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.
■ 8,611 Israelis have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 51 people have died. In the West Bank, 225 cases have been diagnosed so far. One woman in her 60s has died. In Gaza, 12 cases have been diagnosed, six of which have already recovered.
■ Laboratory material shortages are forcing Israel to reduce testing, and it is unclear when the issue will be resolved. The government has called upon citizens to wear face masks in public to better protect themselves and others from the virus. Guidelines explained
■ The ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, which has become a hotspot for the spread of the virus, has been put on lockdown. The cabinet is mulling further closures on more cities.
■ For the Health Ministry’s official website on the corovavirus outbreak, click here.
9:29 A.M. Infection rate in Haredi areas continues to rise
Out of the 631 Israeli citizens diagnosed Sunday with COVID-19, almost half live in ulra-Orthodox cities and neighborhoods, notably in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Elad, Beit Shemesh and the West Bank settlements of Modi’in Illit and Beitar Illit.
A rise in infection rates was also registered in Holon and Bat Yam, as well as in the Arab towns of Jatt and Jisr a-Zarka and the Bedouin city of Rahat.
8:44 A.M. Two Israelis die from coronavirus
Two more Israelis died from coronavirus overnight Sunday, raising the death toll to 51, according to the Health Ministry. The total number of cases stands at 8,611, a 7 percent increase in 24 hours. Some 141 patients are in serious condition, an 11 percent increase in 24 hours.
5:40 A.M. Number of cases in West Bank rises to 225
The Palestinian Health Ministry says three more people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the West Bank to 225. (Jack Khoury)
12:57 A.M. Government considering expanding closure to eight more cities, Jerusalem neighborhoods
The cabinet spoke tonight about the possibility of expanding the closure currently imposed on Bnei Brak to include eight more cities, in addition to ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem. The eight cities are Elad, Modi’in Illit, Betar Illit, Beit Shemesh, Tiberias, Ashkelon, Migdal Ha’emek, and Or Yehuda. (Noa Landau)
9:00 P.M. Israeli government weighs full lockdown on Passover Seder
The Israeli government is considering a full lockdown throughout the entire country on Passover Seder eve. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Sunday evening on Channel 12 News that the aim of the move, if activated, is that “each person has Seder only with their immediate family at home.”
The police, meanwhile, have already started cracking down. Police erected roadblocks at the entrance to Jerusalem on Sunday that are to remain in place until Seder night on Wednesday in an effort to keep people at home. There were also checkpoints set up at the Hemed interchange and at the entrance to Beit Shemesh, which caused widespread traffic jams.
The police don’t intend to stop, and will erect similar checkpoints at the entrances to other cities. The operation will go into high gear on Tuesday and continue until the holiday begins on Wednesday night. (Noa Landau)
9:00 P.M. Israel’s coronavirus cases rise to 8,430
The Health Ministry said that 8,430 Israelis have so far tested positive for the coronavirus, most of them in mild condition. Forty-nine patients have died, 139 are in serious condition, and 106 are on ventilators. (Haaretz)
8:15 P.M. Number of coronavirus cases in West Bank reaches 222
Six more Palestinians tested positive for the coronavirus in different villages in the West Bank, bringing total of cases to 222, four of which are kids under 15, according to the Health Ministry in Ramallah. (Jack Khoury)
7:50 P.M. Hamas, Palestinian Authority leaders discuss coronavirus crisis
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh discussed the coronavirus crisis Sunday with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. According to the PA’s speaker, the conversation was friendly, and Ishtiyah promised every possible aid to the Gaza Strip.(Jack Khoury)
7:40 P.M. Islamic Jihad leader urges Israel to lift Gaza siege, release prisoners amid coronavirus crisis
Secretary General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Ziad al-Nakhala said Sunday that Israel “must choose between life in shelters” or lifting the siege on Gaza and agreeing to release Palestinian prisoners, in light of the coronavirus crisis.
Acording to al-Nakhala, the Palestinian factions will not allow the siege in Gaza to continue in the shadow of the threat of the coronavirus.
