The Times of Israel is liveblogged Friday’s events as they unfolded.
The government has unanimously approved the emergency regulations announced last night, making restrictions on movements legally binding, the Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement.
Ministers unanimously approved the measures during a cabinet meeting held by phone, the statement says.
It adds that the measures are in effect for seven days, and that the Health Ministry will publish detailed instructions for business activity.
It also says that the right to demonstrate will be preserved, as long as people adhere to the guidelines requiring maintaining a distance of two meters from one another and refraining from gatherings of more than 10 people in one place.
The document approved overnight by the government fastens emergency regulations, ordered by the Health Ministry, not to leave home.
The regulations permit citizens to leave their homes for the following activities only:
1. Going to work and returning;
2. Stocking up on food, medicine, necessary products and to receive essential services;
3. Receiving medical treatment;
4. Donating blood;
5. Participating in demonstrations;
6. Unorganized sports activity in groups no larger than five people;
7. Brief walks for a short time and to a place close to the person’s residence, refraining from close contact with people they don’t live with;
8. Going to a wedding, funeral or prayer;
9. Helping a person who, due to their age, medical condition or a disability, requires assistance;
10. Going out for a vital need that hasn’t been specified in articles 1-9.
During all those activities, people should maintain a distance of two meters, or six feet, from anyone, as much as possible. People staying in the same household do not need to keep that distance from one another.
In addition, no more than two people will be allowed in a car at any time, unless they live in the same household. The restriction will not be relevant for driving a person to and from a vital workplace.
Deliveries are required to be placed outside buildings, next to the entrance.
The document does not specify what the punishment for violators will be.
The regulations bar people from opening malls and other leisure venues or national parks, except places selling food, pharmacies or hygiene product stores. The punishment for those who keep their business open is six months in jail or a fine.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his speech last night that the regulations will be in effect for seven days, and that’s what the Prime Minister’s Office says today. However, the document published last night by Hebrew-language media says they will be in effect for a full month, until April 20.
Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid says the party will ask President Reuven Rivlin for an additional 14 days to form a government headed by party leader Benny Gantz, accusing the rival Likud party of “foot-dragging” during the first two weeks Gantz has to cobble together a coalition.
Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid faction within the centrist party, tells the Yedioth Ahronoth daily that contrary to reports that circulated yesterday, Gantz won’t join a Netanyahu-led government.
“It won’t happen,” Lapid says. “There is one source to those rumors, and that is Likud.”
Four El Al flights full of Israelis have taken off from Lima, Peru, bringing home many people who had been decrying having to stay in the South American country during the coronavirus pandemic without a way of returning home.
Israel had sent the planes especially to carry the 1,100 Israelis back home, but some 25 people remain there, Channel 12 reports, since there was no room for them on any of the flights — likely because people who hadn’t signed up for them showed up.
The Foreign Ministry confirms the details and says it will try to find a solution for those left behind.
A doctor at Baruch Padeh Medical Center near Tiberias has been confirmed to have COVID-19.
The orthopedic doctor apparently caught the coronavirus from a nurse in his department who caught it from her husband.
The doctor is currently in home quarantine with mild symptoms, the hospital says.
An East Jerusalem bus driver who had been Israel’s first COVID-19 patient in serious condition has made a partial recovery, according to the Baruch Padeh Medical Center near Tiberias where he is hospitalized.
The 38-year-old driver, who last month chauffeured a group of Greek tourists later confirmed to be infected, had been in serious condition before his situation gradually improved. He is now only displaying mild symptoms.
The Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, south of Tel Aviv, reports a deterioration in the conditions of three coronavirus carriers hospitalized there.
They include a 91-year-old woman in very serious condition, as well as a 67-year-old woman with background illnesses and a 45-year-old man without background illnesses, both of whom are in serious condition, sedated and on a respirator.
Friday prayers are being held in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, in a severely down-scaled format, despite Muslim prayer sites being closed across the globe.
The decision by the Jordanian Waqf religious authority which runs the site on the Temple Mount comes as Saudi Arabia has closed Islam’s two holiest spots, in Mecca and Medina, to worshipers.
