Coronavirus in Israel: Death Toll Rises to 103 as Gov't Extends Curfew in Jerusalem Hotspots

Gov't approves extending curfew on coronavirus hotspots in Jerusalem ■ Netanyahu orders halt to all flights to Israel until all arriving passengers can be quarantined ■ Wearing masks in public is now mandatory

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Israelis head off after landing at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv on Saturday, April 11, 2020.
Israelis head off after landing at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv on Saturday, April 11, 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
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Haaretz

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

■ 10,878 Israelis have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 103 people have died. In the West Bank, 255 cases have been diagnosed so far. Two have died. In Gaza, 13 cases have been diagnosed.

■ Laboratory material shortages are forcing Israel to reduce testing, but Israel says it's planning on producing materials locally. The government has called upon citizens to wear face masks in public to better protect themselves and others from the virus. Guidelines explained

■ The government has extended the lockdown on the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, a coronavirus hotspot, and extended curfew on Jerusalem neighborhoods with a high infection rate. 

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Haredi leaders learn harsh corona lesson as Israel sends in the troopsCredit: Haaretz

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

LIVE UPDATES

9:05 A.M. Number of confirmed cases in Israel rises to 10,878

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel has risen to 10,878, according to the Health Ministry. So far, 102 people have died while 174 are in serious condition, of whom 123 are on life support. Another 9,058 cases are mild, while there have been 1,388 recoveries. (Haaretz)

9:00 A.M. Israel has a promising coronavirus exit strategy. There are just two problems with it

Throughout the coronavirus crisis Prof. Sigal Sadetsky, head of the Health Ministry’s public health services division, has played the proverbial bad cop of the story. She repeatedly expresses disappointment with Israel’s high incidence of illness and sounded the alarm that the worst is yet to come. But for a minute or two during an interview with Channel 12 News on Friday night, Sadetsky allowed herself a bit of optimism. “We managed to flatten the curve,” she said. “I’m happy to say that we’re in good shape.”

Israel isn’t the only place taking pride in how it’s coped with the pandemic. Even in New York state, which is still seeing nearly 800 deaths a day from the virus, has had talk this weekend of a bending of the curve — an admission that, at least for now, the blackest forecasts are not coming true. In Italy and Spain, two of the hardest-hit countries in western Europe, the number of new cases each day has been in decline; the number of deaths each day has been in a decline for two weeks. Nevertheless, every day more than 500 people continue to die from COVID-19 in each of these countries. (Amos Harel)

>> Read full analysis here 

8:35 A.M. Finance Ministry proposes reopening special education schools, daycare centers by next week 

The Finance Ministry, the Bank of Israel and the National Council for Economic Affairs are expected to present Sunday to the National Security Council a program for the return to schools, which will be partially operational starting next week.

According to the program, special education, preschool daycare centers and kindergartens will reopen next Sunday, and about two weeks later, First to third grade students will also be returning to schools. The program was written separately from the Education and Health Ministries, with no reference to fourth graders and above.

According to the outline presented to the NSC, which is in charge of coordinating the fight against the coronavirus in Israel epidemic, returning to school will be done "under health restrictions and reducing the number of children per class."

The plan also states that the transition from one stage to another will be conditional on meeting a number of goals, including maintaining a slowing rate of coronavirus infection in Israel. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

8:30 A.M. As of this morning, all Israelis must wear face masks in public

Anyone leaving their home will need to wear a face mask starting Sunday in order to hinder the spread of the coronavirus, the Health Ministry announced Saturday night.

The new regulations, which police will not initially enforce, do not apply to children under the age of 6, people with disabilities that make wearing masks significantly difficult, those driving alone or with another member of their household, anyone participating in a media broadcast and workers keeping a consistent two-meter distance between one another. (Haaretz)

>> Read full report here 

8:00 A.M. One more Israeli dies, bringing toll to 102

A 63-year-old Israeli coronavirus patient with several underlying conditions died Sunday overnight after being hospitalized. (Noa Shpigel)

5:15 A.M. Prime Minister was not present at meeting about extension of Jerusalem curfew

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not chair the special ministerial committee meeting in which it was decided to extend the curfew in coronavirus hotspots in Jerusalem, because he was negotiating with Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz about the establishment of a unity government. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri chaired the meeting in Netanyahu's place. (Noa Landau)

1:46 A.M. Saudi King approves extension of curfew until further notice says State News Agency

Saudi Arabia's King Salman approved an extension of the kingdom's curfew until further notice due to the rate at which the coronavirus is currently spreading, the state news agency reported early on Sunday.

The Saudi king has previously ordered a curfew that took effect on March 23, from 7 pm to 6 am for 21 days, to curb the spread of the coronavirus, state media reported. (Reuters)

12:10 A.M. Government approves extending curfew on ultra-Orthodox hotspots in Jerusalem

The government approved under emergency regulations to extend a curfew on several neighborhoods in Jerusalem exhibiting a high coronavirus infection rate until Wednesday.

The curfew extension will go into effect on Sunday at 12:00 P.M.

