Netanyahu Announces Enforcement of Emergency Measures to Ensure Coronavirus Lockdown

Israel's top court: No Shin Bet tracking without Knesset oversight ■ Number of coronavirus cases rises to 677 ■ Israeli army prepares to assist in enforcement of measures

Municipal employees spray disinfectant in a children playground in the Israeli coastal city of Bat Yam on March 18, 2020.
AFP

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

Bypassing the necessary approval from the Knesset, the government approved the tracking of cellphones by the Shin Bet security service in order to inform people who unwittingly came in contact with confirmed coronavirus patients.

■ 677 Israelis have so far tested positive for the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, with the vast majority of cases mild and 14 recoveries. Six patients are in serious condition. In the West Bank, 47 cases have been diagnosed so far, the majority of them in Bethlehem. Another 3,900 Palestinians have been placed in quarantine. 

■ Israel urged citizens to stay at home, shuttering cultural and recreational establishments as well as schools and universities and banning gatherings of over 10 people. The private sector sent home 70 percent of employees and the public sector is operating under a state of emergency. Read the complete guide to the lockdown 

Will Israel's cyber spies let Bibi use coronavirus to kill democracy?Haaretz

■ All foreigners are not allowed to enter Israel, unless they can prove they are able to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival. Read the full guide for tourists and Israelis

LIVE UPDATES:

4:00 A.M. California issues 'stay home' order for 40 million residents; U.S. death toll hits 200

Governor Gavin Newsom said modeling has shown that 56 percent of California residents were expected to contract COVID-19 over the next eight weeks, requiring nearly 20,000 more hospital beds than the state could currently provide. Los Angeles would be disproportionately affected, Newsom said. (Reuters

THURSDAY

11:37 P.M. Israel Police expected to boost presence on Friday

"We are far from the stage of roadblocks or checkpoints but there will definitely be a police presence on the streets," said a police official.

The intention is to deliver "a deterrent and unequivocal message to the public," Israel Police said, in line with government regulations on civilian movements expected to be tightened even further in the near future.

Representatives of the force admitted they will find it very difficult to enforce the new regulations, however. They expect enforcement tomorrow to focus on businesses that open in contravention of regulations, and people breaking quarantine orders.

Police officers do not intend to enforce directives on gatherings in synagogues, but say they will only do so in "defiant" cases. (Jodh Breiner)

Empty Tel Aviv from bird's-eye-viewTomer Appelbaum

11:30 P.M. 12 currently hospitalized for virus, 89-year-old in critical condition

12 patients are currently hospitalized for the coronavirus Hadassah Medical Center. They are being treated in a ward which is separated from regular hospital wards. Among those hospitalized is a 89-year-old who is experiencing rapid respiratory deterioration, two people in a moderate condition and the remainder in a mild condition. (Ido Efrati)

11:13 P.M. Coronavirus death toll in Turkey rises to four, 359 confirmed cases

The death toll in Turkey due to the coronavirus rose to four, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on Thursday, adding there was a total of 359 confirmed cases in the country.

The number of confirmed cases was 191 on Wednesday. Koca said 1,981 tests had been conducted in the past 24 hours, 168 of which came back positive. (Reuters)

11:00 P.M. Saudi Arabia suspends prayers in the arenas outside Mecca, Medina holy mosques

Saudi Arabia said on Thursday it suspended Muslims from conducting their five daily prayers and the weekly Friday prayer in the overflow area just outside the walls of the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina to limit the spread of coronavirus.

On Tuesday, the Kingdom said it will no longer allow Muslims to conduct prayers inside mosques as part of efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus but said prayers will continue only at the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina, the holiest places in Islam. (Reuters)

10:51 P.M. Under emergency law, Jordan seals capital to contain coronavirus

Jordan's army sealed off the capital from the rest of the country on Thursday as the country put its 10 million people on lockdown to combat the spread of coronavirus, witnesses and officials said. 

The government has not announced a formal curfew but called on people to stay at home and move only for emergencies. Health Minister Saad Jaber said confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to 69 from 56 people on Wednesday. (Reuters)

10:12 P.M. Israel confirms dozens more cases, bringing total to 677

Israel's Health Ministry confirmed 677 coronavirus patients, up over 100 from the latest count, provided only two hours earlier.

644 patients are in mild condition and six are in serious condition. Fourteen have so far recovered.