Istiqlal grand mosque in Indonesia’s capital, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, which is usually packed with thousands of Muslims during Friday prayers, also decided to cancel mass prayers for the coming two weeks to curb the coronavirus spread.
رغم المطر ودرجة الحرارة التي لم تتجاوز ٣ درجاتٍ مئوية..مئات المرابطين أدوا صلاة الفجر في ساحات المسجد الأقصى المبارك ولبوا نداء فجر الإسراء قبل يومين من ذكرى الإسراء والمعراج pic.twitter.com/E2ord08tdn
— وكالة شهاب (@ShehabAgency) March 20, 2020
The Rambam Medical Center in Haifa says the condition of a 70-year-old man with the novel coronavirus has deteriorated, and he is now in serious condition, sedated and on a respirator.
The man has a background illness, the hospital says.
The Israeli Employment Service says that more than 450,000 people have signed up for its services to look for a job since the beginning of March.
That’s an increase of 81,000 since last night, a pace of 6,000 new job-seekers every hour, as the coronavirus pandemic has caused entire industries to go out of business.
After a delay of several days, a new drive-through facility is open in Tel Aviv for Israelis to receive immediate testing for the coronavirus while they wait in their cars.
The facility, run by the Magen David Adom (MDA) ambulance service, is at the Expo Tel Aviv compound. If the pilot testing project proves successful, additional facilities will be opened in other major cities.
However, not anyone can get tested. You need to be a person in coronavirus quarantine after being near a confirmed carrier, and to have started developing symptoms of the COVID-19, which include a fever and coughing.
Before arriving, people must call MDA at 101 and receive a bar code. At the entrance to the facility, a policeman will scan the bar code before being allowed in.
The entire process is meant to take just five minutes. Results are expected within 72 hours, although in some cases it may take longer.
Israel Railways announces that passenger train service will be reduced by 50% starting Monday, in accordance with Health Ministry instructions and in light of the decrease in the number of passengers.
Cargo trains will continue to operate normally.
Left-wing protesters organize another demonstration this afternoon next to the homes of Benny Gantz and senior members of the Likud party, in protest of their willingness to serve under Benjamin Netanyahu despite the criminal cases against him.
The so-called “black flag” protests, which caused scuffles with police yesterday, will be held at 12:30 p.m. next to the houses of Gantz, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.
Three ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party last night demanded that the new emergency regulations restricting Israelis’ movements be extended to include the Knesset, the Haaretz daily reports.
That would paralyze most of the parliament’s activity, at a time when the government is already accused by its political rivals of refusing to open the Knesset plenum to allow votes in which there is a 61-strong majority against it.
Blue and White is trying to convene the Knesset to pass laws barring anyone facing an indictment from serving as premier and replacing the Knesset speaker — moves that would effectively oust Netanyahu.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein has been refusing, arguing that it would hinder unity government talks and citing the coronavirus pandemic which has shut down most institutions.
The demand to effectively shutter the Knesset, reportedly voiced by Likud ministers Yariv Levin, Zeev Elkin and David Amsalem, was eventually rejected.
A 72-year-old Israeli woman is in very serious condition after contracting the coronavirus, the Rabin Medical Center says.
She is the second elderly Israeli woman in very serious condition, in addition to a third who is in critical condition and fighting for her life.
There haven’t been any Israeli COVID-19 fatalities thus far among the 677 confirmed cases.
The Defense Ministry’s research and development department has formed a new team dedicated to creating technologies and products to help the country combat the coronavirus pandemic, the ministry says.
The team will be led by Brig. Gen. (Res.) Dani Gold, head of the Directorate of Defense Research and Development, also known by its Hebrew acronym MAFAT, and it will focus its efforts on a number of key areas: quick diagnosis and early detection of virus carriers, prevention of virus transmission and infection, medical monitoring and prevention of infection within hospitals, and manufacturing protective equipment for medical staff.
“The team is using advanced technology, both civilian and military, to develop the aforementioned capabilities. This includes the use of big data, artificial intelligence, command and control systems, various sensors and mobile technology,” the ministry says.