Citizens of these hotspots will only be allowed to lave their neighbourhood under the extended curfew for work, essential medical care, the funeral of a direct family member, the transfer of a minor between divorced parents, legal processes and any other essential reasons that have been the subject of prior approval. (Noa Landau)

SUNDAY

11:55 P.M. Health Ministry: Israeli coronavirus cases likely to reach tens of thousands by end of month

The Health Ministry has warned that if the rate of coronavirus infection continues at the current pace, there will likely be tens of thousands of cases in Israel by the end of April. The ministry says that between March 11 and April 10, the number of coronavirus cases grew more than a hundredfold, from 99 to 10,200.

This forecast is more severe than others released by the ministry and its officials in the past two weeks. Professor Sigal Sudetzky, head of the ministry’s public health division, said “We have succeeded in flattening the curve. We’re fortunately in a good place.” The Health Ministry presented its evaluation as part of its recommendation to enforce a full closure on specific Jerusalem neighborhoods in a Knesset discussion. According to morbidity testing in Jerusalem and how far-flung infected people are in the city, the ministry said, “it is justified to declare sole parts of the city restricted areas.” (Noa Landau)

9:40 P.M. Israel's death toll rises to 101, cases to 10,743

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel has risen to 10,743, with 101 fatalities, according to new Health Ministry data. There are 175 patients in serious condition, of whom 129 are ventilated. 1,341 people have recovered. (Haaretz)

9:31 P.M. New York-Tel Aviv flight canceled

A United Airlines flight from New York that was scheduled to land in Tel Aviv on Sunday has been canceled. (Josh Breiner)

8:25 P.M. Cabinet to discuss extending closure of Jerusalem

The cabinet is expected to hold a telephone meeting tonight to discuss the continuation of restrictions in Jerusalem. Mayor Moshe Leon is urging authorities not to extend the closing off of the city to outside traffic, which began this week on the eve of Passover, and cabinet ministers are now examining the possibility of extending the closure only in neighborhoods where there is a particularly high rate of infection. Leon said in a statement that those infected should be put in government-run isolation facilities "to prevent the virus' spread and end the closure on neighborhoods," and demanded that the government assist in this effort. 

Leon has called on the government to establish specific criteria for closing off certain communities or areas. The Health Ministry thus advised the cabinet to decide that closures would be imposed on any area with more than one person infected per 1,000 residents. Ministers are expected to discuss this question as well. (Noa Landau and Nir Hasson)

7:48 P.M. Flight from New York expected to land in Israel on Sunday despite Netanyahu's instructions to halt inbound flights

Despite the prime minister's instructions to stop flights to Israel until passengers can be legally required to enter government-run isolation facilities, another United Airlines flight from New York is expected to arrive in Israel on Sunday morning. The Passover holiday has seen six flights land in Israel, five of them from New York, after receiving special approval from a committee. Passengers from these flights have said they were told to self-isolate and allowed to leave the airport unsupervised, with some adding that they were not given temperature checks and that their signed declarations promising to self-isolate were not collected. (Hadar Kane)

7:35 P.M. Number of Palestinian recoveries rises to 57

The Palestinian health minister says another 11 Palestinian patients have recovered, bringing the number of recovered patients in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to 57. (Jack Khoury)

6:53 P.M. 91-year-old woman dies, bringing Israel's toll to 97

A 91-year-old woman with a number of underlying conditions who was hospitalized at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer has died of the coronavirus, bringing Israel's death toll to 97. (Haaretz)

6:09 P.M. Hospital labs told to expand working hours to increase pace of testing

Itamar Grotto, the Health Ministry's deputy director general, instructed hospitals labs on Friday to expand their hours and to begin working night shifts. The Health Ministry thinks that despite a shortage in components required for coronavirus tests, increasing the labs' working hours will nevertheless help increase the pace of testing. Even before this directive, some labs have been working 24/7 and others until late at night, with staff boosted partly by medical students. (Ido Efrati)

5:30 P.M. Authorities allowing nursing homes to hire foreign nationals without work permits

The Population and Immigration Authority and the National Security Council have decided to permit nursing homes to temporarily employ foreign nationals without a legal work permit for the duration of the coronavirus crisis, Haaretz has learned. The decision was not announced officially and does not entail providing legal work permits, but rather establishes a policy of non-enforcement. Nursing homes have recruited some 1,500 foreign workers without work permits since being told of the policy early this month. (Lee Yaron)

4:30 P.M. Health Ministry data shows drop in daily number of test results

Data released by the Health Ministry shows that the number of test results obtained every day has been declining this month. Counting only tests that have been analyzed for results, and not the total number of tests conducted, on April 2 and 3 labs were able to produce 9,000 results. The number dropped to 7,250 on April 6, while on April 8, 9, and 10 the number fluctuated between 5,500 and 5,900. Since April 2, the Health Ministry has not released data on the total number of tests it has been conducting. (Haaretz)

2:50 P.M. Coronavirus death toll in Israel reaches 96

Israel's Health Ministry said one more patient has passed away because of the coronavirus, bringing the total death toll from the disease to 96. It also said the figure it previously reported on the number of Israelis in critical condition was accidentally inflated – it stands at 180, not 191. (Haaretz)