9:41 P.M. Israel's top court rules no Shin Bet tracking without Knesset oversight

Israel’s High Court of Justice issued Thursday an interim order barring use of Shin Bet technology to track confirmed and suspected coronavirus patients, as long as a Knesset panel to oversee its use isn’t set up by Tuesday at noon.

Justices also ruled that police will be barred from tracking Israelis under quarantine, to ensure compliance. (Netael Bandel)

9:30 P.M. Magen David Adom will launch a pilot test for the coronavirus in Tel Aviv tomorrow

MDA will hold a pilot tomorrow to take samples for the diagnosis of the coronavirus in the "test-and-carry" facility, which it operates together with the Ministry of Health in the Ganei Yehoshua parking lot in Tel Aviv. People have been asked to reach the facility in their vehicles. (Ido Efrati)

9:15 P.M. Netanyahu announces emergency measures, vows enforcement

A firefighter disinfecting a sidewalk in Kiryat Ye'arim in the Jerusalem District of Israel, March 18, 2020.
Ohad Zwigenberg

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced new measures to restrict movement, urging citizens to stay at home as much as possible. “It is not a recommendation, but an obligation, which will be enforced,” he told a press briefing.

The government is set to vote on the emergency measures late Thursday, and they would be in effect for a week. According to these regulations, Israelis will only be allowed to leave home to get to work, for employees not working from home or on leave, to buy food and medicine, receive medical care, donate blood, protest, and attend court hearings and religious ceremonies.

“The number of patients increases daily… We might end up with many fatalities,” Netanyuahu said, calling on citizens to comply with the new regualtions and vowing to expand further the number of tests carried out daily.

8:25 P.M. Egypt registers 46 new coronavirus cases, one death 

Egypt on Thursday registered 46 new coronavirus cases, the health ministry said in a statement, bringing the total up to 256.

Palestinian volunteers sprays disinfectant a street at al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City on March 16, 2020.
AFP

The ministry said that there was one new fatality, bringing the total number of deaths to seven. (Reuters)

8:22 P.M. Israeli army set to assist with enforcing full lockdown 

IDF Spokesman Hidai Zilberman announced that the army has raised its alert level and will now operate so that units can be divided into three shifts that do not overlap during changeovers. Zilberman described a number of scenarios for which the army is preparing,  to help address the coronavirus crisis. 

In the event of a widespread outbreak, Zilberman said the IDF would perform sanitizing operations with the aid of Home Front Command battalions, which specialize in chemical warfare. Moreover, in the event of a full lockdown, the IDF would assist the police by doing foot patrols. The IDF also plans to prepare supply lines for food and medical equipment from inside and outside Israel.

Among measures being taken to minimize the spread of the virus in the army, Zilberman said reserve duty has been canceled until after Passover, as have all training exercises.The army will also provide its own transportation for soldiers to reduce their use of public transportation, and the the army has erected an isolation and recuperation center for soldiers with light coronavirus symptoms at the resort village for soldiers in Ashkelon. Zilberman also said that the March enlistment will go ahead on schedule, but in a way that avoids gatherings of large numbers of people. (Yaniv Kubovich)

8:12 P.M. Netanyahu set to announce new measures

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to deliver a public statement at 9 P.M., where he is expected to announce new measure to contain the outbreak.

According to sources familiar with the discussions Netanyahu held on Thursday, the prime minister would announce making some of the limitations announced so far binding orders. (Noa Landau)

8:10 P.M. Israel confirms 573 coronavirus cases

573 Israelis have tested positive for the coronavirus so far, the Health Ministry said, up from the latest tally of 529 confirmed cases earlier on Thursday.

According to the ministry, 540 of them are in mild condition, six in serious condition and 14 have recovered.

8:02 P.M. Israel approves generic HIV drug to treat coronavirus, despite doubts

Israel approved the licensing of a generic version of an HIV drug to treat patients infected with the coronavirus on Thursday, despite doubts about its effectiveness in trials.

The anti-viral drug Kaletra, produced by AbbVie Inc, could be a possible treatment for COVID-19, Israel's Health Ministry said after issuing a preliminary permit. (Reuters)

7:50 P.M. Italy's virus death toll surpasses that of China with 427 fatalities in 24 hours

Italy's death toll from coronavirus overtook that of China, where the virus first emerged, on Thursday as hospitals said they were being overwhelmed and the government prepared to prolong emergency lockdown measures.

