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Netanyahu said to turn down UK request for ventilators

Prime minister rejects appeal from stand-in British leader Raab citing export ban; Spanish request also rejected despite order made prior to ban

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrives at Downing Street, London, April 14, 2020 as he stands in for Prime Minister Boris Johnson who is convalescence following his hospitalization with the coronavirus.  (Stefan Rousseau / PA via AP)
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrives at Downing Street, London, April 14, 2020 as he stands in for Prime Minister Boris Johnson who is convalescence following his hospitalization with the coronavirus. (Stefan Rousseau / PA via AP)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.

Spain records drop in daily virus death toll, but number of new cases rises

MADRID — Spain records 523 deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, a decline from yesterday, but the number of new daily confirmed cases was the highest in six days.

The new deaths reported by the health ministry take the total number of fatalities to 18,579 — officially third in the world behind the United States and Italy.

Spain recorded 567 deaths from COVID-19 yesterday.

The number of new confirmed infections rises by 5,092, or three percent, to 177,633, the biggest daily increase in the number of cases since April 9.

Health authorities say Spain has overcome the peak of the coronavirus, after registering its highest daily death toll of 950 people on April 2, but warn against relaxing restrictions on the movement of people to curb the spread of the virus.

Spain on March 14 imposed one of the tightest lockdowns in Europe, with people in the nation of around 47 million people allowed outside only to go to work when they can’t do so from home, buy food, seek medical care and briefly walk their dog.

The government tightened the restrictions on March 30 by freezing all non-essential activities like construction and manufacturing for two weeks in a so-called “economic hibernation” — a measure that was lifted on Monday.


Joint List MK warns of ‘disaster’ if virus testing for Arab Israelis not increased

Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen is calling for expanding coronavirus testing for Arab Israelis after the Health Ministry warned against an outbreak centered on the northern town of Deir al-Asad.

“I again warn about the worrying and severe under-testing in Arab communities that could lead to a disaster of unprecedented proportions,” Jabareen writes on Twitter.

He says additional testing is needed among Arabs “so we can get a better picture [of the infection] rate relative to the general population.”

According to the Ynet news site, there have been 510 confirmed COVID-19 cases among Arab Israelis, just over four percent of the 12,200 total infections in the country.

With Arabs making up some 20 percent of Israel’s population, it is unclear if the relatively low number of reported infections is due to a lack of testing or if the virus is less prevalent in these communities for other reasons.

Lockdown of Arab town with rising virus cases said being considered

The mayor of Deir al-Asad says the Arab Israeli town could be put on lockdown after the Health Ministry warned of a “very high” contagion rate there.

“The Health Ministry raised the suggestion of a lockdown and if there is a need we won’t oppose this because the main thing is the health of the residents,” Ahmed Dabbah tells the Haaretz daily.

Dabbah met earlier with representatives of the Health Ministry, Interior Ministry, police and IDF’s Home Front Command, after which he says it was decided that those with the virus will be taken out of the community and that a hotel in Nahariya will be rented to house them.

It was also agreed that a lockdown will begin in Deir al-Asad and neighboring Bi’ina starting tomorrow if residents don’t adhere to Health Ministry directives.

WHO focused on halting coronavirus pandemic, chief says after US funding freeze

GENEVA — The World Health Organization is purely focused on saving lives and halting the coronavirus pandemic, its chief says today after US President Donald Trump announced he was freezing funding for the WHO.

“There is no time to waste. WHO’s singular focus is on working to serve all people to save lives and stop the COVID-19 pandemic,” director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says on Twitter following Trump’s decision.


World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a daily press briefing on COVID-19 virus at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on March 9, 2020. (Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Tour de France postponed due to virus restrictions

The Tour de France will take place from August 29 to September 20, organizers announce Wednesday, postponing the race originally slated to start on June 27 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The new dates, the latest ever for the Tour founded in 1903, follow French President Emmanuel Macron’s extension on Monday of a ban on public gatherings until mid-July.

It’s the first time since the end of World War II that the race is not starting in July.

The new dates move the three-week race out of its traditional slot during the summer holidays where festive roadside crowds of around 12 million would be expected.

In this file photo taken on July 14, 2019 France’s Julian Alaphilippe, wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey (C) rides in the pack during the ninth stage of the 106th edition of the Tour de France cycling race between Saint-Etienne and Brioude. (Jeff Pachoud / AFP)


Iran claims to invent coronavirus ‘smart system’ that can identify contaminated areas in seconds

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) unveiled today what it claims is an Iranian-made smart system, “Mosta’an,” that can identify coronavirus in the environment instantly.

The system can spot the coronavirus-contaminated area from 100 meters away in 5 seconds and it does not need to take blood from patients and has been tested in different hospitals and showed positive performance in 80% of cases,” claims IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami. 