2:00 P.M. Netanyahu bans all flights to Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said all flights to Israel must be stopped until the IDF's Home Front command is able to legally transfer all incoming travellers to supervised isolation facilities. Netanyahu said planes that are currently on their way to Israel will be allowed to land, but all traffic will then be stopped. Passengers on a flight from New York that landed Saturday after getting special approval said that when the plane landed, a Health Ministry employee boarded and instructed them to remain in isolation for the next two weeks. One passenger said that his temperature was not checked and that some passengers walked around the airport with no protective measures at all. The passengers signed declarations that they would enter self-isolation, but said no one collected the forms. They were instructed to go into self-isolation, even though Prime Minister Netanyahu said earlier this month that anyone flying into Israel would be taken to an official isolation facility.   (Noa Landau)

11:20 A.M.Total of coronavirus cases in Arab Israeli localities reaches 312

The number of people infected with coronavirus in Arab-Israeli localities has reached 312, the Arab Emergency committee said. A total of 15,000 people were tested. The data do not include East Jerusalem and mixed Arab-Jewish towns. (Jack Khoury)

11:10 A.M. New figures show Haredi city of Bnei Brak still hardest hit locality in central Israel

The ultra-Orthodox central Israeli city of Bnei Brak has topped 1,761 coronavirus cases thus remaining by far the hardest hit locality in central Israel. Bnei Brak is followed by Tel Aviv (444) Elad (233) Petah Tikva (199) Rishon Lezion (192). Holon surpassed Netanya (159 and 156 cases respectively) and Bat Yam overtook Ramat Gan (142 and 135 cases respectively). (Haaretz)

10:35 A.M. Seventy Israelis land at Ben Gurion airport from New York

Around 70 Israelis travelling from New York on a United Airlines flight that received a special permit to fly to Tel Aviv landed at Ben Gurion airport. The passengers were asked to fill up a form confirming they have a place to perform the mandatory 14-day home quarantine. They were all allowed to head off on their own, however, rather than being moved to state-run isolation facilities. Some moves around the airport without a mask and one reported not even getting his temperature checked. (Josh Breiner)

10:31 A.M. Coronavirus cases in Israel top 10,505 

The total number of cases of coronavirus in Israel has topped 10,505 of which nearly 200 are in critical condition. A total of 1,236 recovered. (Almog Ben Zikri)

5:31 A.M. U.S. marks more than 2,000 coronavirus deaths in one day

2,108 deaths from the coronavirus were recorded within 24 hours in the United States on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University, making it the highest increase in deaths in one day since the global pandemic began. The country's death toll now stands at more than 18,600.

The number of people infected with the novel coronavirus across the U.S. has surpassed half a million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins. (DPA and Haaretz)

3:31 A.M. Mexico closes U.S. owned plant for refusal to sell ventilators

The northern Mexico border state of Baja California closed a plant run by the Anglo-American health care firm Smiths Medical Friday for allegedly refusing to sell ventilators to Mexican hospitals.

Baja California Gov. Jaime Bonilla said the firm had continued to operate its assembly plant under the argument it provided an “essential” service, when most non-essential plants have been ordered closed to combat the pandemic.

But Bonilla ordered the Smiths Medical factory closed, because he argued it was providing no such essential service to Mexicans, and thus was not obeying health emergency contingency measures. (Reuters)

FRIDAY

10:52 P.M. Flight from New York expected to arrive in Israel on Saturday

A United Airlines flight from New York is expected to land in Israel on Saturday, despite flights generally not being allowed. The flight received a special permit to land, as were two other flights from New York that landed on Wednesday and Thursday. Passengers on the flight are being permitted to go into self-isolation themselves, rather than going into facilities run by the military's Home Front Command, where possible cases can be supervised. (Hadar Kane and Ronny Linder)

10:16 P.M. Turkey imposes two-day lockdown in all major cities

Turkey is imposing a two-day lockdown in 31 provinces, including Istanbul, Ankara and other major cities, in response to the spread of COVID-19, its Interior Ministry says. Turkey earlier announced its death toll from the virus had risen to 1,006. (Reuters)

10:09 P.M. Number of confirmed cases in Israel rises to 10,408

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel has risen to 10,408, according to the Health Ministry. Ninety-five people have died while 167 are in serious condition, of whom 124 are on life support. Another 8,790 cases are mild, while there have been 1,183 recoveries. (Haaretz)

7:58 P.M. Turkey's coronavirus death toll rises to 1,006 

Turkey's confirmed cases of coronavirus increased by 4,747 and 98 people died in the last 24 hours, taking the total death toll from the disease to 1,006, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca says. (Reuters)

7:55 P.M. Worldwide coronavirus death toll passes 100,000, cases over 1.6 million

The number of deaths linked to the novel coronavirus reached 100,000 on Friday, as the tally of cases passed 1.6 million, according to a Reuters tally.  The toll has been accelerating at a daily rate of between 6% and 10% over the past week, and there were almost 7,300 deaths globally reported on Thursday. (Reuters)

6:50 P.M. Israeli president apologizes for violating restrictions

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin hosted his daughter and her children at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem for the Passover holiday and Wednesday's seder meal, despite Health Ministry orders limiting celebrations to residents of the same household only, intended to curb the sperad of the coronavirus.

On Friday, Rivlin apologized on Twitter: “Since [Rivlin’s wife] Nechama passed, my children have been helping me greatly with my personal matters, and also in what is needed for work matters – as contacts during holidays and weekends, when my office is not manned.”

