilators and there is an expectation for local production of between 7,000-4,000 respirators," said Weinstein. 

"There is still no set plan of transferring the machines from the army to the hospitals. We are awaiting information from the IDF about how many machines they can deliver to us." (Jonathan Lis)

11:20 A.M. Six more Palestinians test positive in the West Bank

The Palestinian Health Ministry reported six new cases of coronavirus in the West Bank town of Qatanna on Monday, bringing total of cases to 106. (Jack Khoury)

11:00 A.M. Director of Health Ministry: 'In my estimation, schools will not resume after Passover'

Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov predicted this morning that schools will not resume at the end of the Passover holiday. "In my estimation, the school year will not resume after Passover," Bar Siman Tov said in an interview. "Most of the activities will not resume, but we will be able to return managed and controlled activities" he added.

He also said that he did not want to announce the exact date of return to routine: "I don't know, I don't want to say that because coordinating expectations is important," he explained. (Haaretz)

10:45 A.M. U.S. warns citizens in Israel, West Bank of last chance to return

The United States Embassy sent its citizens in Israel the West Bank and Gaza a health alert urging them to "arrange for immediate departure to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain in place for an indefinite period."

The embassy also informed its citizens that "as of March 29, the only available commercial flight departing Ben-Gurion Airport to the United States is on United Airlines, but it is subject to change at any time." (Allison Kaplan Sommer)

10:00 A.M. Confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel rise to 4,347

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel rose to 4,347, an increase of about 100 new cases since Sunday night. 

Out of all cases, 4,037 are in light condition, 81 are in moderate condition and 95 in serious condition, out of which 63 are on ventilators. So far, 135 patients have recovered, and 15 have passed away. (Haaretz)

9:30 A.M. Health Ministry, local medical center call on Bnei Brak residents to stay home

Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center and the Health Ministry are calling via public address systems on residents of Bnei Brak to stay in their homes, in light of the rapid spread of the coronavirus in ultra-Orthodox communities. (Bar Peleg)

9:25 A.M. Jordan releases travelers quarantined at Dead Sea hotels

Jordan on Monday began releasing thousands of travelers who were quarantined for the last two weeks at five-star hotels at the Dead Sea in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

More than 4,200 Jordanians and 1,500 foreigners have been held at the hotels. The Jordanians will be sent home via Uber, the popular ride-hailing service, and are requested to remain at home for another 14 days.

Travelers with other nationalities will be released on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear where they would go, but authorities said they would be in contact with their embassies and the Foreign Ministry.

Jordan has reported 259 infections and three deaths from the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus. At least 18 people have recovered. (The Associated Press)

9:15 A.M. Israel unemployment rate up to 22.7 percent amid coronavirus

As of Sunday, about 786,991 Israelis have registered for unemployment benefits since the beginning of March, raising the unemployment rate to 22.7 percent, amid the coronavirus outbreak which caused many businesses to shut down, and many workers to lose their jobs. 

On Sunday alone around 24,000 Israelis registered for unemployment. (Lee Yaron)

7:30 A.M. Netanyahu's Knesset advisor tests positive for coronavirus

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's adviser on Knesset affairs, Rivka Paluch, tested positive for coronavirus and is in isolation.

Sources at the Prime Minister's Office said they are following Health Ministry guidelines, which may require the premier to enter isolation. (Noa Landau)

6:12 A.M. Number of coronavirus patients hits 100 in the West Bank

The Palestinian Health Ministry said that the one more person tested positive for coronavirus, raising the toll to 100 confirmed cases in the West Bank.

In addition, a man in his 30s from East Jerusalem has also tested positive for COVID-19 after several members of his family were diagnosed with the virus in recent days. So far, 12 people have been infected in East Jerusalem, with some receiving treatment in Israel.

Meanwhile, main roads were blocked in Hebron in the West Bank as the Palestinian government tightens restrictions in light of the growing number of confirmed cases. (Jack Khoury)

1:45 A.M. Trump says will extend coronavirus guidelines past Easter to April 30

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he will extend the guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus to April 30, from his original target of Easter on April 12.