A total 427 deaths were registered in Italy over the past 24 hours, bringing the total nationwide tally to 3,405 since the outbreak surfaced on Febuary 21. China has recorded 3,245 deaths since early January. (Reuters)

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7:40 P.M. Three virus patients released from hospital, test negative

Three patients who recovered from the coronavirus were released from the Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva after testing negative, the hospital said in a statement. 11 patients remain hospitalized, all in mild condition.

7:17 P.M. 13 residents of West Bank settlement test positive for virus

A Palestinian sanitary department worker sprays disinfectant around Aida refugee camp, West Bank, March 16, 2020.
AFP

13 residents of a single neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Efrat have tested positive for the coronavirus, a local council head said. The local council is now working to identify all those who were in close contact with thos who tested positive, adding that it is preparing for "a large number of people under quarantine." (Hagar Shezaf)
 

6:45 P.M. Transport Ministry limits bus services

Israel's Transportation Ministry has ordered all public bus operators to limit intra-urban lines to no more than two departures an hour, starting Monday. However, bus companies will be allowed to decide on specific lines that pass through central roads in main cities. Such lines would be allowed to depart three times an hour.

Lines that already operate less than twice an hour, as well as infrequent inter-city lines, will operate as normal. (Osnat Nir)

6:09 P.M. IDF confirms 10 cases of virus

The Israeli Defence Forces has confirmed that ten soldiers have tested positive for the virus. Currently 5,639 soldiers are in quarantine, some of which returned from abroad and some of which came in contact with carriers of the virus.

This comes after both soldiers and parents told Haaretz that the IDF breached Healthy Ministry guidelines about controlling the spread of the virus. They said that the army has ignored complaints about having to stay near people who have tested positive for the coronavirus, that they were still gathering in large groups, and that army paramedics had inadequate protective gear. The IDF denied that it is not complying with Health Ministry guidelines. (Yaniv Kubovich)

4:40 P.M. Health Ministry official says hundreds will need ventilators in coming days

The Health Ministry Head of the Geriatrics, Dr. Irit Laxer, told court that there will be hundreds of people in need of ventilation in the coming two to three days. She made the remarks during the hearing of a petition by families of some 30 people at a nursing home in central Israel, who are set to be evicted. (Bar Peleg)

4:30 P.M. Northern Israel closes beaches to public

In accordance with Health Ministry directives, 15 beaches in the Kinneret area have been closed to the public. (Noa Shpigel)

4:23 P.M. Temporary residence permits for Palestinians working in Israel to be automatically extended

Israel's Population and Immigration Authority announced it would automatically extend all temporary residence permits for Palestinians through June 30, asking applicants not to come to the authority's offices in person. They added that any Palestinian who returns to the West Bank or Gaza during this period will not be allowed back into Israel. (Lee Yaron)

12:55 P.M Police tried stopping caravan protesting 'assault on democracy' heading to Jerusalem

The police blocked protesters traveling in hundreds of cars swathed in black flags against Israel’s strict measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak from reaching the Knesset on Thursday. The police later allowed several of the protesters to continue on to Jerusalem.

Police officers stopped the caravan on a main highway outside Jerusalem, and fined some of them for what they said was an illegal protest. “There are orders from the Jerusalem district commander that you cannot enter the city,” one of the officers blocking the road said. Asked why the protest was illegal the officer replied “because it is.”

Protesters said they were angry at anti-democratic measures being taken to fight the coronavirus outbreak, such as this week’s decision to use cyber measures to track the location of people diagnosed with the virus as well as suspected coronavirus patients, in addition to strict restrictions to achieve social distancing, such as barring thousands of people from leaving their homes.

Further, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein dispersed parliament on Wednesday, deepening the paralyzation of Israel's legislative body, which critics have seen as an attack on Israel's democratic institutions.

12:50 P.M. Prime Minister's Office says equipment Mossad ordered were 'necessary and vital'

In response to reports that the Mossad had purchased 100,000 coronavirus testing kits with the wrong swabs, the Prime Minister's Office issued a statement saying, "We are drawing upon all the state's resources to help in the fight against the coronavirus. This includes the Mossad and other institutions. The materials that were brought to Israel were necessary and vital."