“I understand that if you don’t know about my daily schedule as president, it is hard to understand this and I am sorry about that,” he tweeted. (Jonathan Lis and Josh Breiner)

>> Click here to read the full report

7:01 P.M WHO warns about dangers of premature lifting of COVID-19 restrictions 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned countries to be cautious about lifting restrictions introduced to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. The WHO would like to see an easing, but at the same time "lifting restrictions could lead to a deadly resurgence," Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference. (Reuters)

6:16 P.M. Two Arab towns block entry to non-residents

The largely Arab towns of Jisr al-Zarqa and Daburiyya have blocked entry to non-residents, with the decision being made in coordination with the police and mayors of adjacent towns following a rise in the number of coronavirus patients in the area. Roads from Daburiyya to other towns have been blocked off, with residents being allowed to enter only through the main road, where a police checkpoint has been put in place. Jisr al-Zarqa also blocked roads connecting it to other towns. (Jack Khoury)

6:10 P.M. Moroccan companies begin ventilator production

Morocco has started manufacturing its own ventilators with oxygen masks, with 500 expected to be ready by mid-April to help meet demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Industry Ministry said. The North African kingdom has confirmed 1,431 cases of the novel coronavirus, including 105 deaths, and is seeking to raise the number of its intensive care beds to 3,000 from 1,640. (Reuters)

5:50 P.M. Ten soldiers sentenced to prison over Passover Seder

Ten soldiers were sentenced to ten days in prison after congregating for a Passover Seder on Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces’ Spokesperson Unit said. The soldiers, all in training at a base in southern Israel, were dismissed from their training. Two of their commanders were also disciplined and transferred from their positions. (Yaniv Kubovich)

5:16 P.M. Cabinet to vote on restrictions on movement within Jerusalem on Saturday

The Israeli government is set to vote on restrictions to movement within Jerusalem on Saturday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said. Some proposals include dividing the city into several administrative zones, barring nearly all movement between them. (Noa Landau)

4:52 P.M. Public transportation to resume Sunday morning

The Israeli government approved resuming public transportation on Sunday at 5:30 A.M., after all services were suspended ahead of the Passover holiday. The government also agreed to delay payments of fines until emergency measures are lifted. (Noa Landau)

3:35 P.M. Science institute makes agreement with Health Ministry to test 1,000 a day

The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot will begin conducting about 1,000 tests a day after signing a deal with the Health Ministry. (Haaretz)

3:31 P.M. Future of Tel Aviv initiative to test foreign nationals without legal status in question

The future of a joint initiative by Ichilov Hospital and the Tel Aviv Municipality to test foreign nationals without legal status in the city has come into question following low demand. Tens of thousands of such individuals live in the area, but fewer than 100 people came to be tested during the three testing days, which occurred on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Sources at the hospital say tests will still be done on Sunday and Monday before a decision is made about continuing the initiative, which is supposed to end after the Passover holiday in any case. (Bar Peleg)

2:03 P.M. Second Palestinian dies of coronavirus

A 53-year-old resident of Barta'a, a Palestinian city that straddles the border between Israel and the West Bank, died of COVID-19 on Friday, the Health Ministry said. The patient had preexisting conditions.

Another two people tested positive for the coronavirus in the West Bank, including a seven-year old girl in Irtas, near Bethlehem, and another person in Halhul, near Hebron. (Jack Khoury)

11:32 A.M. Families to be given 500 shekel payment per child on Sunday

The National Insurance Institute announced that more than a million families will receive 500 shekels for every child up to the age of 18 on Sunday, for a maximum of four children.

Families who gave birth to babies in April will also be eligible for the payment. More than 1.4 billion shekels worth of payments will be given to help families during the coronavirus crisis. (Lee Yaron)

9:58 A.M. Eighty-year-old woman dies of coronavirus, raising death toll to 93

9:27 A.M. Over 10,000 cases diagnosed in Israel

According to Health Ministry figures, 164 of 10,095 diagnosed cases are severe, with 125 of those treated with respirators.

So far, 1,061 have recovered.

7:33 A.M. Yemen confirms first case of coronavirus

Yemen has reported its first coronavirus case in the Hadhramaut Governorate, in the east of the country, the supreme national emergency committee tweeted early on Friday.

The committee added that the patient was stable and receiving health care, without elaborating.

This comes amid concerns the virus could wreak havoc on the war-torn country, given its shattered healthcare infrastructure and already weakened population.

Yemeni authorities have already imposed curfews and lockdowns. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels announced Wednesday that its forces would begin a cease-fire starting Thursday, a step that could pave the way for the first direct peace talks between the two sides that have been at war for more than five years. (Agencies)

>> Click here to read the full report

3:00 A.M. Government scales back closure of Bnei Brak

Israeli authorities have extended the restrictions on the ultra-Orthodox city for another five days, but will now allow residents to leave the city for work and other essential activities starting Friday. Residents will have to show a permit or proof that such travel is necessary.  

The government is also deliberating stricter regulations for certain neighborhoods in Jerusalem and is expected to reach a decision later on Friday. (Bar Peleg, Aaron Rabinowitz, Noa Landau and Almog Ben Zikri)

THURSDAY

10:52 P.M. Israeli officials, scientists to build lockdown exit strategy

The Prime Minister’s Office, Health Ministry and Weizmann Institute of Science will begin building a national strategy for solving the coronavirus crisis and ending the economic lockdown.