Trump added that deaths from the coronavirus could peak around Easter. (Reuters)


11:52 P.M. Privileged America on a permanent coronavirus spring break | Opinion 

The coronavirus crisis exposes America’s inequalities, racism, rotten information sources and compromised morals every single day.

President Trump says that he might suspend "social distancing" on Easter, the day that his Evangelical supporters take in hundreds of millions in donations. His daily briefings earn high ratings for the networks, but bleed their credibility. Now they’re deciding whether to run his uninformed rants, or keep making money. National Public Radio has decided against continuing to run them. How do you think the others will decide? 

Fox News has been making light of the pandemic, but its boss, Rupert Murdoch, and his family aren’t fools: they themselves were early adopters of precautions against the contagion. But the Fox News poison is both general – and specific.

>> Read the full opinion here

11:39 P.M. N.Y. governor says coronavirus patient zero cured, urges Jews to celebrate Passover at home

Jewish attorney Lawrence Garbuz from the town of New Rochelle, who was New York State’s first confirmed COVID-19 patient, is out of the hospital, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference on Sunday.

“Patient zero [...] who was very sick for a very long time, has gone home,” Cuomo said with a smile.

Garbuz emerged from a coma on Wednesday. He tested positive to the virus in early March, and was eventually connected to 37 other confirmed cases of the disease in the state, putting the Jewish community of New Rochelle at the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in New York. (Danielle Ziri)

>> Read the full report here

11:22 P.M. Cabinet meeting to discuss further restrictions delayed

The cabinet meeting to discuss additional restrictions and a potential curfew, which was slated for Sunday night, was delayed at the last moment and will be held Monday.

According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokeswoman, the proposed regulations were not ready yet to be voted on. (Noa Landau)

10:17 P.M. Defense minister plans to employ NSO in fight against virus

Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett wants to use controversial Israeli spyware firm NSO to help fight the coronavirus, sources told TheMarker.

On Sunday, Bennett, who also headed the national religious Yamina alliance in Israel’s last election, published a plan to fight the virus based on cooperation between the defense establishment and civilian companies. While the document didn’t name any specific company, TheMarker has learned that the company in question is NSO.

The document said that, given the sharp rise in the number of coronavirus patients, contact tracing and geolocation are no longer effective at finding all the people a given patient might have infected. (Rafaella Goichman)

>> Read the full report here

9:30 P.M. High court petition: Issue travel documents to babies of gay couples born via surrogacy

Seventeen families of gay couples in the process of surrogacy petitioned the High Court of Justice Sunday to issue travel documents to their babies born in the United States and Canada. The documents would allow the couples and their children to return to Israel.

According to the petition, the new U.S. government regulations put in place to fight the coronavirus outbreak do not allow the government to issue local passports to anyone who is not a U.S. citizen, which effectively bars the families from leaving the country. In Canada, the petition says, the stringent bureaucratic hurdles put in place due to the pandemic are making it difficult for the couples to get travel documents for their children.     

The lawyers representing the families are demanding that the Interior Ministry approve issuing Israeli travel documents under emergency procedures for every Israeli baby born in the United States or Canada via surrogacy. (Lee Yaron and Netael Bandel)

9:00 P.M. Number of confirmed cases rises to 4,247

The number of Israelis diagnosed with coronavirus has risen to 4,247, a 17 percent rise from Saturday, the Health Ministry reported. Of those cases, 74 are in serious condition, with 59 on ventilators.  

8:43 P.M. Attorney general blocks military deployment to enforce lockdown until okayed by cabinet

Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and the Justice Ministry prevented the deployment of soldiers to enforce coronavirus-related emergency regulations on Sunday, asking it be passed as a cabinet resolution first.

The deployment of 650 Israel Defense Forces soldiers to help with policing was approved last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, together with Chief of General Staff Aviv Kochavi and the Defense Ministry. It was meant to start Sunday. (Josh Breiner)

>> Read the full report

7:22 P.M. Turkey's coronavirus deaths up to 131 with 1,815 new cases

Turkey's deaths from the coronavirus increased by 23 to 131 on Sunday, as the number of confirmed cases rose by 1,815 to 9,217, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

Some 105 patients have recovered so far.