11:55 A.M. Four prisoners in Megiddo prison isolated after suspected contact with coronavirus patient

Israel’s Prison Service said that four security prisoners in Megiddo prison were placed in isolation following suspected contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient from Israel’s security forces about a week ago.

The prisoners are not displaying any symptoms and have been quarantined in accordance with the Health Ministry guidelines, the prison service said.

11:50 A.M. Mossad buys 100,000 testing kits with wrong swabs for coronavirus

The Mossad has purchased 100,000 coronavirus tests but the health ministry says they’re not the right type needed for this particular disease. Unfortunately what we just received is not exactly what we needed,” the ministry’s deputy director general said.

The Mossad said in response that “we will ascertain the needs through the health ministry." (Noa Landau and Ido Efrati)

11:30 A.M. Three more Palestinians test positive for virus in the West Bank 

Three more cases of the coronavirus were confirmed among Palestinians in the West Bank bringing the total number of cases to 47. Two of the new cases were found in Ramallah, and one in Nablus, while most of the previously confirmed cases were in Bethlehem.

The two patients in Ramallah returned from abroad and immediately entered home isolation, alleviating worries that they had spread the virus to others in the West Bank. (Jack Khoury)

11:00 A.M. High Court meets to discuss petitions against phone monitoring of confirmed and suspected coronavirus patients

The High Court convened an urgent hearing Thursday morning on the petitions against the new regulations that allow the General Security Services and the Israel Police to track coronavirus patients and people who were in contact with them through special technological means, and track their cellphones' cellular location data.

The petitions were filed by Adalah legal center and the Association for Civil Rights on the grounds that the regulations violate the privacy of the citizens in a disproportionate way.

"The usefulness of the draconian measures, obtained after sweeping restrictions on the public have already been imposed, is marginal compared to the serious violation of individual rights and the principles of the democratic regime," reads the Civil Rights Association's petition.

The state responded to the High Court, arguing that the special measures are necessary to combat the spread of the coronavirus. "Excessive morbidity at a given time can cause the health system to collapse, as is the case in northern Italy, and, consequently, a significantly larger number of patients and deaths," said the government in response. (Netael Bandel)

10:45 A.M. Israel police disperses wedding with hundreds of attendees

The Israel police were called to a wedding with hundreds of attendees in the South of the country on Wednesday evening and dispersed the crowd; the event holder was taken for police investigation for violation of government issued orders. (Josh Breiner)

10:40 A.M. Israel reports shortage in swabbing tools used to perform coronavirus tests

Sources in the Health Ministry are reporting a lack of swabbing tools used to perform coronavirus tests. The extent of the shortage is unclear at this stage, and is expected to be made clear soon. The swabbing tool is used to take samples from the nostrils and throat of suspected patients.

Sources in the health establishment told Haaretz Thursday that the shortage is the reason for delaying the opening of six more "mobile testing" units that would be capable of providing up to 10,000 tests a day. "This is a global shortage that Israel is also affected by. Today we are expecting a new delivery of swabs to land in Israel, and at the same time Israel we are working to find impromptu solutions to the problem." (Ido Efrati)

10:15 A.M. Number of confirmed coronavirus patients in Israel rises to 529

96 new cases were diagnosed in Israel overnight, raising the total number of coronavirus patients in the country on Thursday morning to 529. Six patients are in critical condition, while 498 are in light condition and 13 in moderate. 12 patients have been cured and released as of 10 A.M. Thursday. 

10:10 A.M. Four more diagnosed in West Bank settlement, 27 sent to quarantine

Four other patients were diagnosed in the West Bank settlement of Einav, raising the number of patients in the small community to eight, and the number of those isolated to 187, of which 70 were children and infants. Due to the development, 27 additional toddlers aged one to two will be put in isolation.

The Head of the Judea and Samaria Council convened an emergency meeting Wednesday, and said that "community resilience and mutual guarantee are key. We will work it out together." (Hagar Shezaf)

10:00 A.M. 1,000 Israelis stranded in Peru to return home this morning

About 1,000 Israelis stuck in Peru departed from Cusco to Lima, and will join travelers staying there and board the flight home to Israel on Thursday morning, local time. The news came after a meeting was held between the foreign ministers and the transportation ministers of the two countries.

