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Israel Update 19.3.20





There are now 529 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Israel at the time of writing (Thursday afternoon). No Israelis have died from Coronavirus yet but six are in a critical condition.

Israel’s health ministry has increased testing significantly to 2,200 tests daily.

At the weekend, Israel banned public gatherings of over ten people, and closed hotels, restaurants (except for takeaway) and bars, recreational and cultural venues, nurseries,schools and universities.

On Tuesday, the Health Ministry instructed Israelis not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary. The public was instructed not to go out to parks, playgrounds, the beach, pools, libraries, museums or other public places. Exceptions were permissible for taking out children and pets — in accordance with instructions for maintaining hygiene and limiting social contact. Other measures included: suspension of elective surgeries, cancellation of non-urgent dental treatments, and an instruction for deliveries to be left outside customers’ doors.

Foreign nationals are now not allowed to enter Israel, even if they are able to self-quarantine for 14 days, with a few exceptions. Returning Israeli citizens have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and other essential service providers continue to operate.

With the drop in use, public transport has been ordered to stop at 8 pm, while suspended over weekends. Several intercity bus routes have been cancelled.

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A new and more efficient method to diagnose the coronavirus was successfully tested by Israeli researchers at Technion University and Ramban Health Care Campus. The current testing method in Israel and most of the rest of the world, has been to only focus on people with specific symptoms. This new testing method is not only able to allow testing of people with no symptoms, but allows for dozens of tests to be carried out at once, ultimately accelerating efforts in curbing the virus.Read more here


Israel’s Health Ministry is extending coronavirus testing to include everyone displaying symptoms, even those who are not in quarantine and who had not previously met criteria for testing such as return from abroad or contact with a confirmed case.Read more here


The Israeli government has approved the use of advanced digital monitoring tools to track carriers of the coronavirus in Israel for a period of 30 days.

How geolocation data is used – video (40 seconds) Watch video

Israel’s Health Ministry announced Wednesday that it has informed 400 people who, in the previous two weeks, were within two metres for 10 minutes or more of someone who turned out to have the virus. “In order to…accurately reach those who were in contact with a coronavirus carrier, we are starting to use technological tools,” the ministry said. “They were informed of the date that they were near the sick person and the fact that they must enter home-quarantine immediately” in order to protect their relatives and the public. Read more here


A regenerative medicine company based in Haifa, Israel, says its placenta-based cell therapy product could be used to treat hundreds of patients who are suffering from respiratory and inflammatory complications associated with the coronavirus.“We will first approach COVID-19 patients through compassionate use so we can treat them immediately,” explained the president and CEO of Pluristem. read more here


The Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel has told religious Jews they must leave their phones turned on during Shabbat in order to receive updates on the coronavirus crisis. The decision was made so as to allow the Health Ministry to inform people that they may have been exposed to the virus and must enter a two-week quarantine period. Chabad senior rabbis announced that anyone not obeying health directives is subject to “din rodef,” meaning there is a holy duty to report them to authorities. Read more here



Israel is more or less self-sufficient in fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs and poultry meat, and has sufficient supplies of beef to see it through the upcoming Passover holidays and on until May, according to the Agriculture Ministry. Read more here


The head of the IDF Home Front Command said that Tel Aviv’s Dan Panorama Hotel would open on Tuesday as a quarantine facility for coronavirus carriers who have only light symptoms, followed by Jerusalem’s Dan Hotel. This will relieve some of the burden on the nation’s hospitals. Two more hotel-hospitals – one in northern Israel and one in the south – were due to open in the coming days. Read more here


Police on Wednesday broke up another ultra-Orthodox wedding held in violation of Health Ministry directives meant to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Some 150 people took part in the event, contravening  the government’s orders that no more than 10 people be in a room at a time. Read more here


Prof. Jihad Bishara, director of the Infectious Disease Unit at Beilinson Hospital, said that the steps being taken in Israel and abroad to respond to the coronavirus pandemic were very important, but the virus is not airborne, most people who are infected will recover without even knowing they were sick, the at-risk groups are now known, and panic is unnecessary. Read more here