The minister added on Twitter that 9,982 tests had been conducted in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of tests carried out in Turkey to 65,446 since the outbreak began.

The tests in the last 24 hours show Turkey has almost reached its target of conducting 10,000 tests per day. (Reuters)

7:19 P.M. About 230 prisoners released early to house arrest

The process of freeing about 230 prisoners to house arrest began Sunday evening after a negotiations and coordination between the Israel Police and community officials. More detainees are expected to be released over the course of the week.

The prisoners are residents of Israel were detained for criminal offenses, and do not include sex offenders, domestic abusers or those whose crimes were particularly violent. Each prisoner was sentenced up to four years in prison, and 30 days or less remained until their full release date. (Josh Breiner)

6:54 P.M. Over 939,000 Israelis out of work

As of 5 P.M., 21,254 Israelis registered for unemployment Sunday, close to the 21,932 who registered on Friday. Since the beginning of March, 781,608 Israelis registered for unemployment – 89.9 percent of them on unpaid leave.

The total number of people out of work in Israel has reached 939,459, including the some 160,000 who were looking for work before the coronavirus crisis. The unemployment rate currently stands at 22.6 percent, and is rising. (Lee Yaron)

6:53 P.M. In assisted-living home, 24 test positive, 141 negative

Most of those tested by a Jerusalem assisted-living center hard-hit by the coronavirus do not have the disease, the Health Ministry said. Of the 166 samples taken from Migdal Nofim, of which Israel's first coronavirus death was a resident, 24 tested positive and 141 tested negative. One resident's results are still unclear.

The ministry added that of the 10 staff members tested, one was diagnosed with the virus.   

6:45 P.M. Barbers going under as Israel enters coronavirus lockdown

On ordinary days, Albert Ohayon’s barber shop in Be’er Sheva is a magnet for people who are fond of the old ways. While many in his profession have turned to cutting hair with an electric clipper, Albert, who comes to work in tailored pants and a buttoned shirt, remains loyal to his scissors. Last week, following new instructions for combating the coronavirus, he closed shop and hunkered down at home. His clients, he says, continue to call him, asking that he cut their hair. “They tell me to come undercover. I tell them no undercover and no home visits – how do I know who has the virus?”

For decades Albert, who is approaching 60, has been operating his shop at the city’s Gilat Center. He has a small side room with a barber chair from the mid-20th century. The shop, for men only, has a loyal, veteran clientele. Albert has known many of them since childhood. However, the new regulations have changed everything. (Almog Ben Zikri)

>> Read the full report here

6:30 P.M. West Bank now has 99 diagnosed coronavirus cases

The Palestinian Authority reported two more coronavirus cases in Hebron: A 60-year old man married to a confirmed patient and her 24-year-old son, bringing the West Bank's tally of confirmed cases to 99. (Jack Khoury)

6:29 P.M. Syria reports first coronavirus death

Syria's health ministry said on Sunday that a woman who died after being rushed to hospital for emergency treatment was found to have been infected by coronavirus in the first officially-reported death from the disease.
Syria has so far confirmed only five cases, but medics and witnesses say there are more. Officials deny a cover-up but have imposed a lockdown and draconian measures to stem the pandemic. (Reuters)

6:11 P.M. 206 Israelis return from Nigeria on emergency flight 

An emergency flight airlifted 206 Israelis from Abuja, Nigeria Sunday evening, the Foreign Ministry said. It was the first-ever direct flight between Nigeria and Israel.

The flight was organized by the Israeli ambassador, in order to return the stranded Israelis home, and joining were four Israelis who were stranded in the Ivory Coast. The company that operated the flight, Air Peace, was intended to begin commercial flights between Nigeria and Tel Aviv in March, but was forced to change its plans after the global coronavirus outbreak. 

The flight path will pass over Chad, Sudan and Egypt.