The calls for the release of prisoners with an emphasis on elders, women and minors are recently growing. Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar said the organization is ready to show flexibility regarding Israeli prisoners if Israel releases Palestinian prisoners, especially the sick and elderly. (Jack Khoury)
6:45 P.M. Number of coronavirus cases in the West Bank rises to 216
Two more Palestinians tested positive for the coronavirus in different villages in the West Bank, bringing total of cases to 216, according to the Health Ministry in Ramallah. (Jack Khoury)
6:45 P.M. Israel’s Arab community fears Ramadan could spark coronavirus outbreak
Israel’s Arab community has until now experienced a surprisingly low rate of coronavirus infection, but there is mounting concern that the outbreak could gain strength during Ramadan, showing the true gaps in public health between Israel’s communities.
As of Sunday evening, only 193 of around 8,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel could be found in Arab communities, according to Health Ministry figures. Not one Arab community appears among the first 60 on the Ministry’s list.
Experts say the gap can be partially explained by a relatively small number of tests conducted in Arab communities, as well as a lack of epidemiological investigation to locate those who had been in contact with COVID-19 patients, as Haaretz previously reported. As of Sunday, 6,479 people in Arab communities were tested in contrast to more than 80,000 in Jewish communities. (Nir Hasson and Jack Khoury)
6:40 P.M. Number of Arab Israeli coronavirus patients rises to 193, with 6479 tests
The Health Ministry reported that the number of coronavirus patients in Israel’s Arab community rose to 193, after 6,479 tests were conducted, a 24 percent increase from Friday’s numbers.
These numbers do not include East Jerusalem and mixed Jewish-Arab cities. (Jack Khoury)
6:15 P.M. Six out of the 12 coronavirus patients in Gaza recover, says health official in the strip (Jack Khoury)
6:10 P.M. Police set up checkpoints at Jerusalem entrances to enforce coronavirus regulations during Passover (Aaron Rabinowitz)
6:10 Attorney general requests coronavirus regulations be passed through regular Knesset bills
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit conveyed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the justice minister and secretary of state that now that the Knesset committees have been formed, legislative action on the coronavirus should be passed through regular Knesset bills rather than as emergency regulations.
“Where it is possible to promote legislation through the conventional route in the Knesset, there is a legal duty to choose that path, rather than adopting emergency regulations,” Mendelblit’s legal opinion said.
He further clarified that in certain urgent circumstances, where regulations can’t wait for the completion of a legislative process, the introduction of emergency regulations may be justified, but only in parallel with the continuation of regular legislation in the Knesset. (Netael Bandel)
6:00 P.M. Knesset workers from ultra-orthodox Bnei Brak will no longer be allowed entry
Under Health Ministry orders starting Monday, Knesset workers, parliamentary advisers, security guards, faction workers and other officials who reside in the ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak will not be allowed to enter the Knesset.
The directive was given in light of the existing closure in the city of Bnei Brak, which has seen a surge in coronavirus cases and is considered a hotspot for the virus. (Jonathan Lis)
5:45 P.M. One more Israeli coronavirus patient dies, bringing total to 48
A 98-year-old Israeli coronavirus patient with preexisting conditions died Sunday at a Jerusalem hospital, bringing the country’s total death toll to 48. (Haaretz)
5:30 P.M. Israel’s unemployment rose by nearly 6,000 percent in March
Employment services reported that about 972,900 Israelis registered as unemployed in March amid the coronavirus crisis, a 6,000 percent rise in one month. The unemployment rate stood at 23.4 percent by the end of March, and is still rising in April. (Haaretz)
4:30 P.M. Israeli minister promotes legislation to offset coronavirus fines from asylum seekers’ deposit money
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan appealed to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri Sunday to promote legislation that would allow offsetting fines recorded for asylum seekers for violating the Health Ministry’s coronavirus regulations from their deposit money.
According to Erdan, “offsetting the fines from the deposit money will help bolster deterrence in southern Tel Aviv and prevent the spread of the virus among this population.” Erdan’s initiative is awaiting approval by the Justice Ministry to raise it to a vote at an upcoming government meeting.