Salami says that the smart system can both be used for mass screening of people and spotting the contaminated areas, noting that it could also minimize the amount of disinfectants being used in areas that aren’t contaminated. 

Official coronavirus figures released by Iranian authorities currently stand at 74,877 confirmed cases, and 4,683 deaths.

At height of peak season, only one flight departs from Ben Gurion Airport

Only one departing flight leaves Ben Gurion International Airport today in what would usually be peak season with some 300 departing flights.

The Israir flight left for Lisbon this morning to pick up stranded Israelis. The flight is scheduled to return later tonight, while the only other incoming flight on the arrivals board is United Airlines flight from Newark.

Air traffic has come to an almost complete standstill since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The Health Ministry said yesterday that arrivals from the US accounted for far more of Israel’s foreign coronavirus infections than any other country.

Forty percent of arrivals to Israel who were infected abroad, over 560 cases, were travelers from the US.

The empty incoming flights hall at the Ben Gurion International Airport on April 12, 2020. (Flash90)

Global coronavirus infections top 2 million

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide tops two million this afternoon, according to a tally of the online tracking site, Worldometer.

As of 4:30 p.m. Israel time, there are 2,018,448 confirmed cases around the world. The United States has the largest number of cases at 614, 246.

The global death toll currently stands at 128,063. The US has the largest number of deaths at 26,064, followed by Italy with 21,067 and Spain with 18,579.


Coronavirus curve flattened in several Israeli cities

The coronavirus curve has been flattened in several cities in Israel, including Tel Aviv and Haifa, but the number of confirmed infections in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak continue to rise.

The curve has also been flattened in the ultra-Orthodox town of Kiryat Ye’arim near Jerusalem, one of the first places in the country to see a major cluster. 

At the same time, however, the Health Ministry warns today of major clusters in Arab towns in the north, including Deir al-Asad where it warns of a “very high” contagion rate.

Reagents for coronavirus tests land in Israel

A plane carrying enough chemical reagents to conduct some 100,000 PCR coronavirus tests lands in Israel today, says the Defense Ministry.

According to the ministry, some 50,000 personal protective suits for medical staff were also brought on the flight, following a joint operation with the IDF and the Foreign Ministry.


UK coronavirus hospital death toll climbs to 12,868

The number of people who have died in hospital in Britain from COVID-19 has increased to 12,868, according to health ministry figures published today.

This is an increase of 761 from the previous day and official figures also show that the number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus is 98,476.

Britain’s death toll is the 5th highest globally and does not include people who have died of the disease in senior-living facilities or at home.

The dead over the past 24 hours were aged between 20 and 101, with 20 of them having no known preexisting conditions.

People space out to observe social distancing, on the Millennium Bridge backdropped by St Paul’s Cathedral in London, during the lockdown to try and stop the spread of coronavirus, April 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)


100 respiratory ventilators arrive from US

One hundred respiratory ventilators purchased by the Defense Ministry from the United States arrive at Ben Gurion Airport today.

Hebrew language website Ynet reports that the ventilators, critical in the treatment of severly ill COVID-19 patients, were transported from the West Coast to Defense Ministry warehouses in New York before being sent to Israel on a cargo flight.

There are currently 123 patients on respiratory ventilation in Israel, with close to 3,000 respiratory ventilators now available.

Earlier today a plane carrying enough chemical reagents to conduct some 100,000 PCR coronavirus tests and some 50,000 personal protective suits for medical staff arrived in Israel from South Korea.


New virus outbreak reported at senior living facility in Hadera

A new coronavirus outbreak is reported at a senior living facility in Hadera in the north. According to Channel 12, 13 residents and 27 staff of the Nof facility have been confirmed infected with the virus.

Around one-third of COVID-19 deaths in Israel have occurred at senior living facilities, while some 60 such facilities have reported cases

Meanwhile, in Ashdod several people have been taken to the city’s Assuta Hospital from the Beit Hadar rehabilitation facility. Some 22 patients from the 250-bed facility are on respiratory ventilation.

The Home Front Command has been called in to disinfect the facility.

Oxford University to begin vaccine tests on humans next week — report

Oxford University scientists are to commence human trials next week for a coronavirus vaccine, the Daily Mail reports.

According to the report, 510 people, between the ages of 18 and 55, have already been recruited to take part in the trial.

The subjects will receive either the vaccine developed at the university, or a control injection for comparison.

“We are going into human trials next week. We have tested the vaccine in several different animal species,” says Professor Adrian Hill, who will lead the research.

“We have taken a fairly cautious approach, but a rapid one to assess the vaccine that we are developing.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 70 novel coronavirus vaccines currently in development.

Two groups in the United States and one in China have already commenced human trials.

