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Government approves locking down some Jerusalem neighborhoods

Four mainly ultra-Orthodox areas of capital with high infection rates to be quarantined, Prime Minister’s Office says

Israeli Police officers at a temporary "checkpoint" near the Old City Walls in Jerusalem on April 10, 2020, to check if people are not disobeying the governments orders on a partial lockdown, in order to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli Police officers at a temporary "checkpoint" near the Old City Walls in Jerusalem on April 10, 2020, to check if people are not disobeying the governments orders on a partial lockdown, in order to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Saturday’s events as they unfolded.

World celebrates Easter at home as global virus death toll surges past 100,000

Billions around the world are celebrating the Easter holiday weekend under lockdown from home due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Marking a grim milestone, the United States has become the first country to report more than 2,000 coronavirus deaths in a single day.

The global death toll from the virus passed 103,000 yesterday. Europe has so far shouldered the majority of all deaths and infections — though there are signs of hope the curve could be starting to flatten in some of the hardest-hit countries.

Numbers out of Madrid offer a glimmer of hope Saturday: 510 new deaths, a dip in fatalities for the third day in a row.

In France, nearly 1,000 new deaths were confirmed Friday but the country reported a drop in the number of intensive care patients for a second day running.

Italy meanwhile says the number of daily deaths is starting to level off — though the government has resisted pressure to lift its lockdown, extending confinement measures until May 3. With 18,849 dead, Italy has the highest global death toll, but it is likely soon to be surpassed by the United States where fatalities continued to mount this week.


Gantz says will work toward national unity coalition

Blue and White leader says will work toward national unity government with Netanyahu if president extends his mandate by two weeks – TV report.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz holds a press conference at Kfar Maccabi, March 7 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Iran deaths hit 4,357 as ‘low-risk’ businesses open

Iran today reports 125 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, raising the overall toll in the Middle East’s worst-hit country to 4,357.

Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour tells a news conference that 1,837 new infections have been confirmed in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 70,029.

Iran has carried out 251,703 tests for the virus so far, he adds.

Of those admitted to hospital, 41,947 have recovered and been discharged, while 3,987 are in critical condition.

The update comes as Iran starts reopening “low-risk” businesses in a bid to protect its sanctions-hit economy.


Spain death toll continues to decline

Spain registers a fall in its daily death toll from the novel coronavirus for a third consecutive day today with 510 people dying, the government says.

This is the smallest daily increase since March 23 in Spain, which is suffering one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world.

The update for the last 24 hours raises the country’s overall number of fatalities to 16,353 and the number of confirmed cases another 4,800 to 161,852.

A man wearing a face mask rides a scooter on an empty street in Barcelona on April 10, 2020. (Pau Barrena / AFP)


Coronavirus testing continues to decline

The number of coronavirus PCR test results published per day continues to decline, according to figures released today by the Health Ministry.

Only 5,980 test results were published Friday, down from a high of almost 10,000 on April 3.

The numbers do not necessarily reflect the number of tests carried out per day.

On Friday the Health Ministry reached an agreement with the Weizmann Institute of Science to analyze some 1,000 tests per day.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set a target of 30,000 tests per day.

UK death toll approaches 10,000

The coronavirus death toll in the United Kingdom has gone up by another 917 deaths today, bringing the country’s total toll close to 10,000.

The figure includes only deaths in hospitals of persons testing positive for coronavirus and does not include coronavirus deaths in care homes.

The number of new infections from the disease is up by 5,234, leaving Britain with 78,991 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the health ministry says in its daily update.


Police patrol the promenade during coronavirus lockdown in Brighton, England, April 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

Virus tests at Beersheba assisted living facility lost — report

Coronavirus tests conducted at a Beersheba assisted living center, which has recorded 12 COVID-19 related deaths, may have been lost, Channel 12 reports.

Channel 12 says that the Health Ministry has ordered new tests to be conducted at Mishan as those done six days ago have yet to return.

According to the report, the ministry has declined to comment.

The Mishan assisted living facility in Beersheba (Screen grab/Channel 13 news)

Gantz said set to request extension on mandate to form new government

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is to request a two-week extension from President Reuven Rivlin on his mandate to form a government, Channel 12 reports.