After Peru announced the closing of its borders, an estimated 1,000 Israelis in the country appeared stranded. Thus, they were most relieved to hear Tuesday that a plan was underway to fly them back to Israel – and for free. (Haaretz)

10:00 A.M. Israeli nurse tests positive for coronavirus along with son and husband

A nurse at the Baruch Padeh Medical Center and her son tested positive for coronavirus after being quarantined since Sunday. The nurse's husband is the fourth patient at the dedicated coronavirus unit at the same hospital, where three other patients are currently being treated. (Noa Spiegel)

9:25 A.M. Dozens of New York Hasidic Jews in quarantine after arriving in Israel

The Health Ministry sent several dozen Hasidim of the Chabad sect to isolation at the Dan hotel in Jerusalem after they arrived in Israel Wednesday night on an El Al flight from New York, in light of the outbreak of the coronavirus in their neighborhood.

Some of the Hasidim told Haaretz that they left New York with Israelis who wanted to return to the country, including several dozen Chabad devotees from the Crown Heights neighborhood affiliated with the Hasidic movement. (Josh Breiner)

9:00 A.M. Israeli patient from Diamond Princess cruise ship released from hospital after recovering 

An Israeli woman who was diagnosed with the coronavirus after returning from the Diamond Princess Cruise ship in Japan was released Wednesday from Sheba medical center after recovering.

The woman was in treatment for 28 days, and was released after two consecutive negative tests. (Bar Peleg)   

Wednesday 

11:02 P.M. Chief sephardic rabbi says hospital synagogues will be closed amid difficulty to maintain social distancing

10:47 P.M. Nine Israeli soldiers contract COVID-19, over 5,000 placed in quarantine

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said that nine soldiers have tested positive for the coronavirus, with 5,630 soldiers in mandatory service as well as career soldiers placed in quarantine.

Most of the confirmed patients in the army have returned from vacations abroad, with some of them coming into contact with people who were also diagnosed with the virus. (Yaniv Kubovich)

10:41 P.M. Israel postpones opening 'drive-through' testing facility over lack of equipment

The compound, which was set up by Israeli emergency services and was to open Wednesday, will remain shuttered for an indefinite amount of time.

According to Health Ministry sources, the reason has to do with lacking equipment, specifically swabs, which are used to take samples from the nostrils and mouth. (Ido Efrati) 

10:36 P.M. Police detain a man suspected of violating Health Ministry orders

Israel Police dispersed a crowd of some 150 people who participated in a wedding in the Jewish settlement of Beitar Illit, south of Jerusalem. One of the participants suspected of violating Health Ministry orders, which prohibit gatherings of over 10 people, was detained and taken for questioning.

The police said that they are searching for the owner of the event hall where the wedding took place. (Josh Breiner)   

10:15 P.M. Defense Ministry to purchase medical equipment to battle coronavirus

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett reached an agreement with the National Security Council that the Defense Ministry would buy all the medical equipment designated to treat coronavirus patients.

In addition, the Defense Ministry would be also responsible of transferring the equipment to Israel and will act in accordance with the needs set by the Health Ministry.

The ministry added the agreement was reached "In light of the growing needs of Israel's Health Ministry and the Defense Ministry's unique abilities to carry out emergency procurement." (Yaniv Kubovich)      

9:40 Prominent rabbi instructs to continue Torah studies in violation of Health Ministry directives

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the spiritual leader of the United Torah Judaism party, ordered the ultra-Orthodox community to continue Torah studies in Haredi educational institutions despite the new Health Ministry directives forbidding it. (Aaron Rabinowitz)  

9:29 P.M. Health Ministry sends text messages notifying some 400 people they were exposed to coronavirus patients

The Health Ministry began sending text messages to some 400 people, notifying them that they came into contact with confirmed coronavirus patients. The ministry ordered them to immediately enter home quarantine.

"In a bid to efficiently conduct the epidemiologic investigations and reach those who were exposed to coronavirus patients, we have started employing technological measure," the Health Ministry said in the message. (Ido Efrati)   

7:45 P.M. Government minister says no lockdown intended at this juncture

Further restrictions would be announced, but the government is trying to avoid a total lockdown that may severely hurt the economy, a minister has told Haaretz. (Josh Breiner)

7:39 P.M. Another coronavirus patient recovers, bringing  recovery toll in Israel to 12 

The Wolfson Medical Center in Holon said in a statement that a 50-year-old patient has recovered and had been released home, bringing the toll of recoveries to 12.