5:25 P.M. Police give out 567 tickets for lockdown violations

As of 5 P.M., police fined 567 people Sunday, and 1,416 in all, for leaving their homes for non-essential reasons, as per Israel's coronavirus guidelines. They also fined 283 people for being in locations closed to the public, and gave out four fines for prayer outside of the home, and not in an open space. 

They also visited 1,929 people in isolation, opened investigations into 136 cases of quarantine violation and handed out 86 fines for those they found to be violating their quarantines. Police also fined seven people who failed to report their quarantine to the Health Ministry. 

Police have given out 59 closure orders to businesses, and levied 128 fines on businesses or locations operated in opposition to coronavirus guidelines. They also handed out 114 fines for violating police orders to break up gatherings. One fine was levied for illegally operating public transportation. Forty investigations were opened Sunday into the dissemination of fake news. (Josh Breiner) 

5:03 P.M. Fifteenth Israeli dies of coronavirus

An 84-year-old woman from Jerusalem became the fifteenth coronavirus patient to die of the disease. Rosa Sherman Arbel, who herself worked for the Health Ministry's central laboratory before retiring, was hospitalized six days ago at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem in serious condition. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

5:00 P.M. Iran death toll reaches 2,640  

Iran's coronavirus death toll has risen to 2,640, a health ministry official said on Sunday, as the Middle East's worst-hit country grapples with the fast-spreading outbreak.

"In the past 24 hours we had 123 deaths and 2,901 people have been infected, bringing the total number of infected people to 38,309," Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to the health minister, said in a tweet. "12,391 people infected from the virus have recovered."

Health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told state TV that 3,467 of those infected were in "critical condition." (Reuters)

4:42 P.M. Police chief after mass funeral: no one above the law

Police Commissioner Moti Cohen commented on the massive funeral that took place last night in Bnei Barak, in which 300 participated: "In the war for public health, no one is above the law," he said. "The police will not hesitate to act decisively against anyone acting maliciously and irresponsibly counter to regulations."

Cohen added that "the vast majority of the public, including in the Haredi community, internalized and implements the rules, and the police are acting in exceptional sites in which residents do not follow the guidelines." But even cases where the rules are broken, Cohen noted, "There will be no replacement for the commanders' discretion." (Josh Breiner)  

4:24 P.M. Tenth Knesset member enters quarantine

United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Tessler has been quarantined after coming into contact with a coronavirus patient. He is the tenth Knesset member to enter isolation since the outbreak began, with five of them still under quarantine. (Jonathan Lis) 

4:12 P.M. Human rights group demands increased testing, resources for Arab communities 

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel requested that the Ministry of Health Chairman Moshe Bar Siman Tov broaden medical services and coronavirus testing in Arab communities.

According to ACRI's press release, there are only 38 confirmed coronavirus cases among Arab citizens and residents, out of 3,800 Israeli cases in total. This gap is explained, among other reasons, by the concentration of medical resources in Jewish communities, leaving Arab communities neglected in the allocation of essential services. 

The letter ACRI lawyers sent to Bar Siman Tov says that this lack of resource allocation "creates falsifications in the periphery, and leads to the aforementioned gaps in virus contraction data, testing for the virus and epidemiological testing." They added, "These all harm the Arab population, those in need of treatment and those who are at risk of catching it, and [these factors] may be a disaster for the entire population and the Arab population in particular." (Jack Khoury)

3:00 P.M. Not enough virus tracking in Arab communities, maps show

Health Ministry maps of places visited by those later diagnosed with the coronavirus show no exposure clusters in large Arab cities, while displaying hundreds in nearby Jewish communities.  The relatively low number of confirmed COVID-19 in Arab locales also points to possible undertesting for the virus.

In Tamra, northeast of Haifa, there are eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 but no indication on the map of where any of these people were in the two weeks preceding their diagnosis. That goes for Kalansua, Taibeh and Tira, while Kadima-Tzoran, Tel Mond and Tzur Yigal show 15 points. Nazareth has just two exposure points, while Migdal Ha’amek has dozens.