Daily coronavirus tests now over 10,000 two days in succession

The Ministry of Health reports that the number of coronavirus tests conducted daily topped 10,000 for the first time on Monday as 10,401 tests were carried out, while the total reached a high of 11,501 yesterday.

Also today, the Ministry of Defense says it has brought in from South Korea, sufficient chemical reagents to carry out some 100,000 tests.

Italy sees lowest increase in virus cases in over a month

Italy reports 2,667 confirmed coronavirus infections today, the lowest figure since March 13.

The country reports 578 new deaths, taking the overall number of fatalities to 21,645, the second-highest in the world behind the United States

Italy now has 165,155 cases and its rate of infection is now the lowest since the outbreak began in the country.

While hospitals remain overwhelmed, there is a slight decline in hospitalizations which stand at 27,643, down 368 from yesterday, while 3,079 people are in intensive care, down 107 from yesterday.

A reporter in the empty Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City, Rome, on April 15, 2020, during a lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Filippo Monteforte/AFP)

Police break up circumcision ceremony as 200 attend

Police in Jerusalem break up a brit mila circumcision ceremony on the final day of Passover, as 200 people attend in violation of ordinances forbidding public gatherings during the coronavirus outbreak.

Channel 12 reports that the incident took place in the ultra-Orthodox Geula neighborhood of the capital. Eggs were thrown at police and one suspect was arrested for assault, while four fines were issued for violation of regulations.

IDF to provide protective masks to Jordan

The IDF is to provide 5,000 N95 protective masks to Jordan, Hebrew-language website Ynet reports.

According to the report, the masks will be transferred to Jordan tomorrow, following a request from the Kingdom.

There are currently 397 confirmed coronavirus cases in Jordan, with seven deaths reported in the Kingdom.

Death toll rises to 127 as 94-year-old passses away in Kfar Saba

A 94-year-old man with existing medical conditions dies at the Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba, taking the death toll from the novel coronavirus in Israel to 127.

Also today, a 90-year-old resident of the Mishan nursing home in Beersheba, where 14 people have already died, is taken to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon in serious but stable condition.

France virus fatalities top 17,000; hospitalizations down

The coronavirus pandemic has now claimed at least 17,167 lives, including 10,643 in hospital, says France’s director-general of public health Jérôme Salomon.

The number of hospitalizations has, however, gone down for the first time since the start of the outbreak in the country, with 513 people less hospitalized over the past 24 hours, than the day before.


Netanyahu turned down British request for ventilators — report

Channel 13 reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned down a request from UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab for respiratory ventilators last week as Prime Minister Boris Johnson lay in hospital in intensive care with COVID-19.

According to the report, several British companies tried to procure ventilators from Israel. However, due to an ordinance issued by Economy Minister Eli Cohen blocking the export of the life-saving machines from Israel, the sale did not go through.

Raab called Netanyahu to ask for an exemption so that the ventilators could be provided, but the prime minister told him that Israel needs them for itself, Channel 13 adds.

The report also claims that a Spanish request for ventilators was turned down by Foreign Minister Israel Katz even though 30 of the machines had been ordered by Spanish companies prior to the ban on exports.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference about the coronavirus, March 25, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel’s coronavirus death toll jumps to 130

The Ministry of Health reports that the number of COVID-19 deaths in Israel has climbed to 130, up seven from yesterday.

The number of confirmed cases of infection stands at 12,501, an increase of 455 cases in the past 24 hours.  Of these, 180 cases are defined as being in serious condition, with 133 of them on respiratory ventilators; 174 patients are in moderate condition.

The ministry reports that 2,563 people have recovered from the virus.




Bennett to call for ‘almost entire’ economy to be re-opened — report

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett will call tomorrow for almost the entire economy in the industrial, trade and services sectors to be re-opened from the beginning of next week, Channel 12 reports.

According to the report, while Bennett wants to maintain local closures of virus hotspots, to maintain social distancing measures, and to take steps to safeguard the safety of the elderly and residents of senior living facilities, the Health Ministry is opposed to easing of current restrictions.

Channel 12 notes that Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov says in an interview this evening that “the pandemic is still here and it is contagious.”

Likud, Blue and White coalition talks resume

Teams from Likud and Blue and White are currently meeting in Jerusalem to try to break the deadlock over negotiations for a national unity government, the two sides say in a joint statement.

With Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s mandate to form a government expiring at midnight tonight, a failure to reach an accord will end with President Reuven Rivlin giving the mandate over to the Knesset for three weeks and increase the likelihood that Israel will go to elections for a fourth time.

Channel 12 reports Blue and White sources as saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is setting “impossible demands.” Expectations are not high says a Channel 12 political analyst.

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

AIiya Minister Galant hosted family over Passover

Likud Minister of Aliya and Absorption Yoav Galant is the latest top-ranking official to have violated the government’s own restrictions, banning Israeli citizens from celebrating the Passover holiday together.