The man tested positive for coronavirus after returning from a vacation in Spain. (Bar Peleg)   

7:16 P.M. Netanyahu says won't hesitate to enforce restrictions if public doesn't comply

During an interview with Channel 12 News, Netanyahu said that he will consider directing police to issue administrative fines to citizens who do not follow the Health Ministry directives published on Tuesday.

Netanyahu said that as of next Sunday some 3,000 tests for coronavirus would be run per day, and 5,000 tests during the following week. (Haaretz)

7:12 P.M.  All foreign nationals to be barred entry to Israel

Following the new directives issued by the Health Ministry, the Interior Ministry's Population and Immigration Authority announced that all foreign nationals would be denied entry to Israel even if they prove the ability to stay in a 14-day quarantine.

Exceptions will be made for those whose lives are based in Israel.

This new order will take immediate effect and will apply to all international crossings. (Lee Yaron and Noa Landau)    

7:10 P.M. Netanyahu mulls issuing warrant to enforce Health Ministry directives, sources say

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering issuing a warrant, which will enable the enforcement of the new directives published by the Health Ministry on Tuesday, sources familiar with the issue say.

According to the sources, Netanyahu is examining whether the public is abiding by the new directives released by the Health Ministry on Tuesday, and a full lockdown is currently not on the agenda. (Noa Landau)

7:02 P.M. Netanyahu to give press statement

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to give a statement on Israel's efforts to combat the virus at 9:00 P.M. Israel time.

6:56 P.M. Another patient's condition worsens

A 72-year-old woman with a history of medical issues is currently sedated and breathing with the aid of a respirator. (Bar Peleg)

6:32 P.M. Palestinian Authority announces full lockdown in three West Bank cities  

The Palestinian police in the West Bank said it would employ new measures to battle the coronavirus.

Starting on Wednesday at 10 P.M., residents will be prohibited from moving around the towns of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour. In addition, entering and exiting Bethlehem will be also barred.

Moreover, movement between cities in the West Bank will be limited, and public transportation will stop running. Palestinians who work in Jewish West Bank settlements are requested to come to work. (Hagar Shezaf)    

6:22 P.M. Condition of coronavirus patient deteriorates  

A man who was hospitalized in the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer in serious condition has been put on artificial respiration after his condition had worsened. (Bar Peleg)

6:11 P.M. Israeli President speaks with Palestinian counterpart over coronavirus crisis

President Reuven Rivlin held a phone conversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, discussing the novel coronavirus crisis and its influence on the region.

"The entire world is facing a crisis that doesn’t differentiate between people and countries. Our cooperation is crucial to ensure the wellbeing of both Israelis and Palestinians," Rivlin said.

"Our ability to work together in times of crisis is a testimony to our future ability to work together," Rivlin added, stressing that he's willing to assist in any required coordination with the Palestinian Authority. (Jonathan Lis)

6:10 P.M. Hundreds of coronavirus testing kits to be sent to the Gaza Strip

Hundreds of testing kits for the coronavirus were transferred into the Gaza Strip through the Erez Border Crossing, along with protective gear for medical staffs in the enclave.

The world Health Organization reached out to Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Kamil Abu Rukun, requesting him to arrange the transfer.

Testing kits were also sent to Gaza over the weekend, as part of Israel's efforts to prevent a coronavirus outbreak in the Strip. (Yaniv Kubovich)  

5:19 P.M. Hundreds of Arab and Jewish doctors sign petition against racism

Over 600 Arab as well as Jewish doctors signed a petition against what they said is racism and discrimination in the political and public discourse, in the shadow of the battle to curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Lee Yaron)

5:16 P.M. Indictment filed against a man who violated home quarantine three times

A man who suffers from mental issues was charged with violating home quarantine in three separate occasions. (Bar Peleg)      

4:40 P.M. Israelis barred from exiting country through three border crossings

Interior Minister Arye Dery issued an order barring Israelis from exiting the country through the Taba, Yitzhak Rabin and Jordan River border crossings. The order will take effect immediately. (Lee Yaron)  

4:32 P.M. WHO says no sweeping recommendation against use of ibuprofen

As opposed to previous reports, the World Health Organization said there is no scientific evidence showing that ibuprofen (also sold under the brand names Advil, Nurofen and Motrin) worsens the symptoms of the coronavirus. (Asaf Ronel)

4:26 Health Ministry orders shuttering all ultra-Orthodox educational institutions

Israel's Health Ministry has issued a warrant obligating the Haredi community to shutter all of its educational institutions to slow the spread the global pandemic, known as COVID-19.