The disparity is particularly obvious in Jerusalem: While the map areas for West Jerusalem and Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are covered with location pointers showing exposure points, there isn’t even one for the Palestinian neighborhoods, despite having 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as well as 330,000 of the city’s residents. (Jack Khoury and Nir Hasson)

>> Read the full report here

2:19 P.M. Coronavirus death toll in Israel rises to 14

An Israeli woman in her 90s with pre-existing conditions died from coronavirus in a hospital in Bnei Brak. 

2:09 P.M. App to track patients admits errors

Israeli Health Ministry's “The Shield” app (HaMagen) said it is working to fix a bug. The app, which has over one million downloads, uses location data from the user’s phone and compares it with epidemiological data from the health ministry.

2:01 P.M. Blood plasma to be collected from recovered patients

Emergency services will begin collecting blood samples from recovered COVID-19 patients. Plasma units will be given to patients in severe condition, based on the assumption that recovered patients developed anti-bodies to fight the virus. The treatment was approved this week by the FDA and is already in practice in China. (Ido Efrati)

>> Read the full report here

1:41 P.M. Police make arrests in ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood

Police made arrests in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, also handing out tickets to owners of businesses open against regulations. A police helicopter hovered above the area, urging residents not to congregate. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

1:01 P.M. Rabbinic leader tells rabbis to pray alone

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community, told the rabbis of Bnei Brak that they should pray individually and not in a minyan (a prayer quorum), saying the principle in Judaism that one must do everything possible to save a life, even if it may violate another religious rule. The rabbis were expected to issue a letter in response.

The Health Ministry has not banned praying with a minyan, but has rather instructed that this only be done outdoors with proper distance maintained. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

12:37 P.M. Palestinian Authority braces for outbreak

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced two more coronavirus cases in the Jerusalem and Hebron areas, raising the total number of cases to 97. 

Shtayyeh noted that currently there is no shortage of supplies in the West Bank, but there are also no reserves. The Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank currently only performs 400 tests a day, but will soon go up to 1,000, Shtayyeh said. He is in talks with other countries to donate medical supplies, particularly Arab states and China. 

He extensively addressed the economic hardship in the West Bank, admitting that many families will fall below the breadline. He said that the authoritiy's revenues had halved and that it would only be able to pay public sector salaries. As for the tens of thousands of Palestinians who work in Israel, Shtayyeh asserted that their employers are responsible for their benefits(Jack Khoury)

11:44 A.M. Coronavirus patient dies in Israel

A 92-year-old man died from COVID-19 in Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, raising the total number of deaths to 13. (Haaretz)

10:48 A.M. Israel prepares for health system strain 

The Health Ministry is anticipating the number of coronavirus patients in Israel requiring ventilators will spike within two weeks from 54 to 1,000. There are currently 2,864 ventilators in Israel and 1,400 of them are available for use.

The ministry is also planning to divert care from public to private hospitals, particularly surgical procedures. (Ido Efrati)

>>Read the full report here

10:26 A.M. Dual citizens to benefit from U.S. stimulus plan

The $2 trillion stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump Friday will also apply to citizens and green card holders living abroad. The plan will issue direct payments of $1,200 per person and $500 per child under the age of 17. There are more than 200,000 U.S. nationals living in Israel. (Efrat Neuman)

9:32 A.M. Coronavirus will make Israel pay for neglecting its minorities | Analysis 

Israel’s faulty treatment of its ultra-Orthodox population has already emerged as one of its most serious failures in dealing with the coronavirus crisis. For weeks now, many have been preoccupied with criticizing the very fact that a problem is being pointed out, as if doing so constituted an “anti-Semitic” assault on a certain sector. In the meantime, the community has been left to fall ill in ever-growing numbers.

Who have they protected with these claims? No one.