The current mandate expires overnight between Sunday and Monday.

The report says a resumption of coalition talks between Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is imminent.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz delivers a statement in Tel Aviv, March 7, 2020 after receiving the mandate to form a government. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

Coronavirus cluster found near Caesarea

A cluster of 31 people have been confirmed as infected with the coronavirus in the Arab village of Jisr az-Zarqa, near Caesarea, Channel 12 reports.

The figure represents 4% of 600 people tested in the fishing village with a population of some 13,000.

Jisr az-Zarqa is one of three towns self-isolating following the test results and are barring entry to outsiders due to safety concerns.

Jisr az-Zarqa, an Israeli Arab town on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. (Anat Hemrony/Flash90)

Shaked calls for increased virus testing, reopening of economy

Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked calls for the economy to be reopened beginning immediately after the Passover holiday.

Shaked, who sits on the Knesset Coronavirus Committee, says during a Channel 12 interview: “Starting Sunday next week, we’ll have to start easing up on the economy, letting people return to work.”

Shaked says the government must also increase testing and that the Defense Ministry must run the operation.

“We must increase testing, we have to do this, we have to meet this target. The Health Ministry must address this. The idea was to get up to 30,000 tests a day. We need to combine more testing with gradual easing up on the lockdown.”

Health Ministry: Testing slowdown due to switch to local reagents

The Health Ministry has initiated a reduction in the number of coranvirus tests in order to switch to the use of locally produced chemical reagents, Channel 12 reports.

The ministry says the slowdown is necessary in order to allow labs to adapt machines to the use of local reagents, according to Channel 12.

Earlier today, the Health Ministry reported that the number of test results published Friday was down to less than 6,000 after reaching almost 10,000 a week ago.

Coronavirus deaths in Israel rise to 97

The number of coronavirus fatalities in Israel climbs to 97 with the death of a 91-year-old woman at the Sheba Medical Center today. The woman had a number of preexisting conditions.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases currently stands at 10,525.

Tel Aviv police hand out hundreds of fines over virus regulation violations

Tel Aviv district police have handed out some 500 fines for violations of coronavirus regulations, Channel 12 reports.

They include breaking quarantine, gatherings of more than two people, and straying more than 100 meters from home.

More than 250 fines were handed out in the city of Tel Aviv alone.

Israelis play tennis on an empty road during lockdown following the government’s measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, April 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Treasury sources: Unemployment to stay above 400,000 once closures lifted

Over 400,000 people out of the approximately 1 million people who have been laid off or placed on unpaid leave due to the coronavirus crisis will remain unemployed even after the closure is lifted, sources in the Finance Ministry tell Kan news.

Some 25% of Israelis are currently unemployed, up from just under 4% before the coronavirus outbreak.

According to the report, a further three weeks of closure will increase the state budget deficit to 11% of GDP.

Italy death toll tops 19,000

The death toll in Italy tops 19,000 today with 150,000 confirmed cases of infection as the country continues to see a slight decrease in the number of people hospitalized and in intensive care.

Deaths are up 3.2%, or 619, to 19,468, while the number of people testing positive for the virus reaches 152,271, an increase of 4,694, or 3.1%.

– AP

A woman carries her shopping and an Easter egg across Piazza della Rotonda in central Rome, on April 11, 2020 during the country’s lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

US overtakes Italy as nation worst hit by coronavirus

The death toll in the United States has overtaken that of Italy today, making it the nation worst-affected by the coronavirus, according to unofficial tallies.

The online tracking site Worldometer puts the death toll in the US at 19,827, while Reuters puts the tally at 19,600.

Both figures are higher than the official tolls in both Italy and Spain, 19,468 and 16,353 respectively.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot wears a mask as she attends a news conference at a COVID-19 alternate care site at McCormick Place in Chicago, April 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

75% of coronavirus cases in Jerusalem are in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods

Around 75% of the 1,800-plus confirmed coronavirus cases in Jerusalem are in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, Channel 12 reports, amid government plans to divide the capital into high-risk and low-risk neighborhoods.

