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Israel Update 2.4.20


At the time of writing (Thursday afternoon) Israel’s coronavirus death toll has sadly risen to 33. Confirmed infections numbered 6,211, with 107 in serious condition, including 83 on ventilators, and 127 in moderate condition. At least 241 people have recovered.Read more here


PM Netanyahu on Wednesday evening said all Israelis should wear masks (or improvised face coverings such as scarves) when out in public. He also introduced strict limitations to travel in and out of Bnei Brak, the ultra-Orthodox city with one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the country. Read more here


One in every seven Israelis diagnosed with the coronavirus is from Bnei Brak. Read more here


The first Israeli patient who recovered fromthe virus has donated plasma that will be used to create a “passive vaccine” to treat severely ill  COVID-19 patients. This assumes that those who have recovered from the disease have developed special antivirus proteins or antibodies in their plasma, which could help sick patients cope with it. Read more here




A few weeks ago, Johnny, 38, a bus driver from East Jerusalem, contracted  coronavirus from a group of Greek pilgrims he had driven around Christian religious sites. He was Israel’s first serious virus patient, unconscious, and fighting for his life at a Tiberias hospital.  Johnny was treated with Remdesivir, which was originally developed for Ebola. On Monday, restored to health, he headed home to be reunited with his wife and three young children.Read more here




With doctors wearing hazmat suits that have been reinforced in case patients attack them, an Israeli hospital has opened what it says is the word’s first psychiatric coronavirus ward. After coronavirus spread through a psychiatric ward in South Korea, staff at Sheba Medical Centre decided that Israel urgently needed a plan for when coronavirus made inroads among the country’s 3,500 psychiatric in-patients. There are already four patients in the ward. Read more here




Approximately 200 Arab-Israeli students who were studying in Jordan were able to return to Israel last week thanks to the Israeli Embassy in Jordan and the Foreign Affairs Ministry.  Jordan had closed its borders, but Jordanian authorities approved Israel’s request to make a humanitarian exception for the students.  Read more here




MDA is operating 8 drive-through coronavirus testing centres in Israel, allowing those who need to get tested to do so while sitting in their car. Centres in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, Jerusalem, Arara and Bnei Brak were joined on Wednesday by new centres in Ashdod and Rahat. Read more here


A mobile testing clinic was opened in the Arab village of Arara on Monday. It was then going to the Arab communities of Tamra and Rahat . Read more here


Clalit, Israel’s largest HMO is opening testing facilities in the Arab cities of Nazareth, Umm al-Fahm and Tamra, as well as in East Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood. The new facilities are meant to make testing more accessible in Arab communities. Leumit, another HMO is opening facilities to take samples for testing in Nazareth and Jerusalem’s Beit Safafa neighborhood. Read more here


Israeli genealogy and genetic testing company MyHeritage will collaborate with the Chinese biotech giant BGI Genomics to set up a coronavirus testing lab in Israel. The lab will be set up by April 9 and will conduct up to 20,000 tests a day.Read more here




The Defence Ministry’s Rehabilitation and Maintenance Centre produces Merkava tanks, command and control centres, and upgrades vehicles and communications systems for the army. Now the assembly line for manufacturing tank seats has been repurposed to make protective goggles for medical crews and is producing 1,400 daily.At another IDF vehicle factory, one assembly line is refitting ambulances to protect their crews against the virus. Another factory is gearing up to manufacture ventilators made from medical equipment.Read more here


IDF Military Intelligence (MI) has opened a national coronavirus information centre to help the Israeli Health Ministry and the IDF Home Front Command make better decisions in real-time for stopping the rate of infection. The information has facilitated the transition from three testing swabs to one.Sheba Medical Centre is conducting a test on a new ventilation system that has been developed by the MI Special Operations Division. Read more here


First Robotics League, Microsoft Israel Research and Development, Ichilov Medical Centre, MDA and Unit 108 of the Air Force joined forces to find an innovative solution to avoid future shortages of respirators in Israel and around the world. The Israeli Air Force is managing the project to create an “open source” respirator that can be mass produced in labs at low cost, without the need for factories. Read more here




Israeli manufacturers converted a missile factory to produce ventilators . The new production line, in an Israel Aerospace Industries factory, has delivered its first 30 ventilators to the Health Ministry.  Read more here


Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), has put its labs and engineers, who generally work on defence systems, to work at finding ways to fight the pandemic.  The company’s first prototype product, now being tested, is a machine that uses ultraviolet (UV) light to kill viruses and bacteria on hospital surfaces which will speed up the sterilization process.  Read more here