The move comes after several Haredi institutions continued operating under the orders of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the spiritual leader of the United Torah Judaism party, and Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, the head of the Ponevezh yeshiva in Bnei Brak.

Kanievsky's followers said they would consult with the rabbi on how to proceed. (Aaron Rabinowitz) 

4:05 P.MNumber of confirmed coronavirus patients in Israel rises to 433 (Haaretz) 

3:58 P.M. Almost 4,000 Palestinians enter home quarantine in the West Bank

After 44 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the West Bank, with the majority of them from Bethlehem, some 3,859 Palestinians have entered home quarantine and 37 have been placed in isolation in a closed facility.

The Palestinian government announced it would employ harsher measures in the Bethlehem area to halt the outbreak. (Jack Khoury)

3:34 P.M. Netanyahu hold discussion on virus spread, considering full lockdown

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is holding a video consultation, discussing  future steps to battle the coronavirus.

Netanyahu is considering new ways of action, including stepping up enforcement and putting the country in full lockdown.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Security Council head Meir Ben Shabbat, and Director General of the Ministry of Health Moshe Bar Siman Tov are among those participating in the discussion. (Noa Landau)  

3:27 P.M. Israel's president warns parliament speaker against undermining democracy

President Reuven Rivlin warned Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein of Likud that paralyzing the Knesset harms the county's ability to function during an emergency.

The coronavirus crisis, Rivlin said, must not be allowed "to critically damage our democratic infrastructure."

The president's warning comes after lawmakers from Prime MInister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud and Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan could not agree on forming the committees which govern the parliament's activities – two weeks after the elections were held.

Speaker Edelstein has adjourned the session until next Monday.

The move follows the president tasking Gantz with forming a government, but Gantz still lacks a clear majority to form one. He does, however, hold a slight majority over Netanyahu's bloc. This advantage would have given him a majority in the important organizing committee.

One of the first steps Gantz took was to try to replace Edelstein. But Edelstein used his veto power to prevent that vote from taking place until the committees were formed.

By preventing the formation of the organizing committee, Edelstein also hampers the formation of the oversight committees on the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis. 

Likud, on its part, claims that due to coronavirus emergency regulations, the committee must include no more than ten lawmakers, with no majority for either side (Jonathan Lis)

Read more on Netanyahu’s coronavirus coup: Israelis’ basic rights are now on life support by Eva Blum-Dumontet

3:26 P.M. Report: Eurovision Song Contest will be canceled due to coronavirus outbreak

The Eurovision song contest will not take place this year in Rotterdam due to the global coronavirus outbreak, organizers said.

"It is with deep regret that we have to announce the cancellation of the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 in Rotterdam," they said in a statement. "It is impossible to continue with the live event as planned." (Reuters)

3:14 P.M. Israel's swimming season suspended until further notice

The Head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, Idan Greenbaum, announced Tuesday the closure of 15 Kinneret Authority shores, and forbade people from visiting the beaches.

Greenbaum said that the roads to the beaches would be blocked and lifesaving services wouldn’t operate until further notice. (Noa Spiegel)    

15:08 P.M. Court employee tests positive for coronavirus

An employee of the Be'er Sheva Magistrate's Court has contracted the disease after coming into contact with another confirmed patient last week.

All individuals who were exposed to the employee entered quarantine. (Almog Ben Zikri)     

2:43 P.M. Police investigating quarantine violations, fake news

The police have until now investigated 86 people for quarantine violations and 21 people suspected of spreading fake news. In addition, the police issued 21 closure orders to business that kept operating despite directives, including event venues and gym. 

2:23 P.M. Unemployment to continue to soar  

Israel expects number of unemployed to spike to half a million people by the end of April. According to the National Insurance Institute of Israel, some 2 billion shekels will be paid in unemployment benefits monthly – compared to 300 million shekels a month before the coronavirus outbreak (Lee Yaron)

1:42 P.M. Policy allowing Jewish prayer quorums under scrutiny

Policy allowing minyans, or Jewish prayer quorums, is inadvisable and may soon change, said Sigal Sadetsky, head of Israel's public health services. Jewish prayer quorums are currently the only exception to the prohibition on gatherings of over 10 people.   