At the very beginning of the outbreak synagogues were identified as the most dangerous infection sites in the country – as Haaretz reported last week. And yet, the response of the Netanyahu government, under the auspices of the ultra-Orthodox health minister, was shamefully weak and very hesitant. It left synagogues open for too long and even now allows prayer quorums to meet and ritual baths for women to remain open, while everyone else has been asked to remain under almost total lockdown. (Noa Landau)

>> Read the full analysis here

9:06 A.M. Total number of coronavirus cases in Israel increases to 3,865

The Health Ministry reported that 3,865 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 in Israel, a 12 percent increase in 24 hours. The great majority of patients have mild or no symptoms while 66 are in serious in condition. (Haaretz)

7:42 A.M. Palestinians fear workers in Israel, settlements spreading virus 

The Palestinian Authority has warned it will be short of equipment to handle the coronavirus pandemic in the West Bank if the spread of the illness is not curbed.

Palestinian and Israeli medical sources told Haaretz that West Bank hospitals have 205 ventilating machines at their disposal to serve a population of 2.5 million people, and that as of Friday they had done corona tests on only 5,562 people due to a shortage of diagnostic kits.

Palestinian sources told Haaretz that most of the patients diagnosed in recent days are workers returning from jobs in Israel or in settlements. They expressed concern about seeing a possible outbreak in villages in zones B and C where PA operations are limited. (Jack Khoury)

>> Read the full report here 

7:20 A.M. Eight new cases diagnosed in the West Bank

Eight more Palestinians tested positive for COVID-19, raising the total number of cases in the West Bank to 95. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, new infections are mostly among family members of previously confirmed patients. (Jack Khoury)

12:30 A.M. Hundreds gather at ultra-Orthodox funeral

An estimated 300 people participated Saturday overnight in the funeral of Rabbi Tzvi Shinkar in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak.

The police at first requested to limit attendance but then agreed to allow the public to participate after organizers promised that mourners would maintain social distancing rules. In effect, attendants congregated closely together and ignored police directions. (Bar Peleg)


9:53 European health systems straining under virus

More than 10,000 people have died in Italy since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The Italian Civil Protection Agency confirmed the grim landmark on Saturday, reporting 889 new deaths. The death toll now stands at 10,023.

French health authorities reported 319 new deaths from the coronavirus, up 16% on the previous day and taking the total to 2,314, as the government scrambled to increase the number of intensive care beds nationwide. The number of known cases of infection rose to 37,575 on Saturday from 32,964 a day earlier, the health authority said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed for patience from citizens. Germany has fewer deaths than some neighboring countries but still closed nonessential shops and banned public gatherings of more than two people, and Merkel's chief of staff said the restrictions won't be relaxed before April 20.

Spain, where stay-at-home restrictions have been in place for nearly two weeks, reported 832 more deaths Saturday, its highest daily count yet, bringing its total to 5,690. Another 8,000 confirmed infections pushed that count above 72,000. But Spain's director of emergencies, Fernando Simón, saw hope in that the rate of infection is slowing and figures “indicate that the outbreak is stabilizing and may be reaching its peak in some areas.” (Reuters)

9:12 P.M. Gulf States combat rising infection numbers  

The United Arab Emirates extended to April 5 a nightly curfew to sterilize public places to combat the coronavirus as neighbouring Qatar reported its first death from the disease.

Qatar became the latest Gulf state to report its first death from the virus, a Bangladeshi resident. The majority of the 590 cases in Qatar are among migrant laborers in the country, where foreigners make up most of the work force.

Qatar and the UAE confirmed more infections on Saturday to take the total in the six Gulf Arab states to over 3,000, with 11 deaths. The UAE has reported two deaths from the pandemic and 468 confirmed infections.

9:05 P.M. Israeli tourist succumbs to coronavirus in Italy

An 82-year-old Israeli man from Haifa died from coronavirus. He was on a cruise with his wife in the province of Savona and died in hospital.   

8:52 P.M. Number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel climbs to 3,619

The Health Ministry said a total of 3,619 people in Israel were diagnosed with COVID-19. The great majority of cases are mild, 54 are in serious condition, 12 people have died and 89 recovered. (Haaretz)

8:30 P.M. Israel sets up Jewish mortuaries for coronavirus fatalities

The government ordered the creation of several mortuaries to prepare and transport the bodies of deceased COVID-19 patients for burial. An agreement was signed with the Kadisha burial society for the duration of three months. (Yaniv Kubovich)

5:30 P.M. Police: Backup army forces will not enter Arab towns

Senior police officials said the 500 armed soldiers who will be deployed alongside the police to help enforce new restrictions will not be stationed inside Arab cities and villages in Israel.