Israeli clinical intelligence firm CLEW is working with two Israeli hospitals, using its TeleICU solution CLEW-ICU to manage patients infected with the Covid-19 virus, while protecting frontline care workers.
The platform’s artificial intelligence-based algorithms are trained to identify respiratory deterioration in advance, enabling early interventions that might change the patient’s clinical outcome.This allows healthcare workers to identify disease severity from a remote command centre. Read more here




The Sion company in Sderot will produce 35 million face masks.11 million masks will be produced by the end of April and 5.5 million N95 masks will also be produced as well.The Defence Ministry helped import a special machine to make production of the advanced masks possible.Read more here


Israeli researchers from the Technion and the National Coronavirus Technology Centre at the Israel Ministry of Defence have developed a unique sticker attached to standard surgical masks for the protection of hospital medical staff from the coronavirus.Made with 3D printing technology, the sticker consists of nanometric fibres coated with disinfectants. Read more here




Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, officially the Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, recently brought to Israel 10 million masks, a few dozen ventilators, tens of thousands more test kits, 25,000 N95 masks, and is expected to bring even more medical equipment. Read more here


Senior Mossad officials said that by the coming weekend, Israel would acquire another 1.5 million N95 protective masks for medical staff, 700,000 surgical masks, 2 million protective overalls and protective glasses, 50,000 coronavirus medicines and 180 ventilators. Israel has recently obtained essential information needed for local manufacturing of ventilators. Israel’s goal was not to be dependent on anyone else, and “the first dozens of ventilators will be manufactured this week.”      Read more here




The deputy U.S. Ambassador to the UN told the Security Council on Monday: “… we have seen close coordination between Israeli and Palestinian authorities as they seek to prevent widespread harm from the presence of Covid-19 among their peoples…”…” …when Covid-19 has passed, the need for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians will be just as great as it was before.” Read more here


The Palestine branch of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has published its first “emergency situation report,”noting “unprecedented cooperation on efforts aimed at containing the epidemic” between Israeli and Palestinian authorities.  Read more here




Ultra-Orthodox patients make up around half the COVID-19 patients being treated in various Israeli  hospitals, according to Israeli news channels on Sunday evening. Three hotels and yeshiva buildings were preparing Monday to open as special quarantine centres for the ultra-Orthodox community,catering to their specific needs.Read more here


Hundreds of people took part in a rabbi’s funeral procession in the ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak early Sunday, jamming closely together in contravention of social distancing rules. Israel allows up to 20 people to attend a funeral, provided they maintain a distance of at least 2 metres  between each other.  Read more here


An ultra-Orthodox community Kiryat Yearim (Telz-Stone), at first badly hit by Covid-19, has been exemplary in stamping out the virus. At one time last month, a third of the town’s population went into complete isolation after a high number of infections and now, for almost a week, there have been no recorded cases of infection.  Read more here




Harriet Sherwood wrote in the Guardian on March 22, “An Israeli blockade [of Gaza], in place since 2007 although eased in recent years, has limited the import of medicines and other essential items.” The IDF’s COGAT unit responded, “… there hasn’t been any restriction on importing medical equipment and medicine to the Gaza Strip, except for items considered as dual-use equipment.” “The State of Israel promotes, beyond the letter of the law, the import of medicine and medical equipment for dozens of medical institutions in the Gaza Strip.”  Read more here


The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) slammed the NGO B’Tselem for alleging that the IDF demolished a coronavirus treatment centre built by Palestinians in the Jordan Valley.  “We are sorry to see a human rights NGO choosing to exploit a global crisis to spread fake news.” The demolished structure was a guarding post built illegally, without permits. Read more here




Gazans fired a rocket into Israel on Friday evening. In response, IDF aircraft and tanks attacked military positions and infrastructure. Read more here




Sam Sokol: Information took too long to filter into the insular ultra-Orthodox world, and some key rabbis didn’t grasp the pandemic danger. Now Israel braces for the consequences of the delay. Read more here


Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser: According to official Palestinian reports, the actual expenditure by the Palestinian Authority on salaries to incarcerated terrorists during 2019 was 517.4 million shekels ($148 million). The Palestinians keep paying salaries to all terrorists arrested in Israel and to the families of dead terrorists in spite of the growing international attention to the “Pay for Slay” phenomenon.In 2018, Israel adopted a law requiring the deduction of the amount the PA paid as salaries to terrorists and their families from the taxes it collects for the PA. Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, the PA asked Israel to deliver the withheld funds. Clearly, if the PA lacks the financial resources to combat the epidemic, they can stop paying salaries to terrorists.Read more here