They will use a test sample of 1,000 randomly-chosen residents of Bnei Brak, the central Israeli city with an outsized number of virus cases. The sample will be used to build a mathematical model for lifting the limitations, developed by Mobileye founder Professor Amnon Shashua, alongside other scientists. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

10:40 P.M. Turkey is supplying Israel with medical equipment

Turkey is supplying Israel with personal protective equipment during the coronavirus crisis, Bloomberg reported Thursday. Turkey, which has rocky relations with Israel, has been sending protective suits, gloves, face masks and other gear.

Israeli officials did not comment on the sale, which was approved by the Turkish government on humanitarian grounds. Turkey is sending another shipment of medical equipment to the Palestinian Territories, which is expected to pass through unhindered. (Haaretz)

10:05 P.M. Two flights from New York land in Israel during nationwide curfew

Two United Airlines flights from New York landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Wednesday and Thursday morning despite the nationwide closure the Israeli government had imposed ahead of Passover eve as part of intensifying efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The flights were allowed to land in Israel after their arrival was approved by a special committee comprised of officials from the Health, Transportation and Interior Ministries.

Another flight from Georgia is expected to land in Israel on Friday. All passengers arriving in Israel are obligated to sign a form in which they declare their have the ability to enter quarantine in the country. The passengers are also responsible to reach they place of quarantine by a private car or public transportation. It appears that most of the passengers who arrived on the flights from New York arrived independently to their place of quarantine. (Hadar Kane)

9:47 P.M. Health Ministry seeks to extend Passover lockdown

The Health Ministry has called to extend the Passover lockdown, which began on Wednesday evening and is supposed to end at 6 A.M. Friday morning. If it is extended, it will remain in place until the holiday ends next week.

Residents would not be permitted to leave the 100-meter radius around their home, unless they are essential workers going to their jobs, or going to funerals, circumcision ceremonies or rituals baths. Children whose parents live in separate households would still be allowed to be driven between them. (Ido Efrati)

9:19 P.M. Israel edges toward 10,000 coronavirus cases, death toll rises to 86

Numbers released by the Health Ministry on Thursday showed 9,968 cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in Israel. These include 166 in severe condition, 121 of which are on respirators.

The majority of cases remain mild, and so far 1,011 have recovered and were discharged from medical care.

9:12 P.M. Coronavirus death toll in Israel reaches 80

A 89-year-old woman with preexisting conditions died from COVID-19 at a medical center in Tiberias.

9:03 P.M. Defense minister: Testing should be conducted by military, Defense Ministry

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Thursday night that the coronavirus testing process should fall under the purview of the Defense Ministry and the IDF. This, he said, would speed up the process and allow the state to start lifting the economic lockdown, which he called “ruinous for the future of Israel.”

He added that the Health Ministry, which is currently responsible for coronavirus testing, “does not particularly believe in the importance of testing,” and that as a mainly regulatory body, it is not structured to quickly implement emergency testing. (Amos Harel) 

8:48 P.M. Police disperse 20 found praying at illegal synagogue

Israel Police announced that it located a synagogue operating illegally in Jerusalem on Thursday, in which 20 people where praying. Police broke up the gathering and handed out fines to some of the participants. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

5:10 P.M. Number of Israeli Arabs diagnosed with coronavirus rises to 264

The Emergency headquarters formed within the government for the Arab community said that 264 Israeli Arabs have so far tested positive for the coronavirus. The data doesn’t include mixed communities and East Jerusalem.

So far, some 14,000 coronavirus tests were carried out in Israel's Arab society. (Jack Khoury)

1:16 P.M Turkish legislation temporarily banning layoffs to go to parliament next week

The Turkish government plans to send legislation to parliament early next week temporarily banning layoffs to reduce an expected jump in unemployment due to the spread of coronavirus, two senior officials told Reuters on Thursday.

One of the Turkish officials said a separate regulation is also planned to financially support small businesses such as barbers and restaurant owners barred from operating under coronavirus-related restrictions.

Reuters, citing sources, reported on Wednesday that draft legislation would ban layoffs for at least three months. (Reuters)

1:11 P.M. Iran's death toll rises to 4,110

Iran's coronavirus death toll has risen by 117 to 4,110, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on Thursday.

The total number of infected people with the new coronavirus has reached 66,220, he said. (Reuters)

12:41 P.M. Five-week-old baby contracts coronavirus in Israel

A five-week-old baby was diagnosed with the coronavirus at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer.

The infant has undergone a serious of tests to determine his condition and will stay in a special isolated ward for coronavirus patients at Sheba. His family members have been also tested for the virus. (Ido Efrati and Bar Peleg)

12:30 P.M. Israeli medical services promise 3,000 tests a day in nursing homes

Israel's Health Ministry and Magen David Adom emergency medical services said they are conducting more tests in nursing homes where cases of the coronavirus were confirmed, after worrying outbreaks in several facilities.

In a joint statement, they said they expect to run 3,000 tests on Thursday and in the coming days.

12:00 P.M. Lebanon defense council urges extending lockdown

Lebanon's higher defense council advised the government on Thursday to extend the country's month-long coronavirus shutdown by another two weeks until April 26.