The clarification was made following a letter by the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit, warning  that the Arab citizens' relationship with the army is loaded and may lead to unnecessary clashes. (Jack Khoury)

5:14 Police ramps up enforcement

The Israel Police gave over 1,200 fines to people who flouted social distancing regulations, indicating an increase in enforcement compared to previous days. The great majority of fines were given to people who were outside their homes for no good reason, 105 fines were given to business owners who operated against regulations and just two fines were handed to places of worship that held prayer in a closed space. 

In addition, the police made over 2,000 home visits to ensure confirmed and suspected patients were not breaching mandatory self-isolation orders. (Josh Breiner)

4:23 P.M. Gaza cancels annual March of Return 

Palestinian groups in Gaza cancelled mass rallies planned for next week along the border with Israel amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus in the densely-populated territory.

The rallies were called for March 30 to mark the second anniversary of the so-called "Great March of Return" which had prompted weekly protests by Palestinians seeking to regain access to land, now in Israel, from which their ancestors were forced to flee during the country's creation in 1948. (Reuters)

1:11 P.M. Six more Palestinians test positive in the West Bank, bringing total to 88

The Palestinian government in the West Bank said six more people were diagnosed with the coronavirus in the Bethlehem and Jerusalem areas in the West Bank, raising tally to 88. (Jack Khoury)

12:35 P.M. Suspected coronavirus patients get wrong test result due to typing error

Israeli HMOs received incorrect results for coronavirus tests run by the Health Ministry, caused by a typing error in the ministry's laboratories. As a result, some of those tested received other people’s results.

Contrary to previous reports, the confusion was caused due to human error and not a computer glitch.The Health Ministry, for the time being, has put a temporary freeze on passing on any more test results to HMOs. It later clarified that only eight test results out of thousands were misreported. 

The ministry stressed that it only instructed to halt the passing on of the results that were carried out on Friday, predicting the confusion will be sorted out "within several hours." (Ido Efrati)

10:57 A.M. Health Ministry says coronavirus test results to be delayed amid technical difficulties

Further coronavirus test results will be delayed due to a computer glitch detected overnight Friday, the Health Ministry said Saturday morning.

Nevertheless, the ministry added, the laboratories running the tests are operating and blood samples are being taken from suspected patients by Magen David Adom paramedics.

In addition, vocational Health ministry teams and representatives from the Prime Minister offices are working to solve the glitch. (Haaretz)

10:16 A.M. Number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel climbs to 3,460

The Health Ministry said Saturday morning that 425 more Israelis tested positive for the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing toll to 3,460, with 50 in serious condition. The ministry added that 73 patients are in moderate condition and 89 have recovered. (Haaretz)

2:47 A.M.  N.Y.C. mayor tells synagogues to stop violating lockdown rules

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio warned synagogues still holding services in the city and violating lockdown rules, that they may be shut down permanently.

“We’ve had extraordinary, across the board, rabbinical support from all the different elements of the Jewish community,” he said in a press conference video on Friday.“ A small number of religious communities, specific churches, specific synagogues are unfortunately not paying attention to this guidance even though it’s been so widespread.”

“I want to say to all those who are preparing the potential of religious services this weekend: if you go to your synagogue, if you go to your church and attempt to hold services after having been told so often not to, our enforcement agents will have no choice but to shut down those services.”

The Mayor added that the law enforcement has been instructed to disperse services and if met with resistance,“They will take additional action up to the point of fines and potentially closing the building permanently.”

“You have been warned, you need to stop services,” De Blasio said. (Danielle Ziri)

12:41 A.M. Jordan reports first coronavirus death

Jordan reported the first death from coronavirus, a woman in her 80s, state news agency announced on Twitter early on Saturday.

Jordan registered 23 new cases on Friday, bringing the total in the country to 235, the health minister announced. (Reuters)

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