Israel finds it difficult to collect fines that the state imposes on asylum seekers, partly because of the difficulty of locating them for collection, and because in many cases they do not have a permanent address or identity card. Recently, the Interior Ministry decided to allow asylum seekers who were fired or are on unpaid leave due to the coronavirus crisis to redeem funds from their deposit accounts for subsistence purposes. (Lee Yaron)
3:50 P.M. Police track and arrest coronavirus patient on public bus, quarantine 34 passengers
Israel Police tracked and arrested a confirmed coronavirus patient Sunday who was travelling on a public bus on its way to Jerusalem, prompting 34 other passengers to be quarantined.
The bus driver was fined 5,000 shekels ($1,375) for violating government and Health Ministry orders. (Aaron Rabinowitz)
3:40 P.M. Police report 144 investigations against quarantine violators, 397 worshipers fined for violating orders
Israel Police said it distributed more than 12,000 tickets Sunday to people and businesses that violated coronavirus regulations, and opened 144 investigations against quarantine violators and 43 investigations against fake news distributors.
Additionally, 85 closure orders were issued for businesses, 132 reports on weddings held in public spaces, 397 reports on prayers violating regulations, 523 for refusing instruction to disperse crowds. (Josh Breiner)
3:20 P.M. Netanyahu appoints ministerial committee to oversee Shin Bet coronavirus surveillance
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed a ministerial committee to oversee the Shin Bet’s surveillance of coronavirus patients’ phones, chaired by Minister Yuval Steinitz, with Ministers Yoav Galant, Amir Ohana and Ze’ev Elkin. (Noa Landau)
2:10 P.M. Israelis investigated over fake news
Israel Police questioned four Israelis for impersonating Health Ministry officials and sending fraudulent text messages notifying others that they must enter quarantine amid the coronavirus crisis, creating panic among the public. They are also suspected of handing out fines to people who supposedly violated quarantine.
The case will be transferred to the State Prosecutor’s Office for further examination. (Josh Breiner)
1:17 P.M. Iran’s deaths from coronavirus reach 3,603
The death toll in Iran from the outbreak of the new coronavirus has reached 3,603, health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a statement broadcast live on state TV on Sunday.
One hundred and fifty one people have died in the past twenty four hours, he said.
The Islamic Republic, the Middle Eastern country worst-hit by the epidemic, now has a total of 58,226 infections, Jahanpur said. (Reuters)
1:15 P.M. Parents to be reimbursed for unprovided services, Education Ministry says
Educational institutions will reimburse parents who paid for services their children didn’t receive amid the coronavirus crisis, including field trips and meals, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.
However, the Ministry will allowe the institutions to collect money from students’ parents for extracurricular activities if they are carried out through digital means.
Parents will also continue paying for schools lending out textbooks, and purchasing tablets and laptops. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
12:30 P.M. Health Ministry top official: Economic activity won’t resume after Passover
Health Ministry Deputy Director General Prof. Itamar Grotto said that the Ministry does not intend to lift the strict economic lockdown next week, after the Passover holiday.
Speaking before the Knesset committee in charge of the coronavirus crisis, Grotto said that “We don’t intend or we have the ability to get the economy back on track after Passover. This should be taken into consideration. We have to wait and see if the infection rate changes after the Passover holiday, which will only happen several days after the holiday.”
Grotto added: “There’s a myth here I would like to bust. Even if we perform 200,000 tests or a million tests per day, this won’t help resume economic activity. If we test a million people, and allow those who test negative to go to work, it’s a matter of days until they start infecting others and are diagnosed with the disease.
“To resume economic activity, we would have to rely on serological tests (which identify coronavirus antidotes in the blood stream),” Grotto said, adding that the Health Ministry, and the Mossad are working to obtain efficient serological tests. (Jonathan Lis)
11:40 Israel’s coronavirus death toll rises to 47
A 61-year-old woman passed away from the coronavirus at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. The woman, who suffered from underlying health conditions, was transferred to Wolfson from a geriatric hospital in early March. (Bar Peleg)
11:39 A.M. Interior minister: Infection rate in Jerusalem Haredi neighborhoods worse than Bnei Brak
Interior Minister Arye Dery, who is leading the response to the coronavirus crisis in ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities, said that the infection rate in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem is higher than in the largely Haredi city of Bnei Brak, which is now under complete lockdown.