The cabinet is expected to take the decision in a session on Thursday. The council also called for a crack down on violations of the lockdown and overnight curfew.

A government report on Wednesday put the number of infections at 575, with 19 deaths. (Reuters)

11:25 A.M. India delivers experimental medicine to Israel

The Indian Embassy in Tel Aviv said the government "has lifted restrictions on the export of hydroxychloroquine," an anti-malaria drug that some experts believe could help cure COVID-19 patients and was banned for export until this week.

The Israeli Air Force flew on Tuesday five tons of hydroxychloroquine from India.

"India has exported hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine phosphate medicines to Israel in its resolve to do everything possible to help humanity’s fight against COVID-19," the embassy said in a statement. (Noa Landau)

10:25 A.M. Iran may bar Ramadan gatherings

Iran’s supreme leader is suggesting that mass gatherings in the Islamic Republic may be barred through the holy Muslim fasting month Ramadan amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the comment Thursday as Iran is trying to restart its economic activity after suffering one of the world’s worst outbreaks.

Ramadan is set to begin in late April and last through most of May. (The Associated Press)

10:22 A.M. Israel confirms 9,755 cases, 79 deaths

9,755 Israeli have tested positive so far for the coronavirus, the Health Ministry said, with the vase majority of cases in mild condition. 165 patients are in serious condition and 119 on life support, down 2.4 percent from the previous report issued on Wednesday.

9:54 A.M. Oil prices rise on optimism OPEC+ meeting will result in supply cut

Oil prices rose on Thursday on expectations the world’s largest oil producers would agree to cut production at a meeting later in the day as the industry grapples with a coronavirus-driven collapse in global oil demand.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies including Russia – a group known as OPEC+ – are set to convene a video conference meeting on Thursday. (Reuters)

8:18 A.M. 86-year-old is fourth death in one nursing home

An 86-year-old coronavirus patient died, bringing the total number of deaths in Israel to 74. He was hospitalized late last week at the Poriya Hospital in Tiberias in serious condition with a severe pneumonia and died early Thursday morning.

He is the fourth resident of a single nursing home in the northern town of Yavne'el, where dozens of coronavirus cases were diagnosed, to die after having tested positive for it. (Noa Shpigel)

7:00 A.M. Passover curfew in Jewish communities ends

A curfew across Israel, which began on Wednesday at 3 P.M., ended. For that time, residents of Jewish-majority cities and towns were barred from leaving their homes, even to purchase food.

Existing restrictions remain in place. Click here to read more about them.

WEDNESDAY

10:00 P.M. Gaza coronavirus lab runs out of equipment

The central medical lab in Gaza has stopped processing all coronavirus tests due to shortage in equipment. 

The Gaza Health Ministry warned of shortages on Monday and has requested aid from the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the World Health Organization. The ministry's spokesperson Dr. Ashraf al-Kudra said dozens of people will remain in central quarantine until their tests can be processed.

There are currently five COVID-19 patients in Gaza, after eight diagnosed patients successfully recovered. (Jack Khoury)

8:00 P.M. Man in his 60s dies from coronavirus 

A 63-year-old man died from coronavirus, raising the death toll in Israel to 73. The man suffered from underlying conditions and passed away in a hospital in Be'er Sheva. 

4:01 P.M. Israel recognizes educational psychologists as essential workers

The government approved the status of educational psychologists as essential workers following a sharp rise in parents reporting mental distress in their children due to the coronavirus. They will now be permitted to work at full capacity.

Since the virus outbreak began, the Education Ministry saw a 70 percent rise in demand for mental health professionals working with children.

3:37 P.M. Hospitals told to reduce anesthesia use due to shortage

The Health Ministry sent a letter on Wednesday to hospitals, calling on them to reduce their use of anesthesia, due to a global shortage of anesthetics coupled with the use of many anesthetics to treat coronavirus patients.

Dr. Vered Ezra, the head of the ministry's medical department, instructed hospitals not to use anesthesia where it is not necessary. Hospitals were surprised to receive the letter, which did not elaborate on the existing supply of anesthetic, how long this reduction would last, if there are expectations that more anesthetic will arrive, or whether to completely halt non-lifesaving surgeries that require anesthesia. (Rony Linder)

>> Click here to read the full report

3:00 P.M. Nationwide curfew begins

As of 3 P.M. Wednesday, ahead of Passover Eve, residents of Jewish-majority cities and towns were barred from leaving their homes, even to purchase food. The curfew will be lifted at 7 A.M. on Thursday. (Josh Breiner)

2:30 P.M. Israel’s justice minister extends freeze on courts amid coronavirus emergency until May 10

Justice Minister Amir Ohana extended the period in which emergency measures will be put in place to counter the spread of the coronavirus, until May 10.

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit agreed to the move.

The courts will resume operations two weeks before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s three corruption cases begin. Netanyahu’s trial was pushed back to May 24 after Ohana halted court activity in March over the coronavirus crisis.