The group is meant to be “inter-institutional and multidisciplinary” and will include officials from the Health Ministry, Finance Ministry, Israel Defense Forces, Innovation Authority and National Security Council, as well as representatives from civilian institutions like hospitals, defense contractors, startup companies, think tanks and academic institutions, the Defense Ministry says.
“The brightest minds in the country, from various sectors, are committed and working around the clock in order to identify and develop the technological solutions that will contribute to the national effort to cope with the corona pandemic. We hope to share good news with the State of Israel as soon as possible,” Gold says.
— Judah Ari Gross
The Health Ministry updates the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Israel to 705, an increase of 28 over last night’s tally.
Of those cases, ten are said to be in serious condition, 18 in moderate condition, 15 have recovered and the rest are displaying mild symptoms.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi meets with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to discuss how the military can assist various government ministries during this coronavirus crisis, the Israel Defense Forces says.
The two also discuss how Israel can help the Palestinian Authority maintain stability during the outbreak. The military has long feared that a humanitarian or economic crisis in the West Bank could have major security implications for the State of Israel.
“The two discussed ways of ensuring stability on the Palestinian front and the cooperation with the Palestinian Authority in dealing with the virus,” the IDF says in a statement.
— Judah Ari Gross
A 35-year-old man is seriously injured near a train track in the city of Rosh Ha’ayin, after a security guard shot him.
An initial investigation indicates that guards had called on him to stop, and the shots were fired after he didn’t respond.
The man has been taken to Beilinson hospital in Petah Tikva.
The circumstances of the incident are being investigated further.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered his chief of staff Ronen Peretz to immediately consider reinstating digital classes for schoolchildren, the Prime Minister’s Office says.
Iran says the coronavirus has killed 149 more people in the Islamic Republic, raising the country’s official death toll from the disease to 1,433.
Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi says 1,237 more cases have been confirmed over the past 24 hours and 19,644 people are now known to have been infected in Iran, one of the world’s worst-hit countries.
Palestinian Authority Health Minister Mai al-Kaila announces that 17 people at a hotel in the Bethlehem area have recovered from COVID-19.
The development means that the number of cases confirmed by Palestinian health authorities in the West Bank has dropped from 48 to 31.
“I congratulate… our people on the healing of 17 sick persons from COVID-19,” she tells a press conference in Ramallah.
Kaila says the 17 people underwent three separate tests for the disease in recent days, all of which came back negative, adding they will now be required to quarantine themselves in their homes.
She also says the healed people will be tested again for the illness in two weeks; she states if those tests come back negative, they will no longer be required to isolate themselves.
Kaila adds that the recovered people are all young and only experienced mild COVID-19 symptoms, noting none of them required intensive care.
— Adam Rasgon
The coronavirus toll in Spain has risen to 1,002 following the deaths of 235 people in the past 24 hours, the health ministry says.
The number of cases has also soared to 19,980, after another 2,833 infections were confirmed over the same period, the ministry’s emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon says.
Clashes are reported between Palestinians and police in and around Jerusalem’s Old City and at least one arrest was made, as Friday prayers on the Temple Mount went ahead while authorities tried to limit the number of worshipers due to the coronavirus emergency measures currently in place.
The outdoor areas of the holy site, known to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, were open to Friday prayers even as most other major Muslim shrines around the world were shuttered amid the pandemic. Worshipers gathered in small groups, but rain forced them to gather in sheltered spots in violation of Health Ministry rules.
Meanwhile, many Palestinians staged often-violent mass protests outside the Old City after police prevented them from reaching the site and closed the Old City doors to anyone except local residents.
Police used riot-control methods to disperse the crowd.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) March 20, 2020
Germany’s largest state Bavaria becomes the first region in the country to order a lockdown to prevent coronavirus infections.
“From midnight tonight for a provisional period of two weeks, there will be fundamental restrictions on going out,” state premier Markus Soeder says.
“We are not locking Bavarians in but we are winding down public life almost completely,” Soeder says at a press conference, adding that restaurants will be closed and citizens will no longer be allowed to meet in groups outside.
Two men in their 20s are injured — one seriously and the other moderately — from gunshots in the Arab city of Tira in central Israel.