Speaking before the Knesset committee in charge of monitoring the coronavirus crisis, Dery said that “Most of Jerusalem’s coronavirus patients hail from its Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. In some of the most infected neighborhoods there, the percentage of confirmed cases is even higher than in Bnei Brak.” (Jonathan Lis)
11:19 A.M. Number of coronavirus cases rises to 215 in the West Bank
A spokesperson for the Palestinian government said that nine more people were diagnosed with the coronavirus, bringing the total to 215 in the West Bank. (Jack Khoury)
11:17 A.M. Health Ministry top official: We are working to lower infection rate in Haredi enclaves
Health Ministry Deputy Director General Prof. Itamar Grotto said that the Ministry is aiming to lower the infection rate in ultra-Orthodox communities.
Speaking before the Knesset committee in charge of handling the coronavirus crisis, Grotto said that the Health Ministry seeks to lower the average number of people every confirmed patient in the ultra-Orthodox community infects from 1.4 to 1.2.
“It may sound insignificant, but it has a huge impact,” Grotto said. (Jonathan Lis)
11:02 A.M. Health Ministry says solution may have been found to coronavirus tests shortage
The Health Ministry said that it seems to have found a solution over the weekend to the shortage of reagents, which has forced Israel to greatly reduce its coronavirus testing. The ministry added that it is also in contact with other suppliers, which will allow it to carry out an additional 10,000 plus tests per day in the next two weeks or so. (Ido Efrati)
10:23 A.M. Testing clinic for refugees, migrants and the homeless opens in south Tel Aviv
Ichilov Hospital and the Tel Aviv municipality opened a testing center for the migrant and homeless populations in south Tel Aviv starting Monday.
The clinic, which is located by the Central Bus Station, is intended for those who have been showing symptoms of the virus. (Bar Peleg)
10:05 A.M. Iranian president says low-risk economic activities to resume from April 11
Iran’s president said on Sunday “low-risk” economic activities would resume from April 11 in the Middle Eastern country worst-affected by the new coronavirus.
“Under the supervision of the health ministry, all those low-risk economic activities will resume from Saturday,” President Hassan Rohani said in a televised meeting.
“Two thirds of all Iranian government employees will work out of office from Saturday … the decision does not contradict stay at home advice by the health authorities.” (Reuters)
08:45 A.M. IDF, Defense Ministry to help Health Ministry with nursing homes
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that the Defense Ministry and the IDF’s Home Front Command were instructed to assist the Health Ministry with operational aspects in nursing homes as part of Israel’s national effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Noa Landau)
8:21 A.M. Israel’s coronavirus cases surge past 8,000
The Health Ministry said that 8,018 Israelis have so far contracted COVID-19, most of them in mild condition. Forty-six patients have died, 127 are in serious condition, and 106 are on ventilators.
On Saturday, 182 more coronavirus cases were confirmed in Israel. The biggest increase was registered in Jerusalem, where 58 more cases were confirmed. Overall, 1,311 cases were registered in Jerusalem.
In addition, 26 more people tested positive in the largely ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, bringing the total there to 1,218.
In other ultra-Orthodox enclaves, only a slight increase of new cases was registered on Saturday.
An epidemiology expert told Haaretz that the low number of cases registered over the weekend stems from the low number of tests performed and doesn’t indicate that a trend reversal had occurred.(Aaron Rabinowitz and Ido Efrati)
8:10 A.M. 63-year-old man dies of coronavirus, raising toll to 46
A 63-year-old man diagnosed with coronavirus passed away on Sunday morning, bringing Israel’s death toll to 46.
The Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Karem said the man suffered from severe underlying health conditions. (Aaron Rabinowitz)
7:47 A.M. Israel’s coronavirus death toll rises to 45
An 84-year-old woman, who suffered from severe underlying health conditions, died of the coronavirus at the Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva.
The woman resided in a nursing home where five have already died of coronavirus. (Almog Ben Zikri)