In addition, Ohana is advancing a bill to postpone the payment of fines, as well as of legal fees to the state and local municipalities, by 60 days as Israel struggles to contain the spread of the virus. (Netael Bandel)

1:35 A.M. Israel’s death toll rises to 72

A 90-year-old woman who suffered from severe underlying conditions died of the coronavirus at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. This is Israel's 72 coronavirus fatality. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

12:50 P.M. Iran's new coronavirus death toll passes 4,000, health official says

Iran's new coronavirus death toll has climbed to 4,003 with 121 more deaths in the past 24 hours, a Health Ministry spokesman told state TV on Wednesday, adding that the total number of infections in the country has risen to 67,286.

"We had 1,997 new infected cases in the past 24 hours .... there are 3,956 infected people in critical conditions," spokesman Kianush Jahanpur added. (Reuters)

12:00 P.M. Israel blanket testing in nursing homes where coronavirus cases found

All nursing home residents and employees will be tested for the coronavirus if anyone in the facility is diagnosed with COVID-19, Israel's Health Ministry announced Tuesday evening, marking a major policy change.

Last week, a special team within the Health Ministry recommended expanding virus testing to include people without symptoms in prisons, nursing homes and other residential facilities with at least one coronavirus patient. As of Wednesday morning, 19 residents from four different nursing homes around the country have died of COVID-19. Read the full report here. (Ido Efrati and Lee Yaron)

11:38 A.M. Two more Palestinians diagnosed with the coronavirus in West Bank, raising total to 250

The Palestinian Health Ministry said two more men had tested positive for the coronavirus, raising the toll of confirmed cases to 250 in the West Bank. One of them is a laborer from the Hebron area and the other is a paramedic from the Nablus area.

So far, 36 Palestinians have recovered in the West Bank and eight in the Gaza Strip. (Jack Khoury)

11:08 A.M. Israeli government increases grant for businesses amid coronavirus crisis

The government approved a grant of up to 10,500 shekels ($2,915) for small and medium-sized businesses affected by the coronavirus crisis.

Those whose annual income reaches one million shekels will also be eligible to receive the grant, regardless of their spouses’ annual income. (Sivan Klingbail) 

10:09 A.M. Israeli government recognizes social workers as essential

The government classified social workers as essential employees and mayors are now obligated to allow them to work full time. (Lee Yaron)   

9:37 A.M. 85-year-old man dies of coronavirus, bringing toll to 71

An 85-year-old man with underlying conditions passed away from COVID-19 at Haemek Hospital in Afula. He is Israel’s 71st coronavirus fatality. (Noa Spiegel)

8:40 A.M. Number of coronavirus cases in Israel rises to 9,404 with 147 in serious condition

The Health Ministry said that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has gone up to 9,404, with 147 in serious condition, out of which 121 are on life support. (Ido Efrati)

8:34 A.M. Israel registers 70 coronavirus deaths

Two more men, aged 96 and 97, died of the coronavirus at the Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva, raising Israel’s death toll to 70.

The two men, who resided in a nursing home in Be’er Sheva that has been struggling to stem the outbreak, suffered from underlying conditions. (Almog Ben Zikri) 

8:29 A.M. Two more Israelis die of coronavirus, raising tally to 68

Two more men aged 75 and 77 passed away from COVID-19 at the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv, raising the death toll to 68. Both men suffered from underlying conditions. (Haaretz)

8:01 A.M. Israel’s coronavirus death toll rises to 66

A 67-year-old woman with underlying conditions died of coronavirus at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, bringing the death toll to 66. She had been on life support several days before her passing. (Noa Spiegel)

7:43 Israel bars buying food starting 3 P.M. Wednesday ahead of Passover

Israel banned ordering deliveries and purchasing food starting 3 P.M. Wednesday until Thursday at 7 A.M., as the Passover holiday begins. 

A general closure has been imposed across the country to contain the spread of the coronavirus, barring Israelis from leaving the community where they reside, other than in exceptional circumstances, such as the need for urgent medical care.

Intercity travel has been banned from Tuesday at 4 P.M. and will last until Friday at 6 A.M. All public transportation services are suspended as of Tuesday at 8 P.M and will resume at t 8 A.M. Sunday.

In addition, a curfew will be imposed on Wednesday at 3 P.M. until Thursday at 7 A.M., limiting Israelis to 100-meter (about 330 feet) radius of their home. This coincides with the Passover seder, which authorities implored Jews to celebrate at home, rather than with their families. (Noa Landau and Josh Breiner)    

TUESDAY

10:01 P.M. Palestinians receive 10,000 testing kits, PA Health Ministry says ■ Gaza authorities warn of shortages

Palestinian intelligence was able to obtain ten thousand test kits for coronavirus, Palestinian health minister Mai al-Kaila said. An intelligence source in the Palestinian Authority told Haaretz that in recent days, security services had been able to source about 20,000 testing kits, some from China, and the rest from Arab and Islamic countries, and international aid organizations.

There are currently 248 confirmed cases in the West Bank, of whom 34 have recovered. One woman has died.

The Gaza Strip has recorded 13 confirmed cases, of which eight have recovered, but the Health Ministry remains concerned about severe shortages of medical equipment. Gaza Health Ministry Spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said that small quantities of laboratory materials were transferred to the Gaza Strip today, and urged the government in Ramallah and international organizations to act immediately to supply equipment and materials to the Gaza Strip. (Jack Khoury)

9:30 P.M. Number of confirmed cases in Israel rises to 9,248

The Health Ministry says the number of confirmed cases in Israel is at 9,248 as of Tuesday 9 night, a 3.8 percent increase since Monday. Of these, 117 are on ventilators and 149 are in serious condition. Of all cases, 770 have recovered and 65 have died so far. (Haaretz)

9:15 P.M. Health Ministry expands testing policy in nursing homes

The Health Ministry has changed its policy regarding coronavirus testing in nursing homes, and decided that at every institution where a person is found positive with the virus- all tenants and staff will be examined.