1:39 P.M. Senior health official, 25 judges enter quarantine

An Israeli judge has tested positive for coronavirus and placed in quarantine. He was exposed to a confirmed patient last Tuesday and went into isolation last Friday, after he fell ill. A spokesperson said that along with the judge – Moti Feuhrer from the Magistrate's Court in Rishon Lezion – 25 judges who had contact with Feuhrer were placed under quarantine, as well as anyone who was in the courtroom on that Tuesday or Wednesday. 

Dr. Uri Klinger, who is the deputy head of public services, will also go into quarantine after having attended a discussion in the court regarding the evacuation of a rest home in order to accommodate coronavirus patients. (Bar Peleg)

1:38 P.M. Iran's death toll from coronavirus jumps to 1,135

Iran's death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 1,135 with 147 new deaths in the past 24 hours, a health ministry official told state TV, adding that the total number of infected people across the country had reached 17,361. (Reuters)

12:35 P.M. Israeli minister tells security to prepare for full lockdown

Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan instructed top security brass to prepare for a full lockdown. According to Erdan, the decision could be made in the next few days.

A full lockdown would mean only essential workers would be allowed out of their homes, and the rest of the country would only be allowed out for supplies or medical help. In such a scenario, the Israel Police would be in charge of enforcing the lockdown while the army's Home Front Command would be responsible for supplying civilians in need. (Josh Breiner)  

12:34 P.M. Virus can persist in air for hours, study finds

The highly contagious novel coronavirus that has exploded into a global pandemic can remain viable and infectious in droplets in the air for hours and on surfaces up to days, according to a new study that should offer guidance to help people avoid contracting the respiratory illness called COVID-19.

Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, attempted to mimic the virus deposited from an infected person onto everyday surfaces in a household or hospital setting, such as through coughing or touching objects. (Reuters) Read the full report here

12:25 P.M. Coronavirus surveillance explained: Who's tracking you and what happens with the data

Early on Tuesday morning the government unanimously approved emergency regulations for gathering cellphone location data and additional personal information about those diagnosed with the coronavirus or those suspected of having been infected.

The purpose is to warn potential victims and to enforce quarantine orders. The ministers, who approved the move in a special telephone survey, bypassed the Knesset, which did not have time to discuss the step, although the Justice Ministry promised that it would do so. The cabinet also separately approved emergency regulations for the police and for the Shin Bet security service. How will it work? Haaretz explains

11:46 A.M. WHO: Mideast states not communicating enough

The World Health Organization said that some information about coronavirus cases was being "insufficiently communicated" by Middle East states.

Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said there were "uneven" approaches across the region in fighting coronavirus and that "much more needs to be done." (Reuters)

11:29 A.M. WHO recommends against use of ibuprofen

The World Health Organization recommended not to take ibuprofen (also sold under the brand names Advil, Nurofen and Motrin) to alleviate the symptoms of coronavirus.

Research suggests that ibuprofen could make symptoms more severe, said the organization's spokesperson Christian Lindmayer, recommending paracetamol instead (also sold under the brand names Acamol, Panadol and Tylenol). (Asaf Ronel)

9:10 A.M. Three new coronavirus cases in the West Bank

Three Palestinians from Beit Sahour tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. There are currently 44 cases in the West Bank, the great majority of them in the Bethlehem area.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the three patients were quarantined but violated orders. Authorities are therefore expected to increase enforcement of the lockdown. (Jack Khoury)

7:40 A.M. Health Ministry announces 90 new cases

427 Israelis have so far tested positive for the novel coronavirus, up 27 percent from the previous tally of 337 cases, as testing for the disease expands.

7:38 A.M. Police make arrests for violating public health orders

The Israel Police arrested tne suspects who held a wedding with 150 guests in a synagogue in Beit Shemesh, violating the prohibition on gatherings larger than 10. (Josh Breiner)

4:00 A.M. White House urges ultra-Orthodox leaders to implement coronavirus guidelines in communities

The White House held a phone briefing on the Coronavirus epidemic with ultra-Orthodox community leaders on Tuesday, in an attempt to convince them to better implement the guidelines for slowing the spread of the virus in their communities.

The call was initiated by Avi Berkowitz, an assistant to President Donald Trump and a close adviser to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law. Berkowitz asked to hold the briefing following reports on ultra-Orthodox communities in New York and elsewhere that were continuing to hold large gatherings, increasing the risk of spreading the virus. (Amir Tibon) Read full report here

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