The pair are taken to Meir hospital in Kfar Saba.
The circumstances of the incident are being investigated.
The leaders of the Blue and White party met today to discuss its options in forming a government headed by Benny Gantz, the party says in a statement.
The statement says several alternatives were raised and that the party will make great efforts to reopen the Knesset next week and form parliamentary committees.
It adds that the party will support any government step that would help Israelis get through the coronavirus outbreak.
Meanwhile, Channel 13 reports, without citing a source, that during unity government negotiations the Likud party has agreed to shelve a controversial law that would enable the Knesset to overrule High Court rulings.
The condition of a 57-year-old man who has contracted the coronavirus has deteriorated, according to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem where he is hospitalized.
He is now in serious condition and has been taken to an intensive care unit while fully conscious.
The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 5,000 people in Europe, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.
In total, there have been 5,168 deaths across the continent, mostly in Italy which is now the hardest hit country in the world with 3,405 fatalities.
Europe has registered 1,034 news cases in the past 24 hours, for a total of 110,568 infections.
The Health Ministry says it has authorized Jerusalem-based firm Novamed to produce swabs used in testing kits for the coronavirus.
According to a ministry statement, the company, which makes products used to test for infections diseases, will initially produce 5,000, beginning Sunday.
Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, director-general of the Health Ministry, ordered additional manufacturers of components for the test kits to be found, the ministry says.
Deputy Director-General Itamar Grotto said yesterday that medical officials were most in need of more swaps to increase testing for the virus.
There are now 20 laboratories across Israel performing the tests, the ministry says, with more expected to be approved to do testing in the coming days.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed for new restrictions on Israelis’ movements and attendance at work to apply to the Knesset, according to Hebrew media reports.
During a cabinet meeting overnight to approve the emergency measures, Netanyahu, 70, argued that many lawmakers are more at risk from the coronavirus and that not extending workplace restrictions meant to contain the virus to the Knesset could place them at risk, the reports say.
Also reportedly taking this position were Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Communications Minister David Amsalem, both members of Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit told Netanyahu and the Likud ministers that the government has no authority over the Knesset, citing the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches, according to the reports.
The government approves new emergency ordinances restricting the number of employees who can be at a workplace, as part of strict measures meant to contain the coronavirus outbreak in Israel.
The new limitations will bar both private firms and government agencies from having more than 30 percent of their workers present at a time.
The Finance Ministry stresses businesses can remain open if they adhere to government directives.
“It is our rule to keep the economy active during this period and to ensure the Israeli economy will be strong the day after,” ministry director-general Shai Babad says in a statement.
AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan will impose a round-the-clock curfew beginning tomorrow morning until further notice to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country, the government announces.
The exceptional measure, to be applied for an indefinite period, was taken after “citizens did not respect directives” calling on them not to leave their homes except for extreme emergencies, government spokesman Amjad Adayleh says today.
Adayleh warns that lack of compliance with the curfew would result in “immediate imprisonment, which will not exceed one year.”
The kingdom has reported 69 cases of the COVID-19 disease, with no deaths so far.
“In view of the exceptional circumstances in the world and in our region and to avoid epidemics, a curfew will come into force from Saturday at 7:00 a.m. and until further notice in all regions of the kingdom,” Adayleh, who is also the minister of state for media affairs, said at a news conference in the capital Amman.
All shops will be closed and authorities will announce on Tuesday the “specific times according to specific procedures” for the population to get supplies, he adds.
NEW YORK — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo orders non-essential businesses to close and bans all gatherings, in an escalation of attempts to contain the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo says fines would be handed out to anyone violating the order, which he says he will come into effect on Sunday evening.
“We’re all in quarantine now,” he tells reporters, adding that New York state was “on pause.”
The head of the Israel Association of Biochemists, Microbiologists and Laboratory Workers says the Health Ministry is not allowing medical laboratories around Israel to operate at full capacity during Shabbat, limiting the number of coronavirus tests they can perform.
“The virus doesn’t take a break on Friday and Saturday. This is a scandal,” Ester Admon is quoted saying by Channel 13 news.