The move comes after teh virus rapidly spread in one nursing home, claiming five lives. (Ido Efrati)

8:00 P.M. Netanyahu tests negative for coronavirus, will leave self-isolation Wednesday (Noa Landau) 

7:45 P.M. Netanyahu criticizes special coronavirus Knesset committee 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that t special coronavirus Knesset committee "turns out to be a completely political committee." 

"As the entire world praises Israel's great success in the fight against coronavirus, the committee's attacks on decision-making and closure policy are ever more ridiculous," said Netanyahu. (Jonathan Lis)

7:30 P.M. Disabled IDF soldiers will receive a special grant of 500 Shekels ($140)

Under the direction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Defense Ministry and social security, disabled IDF soldiers will receive a special grant of 500 Shekels ($140).

Netanyahu said last week that he would like to approve giving the same sum to seniors and families with children for Passover, one for each of the first four children. (Noa Landau)

7:00 P.M. One more Israeli dies, bringing Israel's coronavirus death toll to 61

A 37-year-old Israeli with severe underlying medical issues died Tuesday after being hospitalized with coronavirus for the past week, and relied on a ventilator. (Bar Peleg and Ido Efrati)

7:00 P.M. Over 1 million Israelis register for unemployment during coronavirus crisis

Employment services reported that about 1,059,429 Israelis registered as unemployed so far since the start of the coronavirus crisis. The unemployment rate among Israel's work force stands at 25.3 percent. (Lee Yaron)

6:00 P.M. One more Palestinian tests positive for coronavirus, as 18 recover in West Bank (Jack Khoury)

4:00 P.M. Settler youth group to quarantine in IDF tent after refusing to stay in hotel

Twenty radical settler youth were housed in a tent in the cliffs of the Dead Sea after refusing to enter isolation in a hotel in Jerusalem, and damaged a vehicle that was transporting them. The tent was provided to them by the Israeli army, which also provides them with food.

The group, often referred to as "hilltop youth" was put in the IDF tents as a last resort, after failed attempts to find them an alternative solution. The boys were supposed to go into isolation after coming in contact with a coronavirus patient.  

According to the boys, they were promised they could stay in the hotel together and have the Passover seder there. But when they got there and  found out that they were gonna be put in separate rooms - refused. They were then taken on a trip to the south, to what they suspected was a prison. Along the way, they broke the vehicle's windows and some even managed to escape. After the police caught them, they were driven back to Jerusalem. Around 2 A.M., it was decided to transfer them to the tent. (Hagar Shezaf)

4:00 P.M. Israel police to increase checkpoints Starting 7 P.M. 

Israel police will significantly increase the number of checkpoints starting 7 P.M. Tuesday, including neighborhood checkpoints, in an attempt to prevent people from leaving their homes. 

The checkpoints will be tightened further on Wednesday 3 P.M., when a large amount of checkpoints will be deployed in both main roads and city exits.

3:15 P.M. Number of Arab Israeli coronavirus patients rises to 240, with 11,734 tests

The number of coronavirus patients in Israel's Arab community rose to 240, after 11,734 tests were conducted as of Tuesday afternoon. According to this data, the percentage of coronavirus patients in the Arab community is approximately 2 percent - a figure significantly lower than that found in the Jewish community - about 8 percent.

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

2:13 P.M. Health Ministry directive says masks mandatory starting April 12

A new directive signed by the Health Ministry's director general says wearing a mask will now be mandatory for Israelis starting on Sunday, April 12.

However, a police official said: "we will not be able to enforce the order of wearing face masks in public spaces since there is no sanction or fine on not enforcing this order. All a policeman can do is ask a person to wear the mask." (Josh Breiner)

1:40 P.M. Cabinet approves banning intercity travel for Passover

The cabinet has approved restrictions on movement for Passover, which will bar travel between cities and between different areas of Jerusalem starting on Tuesday at 7 P.M. and ending on Friday at 6 A.M. A curfew barring people from going further than 100 meters from their homes will begin on Wednesday at 3 P.M. and end the following morning. (Noa Landau)

>> Read the full report here

1:35 P.M. Bnei Brak hospital says it cannot accept more patients requiring ventilators

The Ma'ayanei HaYeshua Hospital in Bnei Brak says it can no longer accept patients who require ventilators because of a shortage in monitoring devices required to operate them. (Bar Peleg)

1:08 P.M. Berlin cancels commemorations for 75th anniversary of WWII's end

The city of Berlin has called off plans to hold large events at its landmark Brandenburg Gate and other historic locations in May to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, amid the continuing coronovarius outbreak. Even if there is hope that the country's coronavirus restrictions might be loosened by then, having big festivities on May 8 in the German capital is not the right idea, according to Moritz van Duelmen, head of the organizing body Kulturprojekte Berlin. (DPA)

>> For earlier updates - click here

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