Some of Israel’s finest musicians will be performing via Internet streaming for those stuck at home. Read more here


There has been a decrease in hostile enemy activity targeting Israel due to the continued spread of the coronavirus. Areas of eastern Syria have begun reporting multiple cases of COVID-19 among the Iranian and Iraqi nationals serving in Iranian-backed militias there. Read more here




Israel and the P.A. have set up a joint operations room to combat the coronavirus pandemic, a PA government spokesman revealed. The PA announced on Wednesday that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen to 44.The official pointed out that Israel has delivered 200 coronavirus test kits to the PA Ministry of Health. Before that, he said, the samples taken from Palestinians suspected of having contracted the virus were sent to an Israeli hospital. Israel has delivered to the PA 400 medical kits, enabling observation of the virus, and 500 protective equipment kits for Palestinian medical staff and security forces as well,” “Also, there are joint tutorials and professional medical workshops for Israeli and Palestinian medical staff, where they are given the knowledge regarding the virus and proper tools in dealing with it.” Read more here


The P.A. Prime Minister announced that movement between Israel and the West Bank would be cut off. Tens of thousands of Palestinians who work “essential sectors” in Israel including health, agriculture, construction, and caregiving will be allowed to spend one to two months in the country, with their employers finding a place for them to stay.  Read more here


Israeli MK (MP) Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint Arab List on Friday accused the IDF of an “atrocity” by spraying Palestinians “with an unknown substance,” before acknowledging that the video clip of the incident actually shows Palestinian Authority forces disinfecting a West Bank checkpoint. Read more here




A senior official in the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza has confirmed that Israel has sent coronavirus testing kits to Gaza via third-party mediators, along with medical equipment, in response to an appeal by Gazan medical personnel. The official said that “handling the coronavirus outbreak takes precedence over any political consideration, and without help from Israel, Gaza would be in a very difficult situation in the case of an outbreak.” No cases of coronavirus have yet been reported in Gaza.Read more here

In recent days, there has been relative quiet on the Gaza border with Israel regarding the launching of explosive balloons, mortars, and rockets. Sources in Gaza say the quiet is related to the Hamas leadership’s fear of the spread of the coronavirus to Gaza and the resulting dependence on Israel and Egypt in dealing with the pandemic.According to Hamas sources, the leadership will, therefore, keep the border with Israel calm for the near future. On March 31, demonstrations against Israel were to resume at the Gaza border; however, this is likely to be postponed. Read more here




The Shin Bet security service announced the arrest of an Arab Israeli woman who allegedly used her position as a humanitarian worker on behalf of the needy in Gaza to funnel money, supplies and intelligence to the Hamas terror group. Read more here


Israel registered an official protest with Moscow last week after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad secretary-general. Israel’s interim Ambassador to Russia said that PIJ is a “terrorist organization supported by Iran that does not recognise Israel’s right to exist and systematically undermines arrangements in the Gaza Strip by attacking Israeli civilians”    Read more here


Sudan has authorized direct flights to Israel from South America over its territory for the first time ever, shortening flight times, following last month’s announcement that the countries would  take steps towards normalization. Read more here


Israeli defence firm Elbit announced that its U.S. subsidiary, Elbit America, had won a U.S. Air Force contract worth up to $471 million to supply a missile warning system to F-16 fighter jets belonging to the U.S. Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command. Read more here




Prof. Eugene Kontorovich: Israel’s government this week approved the use of people’s cellphone location information to help battle the coronavirus epidemic. This has raised serious – and legitimate – concerns about privacy and governmental intrusion in the form of unseen surveillance. The broad use of cellphone data to track the movements of people infringes on the privacy of individuals and should not normally be tolerated. But the particular circumstances of a contagious and life-threatening pandemic make this an appropriate response. Read more here



Khaled Abu Toameh:Israel is working overtime with Palestinians to curb and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, while the Arab states appear to be doing nothing at all. When the current virus crisis has passed, it is to be hoped that the Palestinians will remember that one country alone came to their rescue.              Read more here