Channel 12 reports that Galant hosted his daughter who lives in Tel Aviv for the whole seven days of Passover, despite the curfew imposed on the Seder night and the last day of the holiday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted his son on Seder night, while President Reuven Rivlin also hosted family in violation of regulations, as did Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman.

A spokesman for Galant says that “in view of the current protracted situation, the minister’s daughter, Or, who lives in Tel Aviv, has moved to her parent’s house from the beginning of the curfew, and until a return to normal.”

Aliyah and Absorption Minister Yoav Galant of the Likud, is seen in this September 2019 file photo. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Israel seasonal mortality rate lower than average despite coronavirus

The Kan public broadcaster reports that the Health Ministry’s Center for Disease Control has found that the general mortality in Israel over the past three weeks is lower than the multi-year average and lower than the same period last year.

To date, 130 people have died as a result of the coronavirus in Israel, the overwhelming majority over the age of 70.

Kashrut supervisor ‘patient zero’ in Arab town with virus cluster

Hebrew-language website Ynet reports that a Kashrut supervisor could be behind a coronavirus outbreak in the Galilee Arab town of Deir al-Asad, where 24 people have been confirmed positive.

According to Ynet, an epidemiological investigation found that the Kashrut supervisor visited a slaughterhouse in the town on April 5 and infected several of the workers who went on to infect others.

Hundreds of people in the town of 12,000 underwent testing today with the Health Ministry saying that the real number of infections could be much higher and that it is considering a lockdown.

Bnei Brak baracades come down amid speculation closure on town to end

Hebrew-language website Ynet reports that police have taken down barricades around Bnei Brak, almost two weeks after a closure was imposed due to the high rate of infection in the ultra-Orthodox community of 200,000 near Tel Aviv.

Entrances and exits to the town were closed off with people only allowed in and out to got to work and for essential services.

Ynet says police are waiting for the results of a cabinet meeting tonight, which is due to decide on whether to continue the lockdown of the town.

A police spokesman says patrols are still ongoing in the town in order to enforce coronavirus ordinances.

Bnei Brak has 2,053 confirmed coronavirus infections, the second highest figure in the country, behind only Jerusalem with 2,258 with a population over four times the size.

Border police officers block a main road following the government’s measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, in Bnei Brak, April 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty,)

Virus death toll climbs to 131

Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem says an 84-year-old woman with existing medical conditions has died from COVID-19 at the hospital.

Her death brings the death toll from the virus in Israel to 131. A total of 12,501 infections are confirmed, while 180 patients are in serious condition, 133 of them on respiratory ventilation.

The woman was a resident of the Maon Horim nursing home in the capital.

Around one-third of the deaths registered so far in Israel from the virus have been in nursing homes and senior living facilities. According the Health Ministry, some 60 such facilities have reported at least one case of the virus.

The worst affected senior living facility has been the Mishan home in Beersheba where 14 residents have died.

MK Asher to go into quarantine after aide tests positive for coronavirus

An aide to United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Asher has tested positive for coronavirus, forcing the lawmaker to go into quarantine for a period of 14 days.

Knesset Officer Joseph Griff has sent an email tonight to the 120 Knesset members and to all employees informing them of the results of the test and notifying them that anyone who has been in contact with the aide will also have to go into quarantine.

Griff says that the aide was in the Knesset throughout the day on April 5.

A spokesman for Asher told the Haredi website Kikar Hashabat that the MK would go into quarantine in accordance with Health Ministry regulations.

Ultra-Orthodox to petition High Court over prayer quorum ban — report

A group of ultra-Orthodox lawyers from the Gur Hasidic community has petitioned the High Court of Justice against the ban on praying in a quorum of ten as required by Jewish Law, the Haredi website Kikar Hashabat reports.

According to the report, the petition was filed with the knowledge and support of leading ultra-Orthodox rabbis and will be discussed by the High Court tomorrow morning.

Kikar Hashabat says that the petition has been filed in view of the fact that certain activities are allowed, such as the use of public transport, shopping and so on where the condition is that people retain a safe distance.

The report quotes the appellates as saying that “the state should not have the right to prohibit prayers in which the supplicants respect Health MInistry regulations as required. It is inconceivable that it is permissible to demonstrate on condition that a distance of two meters is maintained, but only when it comes to prayer is that forbidden.”

Ultra-Orthodox men pray the morning prayer next to their house as synagogues are closed following the government’s measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, in Bnei Brak, April 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
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IDF to provide protective masks to Jordan

The IDF is to provide 5,000 N95 protective masks to Jordan, Hebrew-language website Ynet reports.

According to the report, the masks will be transferred to Jordan tomorrow, following a request from the Kingdom.

There are currently 397 confirmed coronavirus cases in Jordan, with seven deaths reported in the Kingdom.