According to the report the heaviest rate of infection is in Har Nof, where 8 out of every 1,000 people are infected. In northern Jerusalem Haredi neighborhoods such as Sanhedria, Ramat Eshkol and Ma’alot Dafna, and in Ramat Shlomo, 5 out of every 1,000 people are infected.

In nearby Ramot, home to 60,000 people, two quarters of the neighborhood with majority ultra-Orthodox populations also have high infection rates.

Channel 12 also says that there are some 4,000 people infected with the virus in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak who have not yet been evacuated to quarantine hotels. It warns that closing down those areas without evacuating the carriers risks turning them into incubation centers.

Finance Ministry and Bank of Israel champion back to work plan — report

The Finance Ministry and the Bank of Israel suggest allowing a full return to work in essential industries and a 50% return to work as part of a plan to get the country’s economy up and running in at least a limited fashion, Channel 12 reported.

The plan will also allow small shops to go back to business and calls for special education schools and for kindergartens to reopen.

The empty Azrieli Mall in Tel Aviv on March 17, 2020 after the government ordered all bars, restaurants and malls to close in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Summer holidays to be canceled as part of back to school plan — report

Israeli school children may be deprived of their summer holidays as part of a program to get schools up and running after the coronvirus closure is lifted, Hebrew media report.

According to the reports, school will be partially resumed from April 19.

Special needs schools and classes will be the first to return, followed by kindergartens, which will operate three to four days a week.

Fourth to six grades will continue with home learning for at least another week, while seventh and eighth graders will study in shifts with classes split into two. Ninth grade classes will also be split into morning and afternoon shifts.

No plans for high schoolers have been mentioned yet as the plan is to enable parents to work.

Teachers in high-risk groups will not return to school.

AG denies blocking quarantine of Ben Gurion arrivals

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says he has not prevented the quarantine of arrivals from overseas at specially designated quarantine hotels.

“I did not delay or prevent the government from taking necessary measures, as was claimed with regard to isolation of persons returning from overseas. The briefing is mendacious and false,” Mandelblit says after sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said that it was the attorney general who prevented the quarantine of arrivals at Ben Gurion Airport.

Prime Minster Netanyahu earlier today ordered a cessation of incoming flights following reports of arrivals from coronavirus hotspots not being tested and returning home by taxi.

Yesterday The Times of Israel reported that sources in the Health Ministry had also put the blame on the attorney general.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at an event at Bar Ilan University, March 04, 2020. (FLASH90)

Netanyahu calls on Gantz to meet immediately and renew unity talks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls on Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz to meet with him tonight and renew negotiations over a national unity government.

A statement from Netanyahu’s Likud party says the call is out of  “good will and national responsibility to set up a unity government as soon as possible.”

Blue and White has yet to respond to the call.

Channel 12’s political analyst says the statement has a “whiff of fourth elections,” adding that if Netanyhu requires a press statement to get Gantz to renew talks, then there is clearly no trust or open channels between the sides.

Coronavirus deaths top 100

The number of coronavirus deaths in Israel reaches 101, an increase of 6 in the past 24 hours, while the number of confirmed cases stands at 10,743, up 355 from yesterday, according to the latest Health Ministry statistics published tonight.

The number of patients on ventilators is up 4 percent to 129, while the number of seriously ill patients is up 4.8 percent to 175.

Litzman appoints Ichilov Hospital director to oversee senior living facilities

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman appoints Prof. Ronni Gamzu, a former director general of the ministry and currently the head of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, to oversee senior care homes during the coronavirus crisis.

At least two dozen deaths out of 101 reported, have been in assisted living facilities, including 13 at the Mishan care home in Beersheba.

“Professor Ronni Gamzu has years of experience and outstanding operational capabilities and I am sure he will know how to lead management of this population in the best possible fashion,” says Litzman.

Israel’s Health Ministry Prof. Roni Gamzu attends a Finance Committee meeting at the Knesset while serving as Health Ministry director general, January 7, 2014. ( Flash90)

Israeli citizens abroad to be allowed to return despite earlier closure of skies

Israeli citizens abroad will be allowed to return to the country after Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich convened an urgent Cabinet consultation in response to instructions issued by Prime Minister Netanyahu to stop all flights to Israel until legal steps can be taken to permit the Home Front Command to transfer all arriving passengers to state-run quarantine hotels for 14 days.