While praising the Magen David Adom emergency service for increasing the number of samples it can take in a day, Admon says laboratories need to operate at full capacity to process these tests and get results.
“The question isn’t how many tests were taken today, but how many are tested in the laboratory,” she says.
The Health Ministry denies the assertion, saying the labs were operating 24/7.
However, according to the Ynet news site, the main laboratory in the Haifa area, which can perform 330 tests a day, has been waiting since Wednesday to receive permission to operate during the weekend.
Numerous laboratories were working limited hours during Shabbat, while others had a reduced workforce, the website says.
ROME — Italy reports a record 627 new deaths from the novel coronavirus today, taking its overall toll to 4,000 as the pandemic gathers pace despite government efforts to halt its spread.
The total number of deaths is 4,032, with the number of infections reaching 47,021. Italy’s previous one-day record death toll was 475 on Wednesday.
LONDON — The British government is ordering all pubs, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms to close in sweeping new restrictions to fight the spread of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says those venues, as well as nightclubs, theaters and leisure centers, should close today and not reopen until further notice. His advice to anyone considering one last trip out on Friday night: “Please don’t.”
Johnson says the situation will be reviewed every month to see if the measures can be relaxed.
Restaurants can continue to serve takeout food.
Britain has already asked people to avoid unnecessary contact with others and avoid pubs, restaurants and other venues, and urged Londoners to use public transport only for essential journeys. While many people have complied, some have not.
As of today, Britain had recorded 177 deaths among people with the virus, 40 more than the day before.
PARIS — More than a quarter of a million cases of the new coronavirus have been recorded across the globe, according to a tally compiled by AFP today based on official sources.
There have been at least 256,296 infections reported in 163 countries and territories, and 11,015 deaths.
China, where the virus first emerged in December, has registered 80,976 cases including 3,248 deaths. Italy has suffered the most deaths, 4,032, out of 47,021 cases.
The number of diagnosed cases reflects only a fraction of the actual number of infections as many countries test only those with the most severe symptoms.
WASHINGTON — Officials in the nation’s capital have announced the first death of a patient from the COVID-19 illness.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser announces the death of the 59-year-old man today.
She says he was admitted to the hospital last week after showing coronavirus symptoms, including a fever and cough, and tested positive. The mayor says the man also had “other underlying medical conditions” but provides no additional details.
DC health officials said there were 71 confirmed cases as of last night.
The condition of three patients being treated at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon for COVID-19 deteriorates, with the Kan public broadcaster reporting the three are in serious to critical condition.
Kan reports the three patients are a 67-year-old woman with a pre-existing medical condition, a 91-year-old woman and 45-year-old man with no past health problems.
PARIS — France reports 78 more deaths from the coronavirus over the last 24 hours, bringing the total death toll from the outbreak in the country to 450 people.
Top French health official Jerome Salomon tells reporters that 12,612 people were now confirmed by tests in France to have been infected with the coronavirus, while warning this was a “minimal figure” compared with the real number of those infected.
He says that 5,226 people had been hospitalized with the virus, with 1,300 of them in intensive care. “Half of the patients in intensive care are under 60,” he says, warning that the epidemic can hit “young adults” too.
A man being treated in the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem has died, according to joint statement from the hospital and Health Ministry.
The statement says the 88-year-old man was brought to Shaare Zedek a week ago in serious condition and had numerous preexisting medical conditions.
His condition began to deteriorate this evening and he died an hour ago.
“We share in the sorrow of the family,” the statement says.
The man was not immediately identified.
Illinois is joining New York state and California in ordering all residents to stay in their homes unless they have vital reasons to go out.
Together, the actions by the states’ governors amount to the most sweeping efforts in the US yet to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The three states encompass more than 70 million people and the three biggest cities in America: New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
NEW YORK — Wall Street stocks finish a volatile session much lower, spending part of today in positive territory before plunging to bring the market’s worst week since 2008 to a grim conclusion.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ends down 4.6 percent at 19,174.04, below the level when US President Donald Trump was inaugurated, as the spreading coronavirus hammers the economy.
The broad-based S&P 500 dives 4.4% to 2,304.70, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index tumbles 3.8% to 6,875.52.