All those arriving will now be sent to quarantine hotels, Channel 12 reports, with the government to approve the measure under emergency regulations tomorrow morning.

People wearing face masks for fear of the coronavirus arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport on March 10, 2020 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Violinist serenades Madrid neighbors with ‘Hatikva,’ goes viral

A video of a violinist playing the Israeli national anthem on his balcony in Madrid amid the COVID-19 lockdown has gone viral.

In the video, the violinist is seen receiving a resounding standing ovation from neighbors on an empty Madrid street following his rendition of “Hatikva.”

The video was posted by ACOM, a Spanish pro-Israel advocacy group.

Defense Ministry to receive control of Ben Gurion Airport arrivals

The Defense Ministry is to receive control over Ben Gurion Airport arrivals, who will be sent to designated quarantine hotels run by the Home Front Command for a period of 14 days.

The decision was reached following a conference call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minster Naftali Bennett, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov and and the head of the National Security Council, Meir Ben Shabbat.

It reverses a decision earlier today by Netanyahu, closing Israel’s skies due to legal complications preventing the transfer of all arriving travelers to the quarantine hotels.

“From now on, responsibility for passengers arriving from overseas is transferred to the Ministry of Defense and the IDF… This was decided in a meeting with the prime minister and the relevant ministers. It is the right decision,” says Bennett.

Channel 12 reports the government will approve the measure under emergency regulations tomorrow morning.



Three shipments of medical gear, experimental drugs arrive in Israel

Three shipments of medical equipment, protective gear and experimental pharmaceuticals have arrived in Israel from three separate countries, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The shipments include 2.5 tons of anesthetics from Italy, 2.4 million doses of the experimental antiviral drug chloroquine from India, and millions of items of protective equipment including masks and suits from China.

The shipments, coordinated by the procurement command center led by Mossad Director Yossi Cohen, landed at Ben Gurion airport this morning, says the PMO.

Netanyahu thanks Prime Minister Modi for approving the shipment from India.

Government approves quarantining certain areas of Jerusalem

The government has approved dividing Jerusalem into zones and quarantining certain areas with high rates of infections, the Prime Minister’s Office says

Four quarantined areas are marked off, mostly compromising ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

In these areas, residents will only be allowed to exit for work or certain other essential needs.

The regulation goes into effect at noon on Sunday.

Government details which areas of Jerusalem quarantined

The government releases a map showing generally which areas of Jerusalem will be quarantined.

Four zones are marked for lockdown: Zone 1, which covers northeast Jerusalem Zone 2, which covers northwest Jerusalem, Zone 3, which covers southwest Jerusalem, and Zone 5, which covers much of the city center.

There are notable exceptions to each zone:

Zone 1 exceptions: Beit Hanina, Pisgat Ze’ev and the Hashalom neighborhood.

Zone 2 exceptions:  Har Hotzvim industrial zone, Arazim Valley Park and Motza Valley Park.

Zone 3 exceptions: Givat Shaul industrial zone, Beit Hakerem, Her Herzl administrative area, Yuvalim, Ganim, Kiryat Dania and Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital.

Zone 5 exceptions: The Government Quarter administrative area and Beit David, which includes the Old City.

A map provided by the government divides Jerusalem into seven regions. (Health Ministry)

Biden defeats Sanders to win Alaska Democratic primary

Joe Biden wins won the Alaska Democrats’ party-run presidential primary, beating Senator Bernie Sanders days after Sanders suspended his campaign.

Biden beats Sanders 55.3% to 44.7%. A total of 19,759 votes were cast.

Biden gets 11 delegates and Sanders gets 4. Sanders would have won more delegates but after ending his bid for the nomination last week, Sanders is no longer eligible to win delegates based on the statewide vote in primaries and caucuses, according to Democratic National Committee rules. Sanders is, however, still eligible to win delegates based on vote totals in individual congressional districts, which is why the AP allocated four delegate to Sanders in Alaska.

Overall, Biden has 1,228 delegates and Sanders has 918, according to the count by The Associated Press.

— AP

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