The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Israelis returning from Egypt have been instructed to enter a 14-day home quarantine since their last day in the country, among rising coronavirus cases there, the Health Ministry says.
The order is in effect retroactively for anyone who returned from Egypt in the past 14 days.
Those entering self quarantine are requested to report it on the ministry’ website here.
Saudi Arabia closes off air and sea travel to nine countries affected by the new coronavirus as Mideast stock markets tumble over fears about the widening outbreak’s effect on the global economy.
The state oil giant Saudi Aramco leads the financial losses, dropping by 10% on Riyadh’s Tadawul stock exchange and forcing a halt to Aramco’s trading.
In the Mideast there have been over 7,600 confirmed cases, with the vast majority in hard-hit Iran. The country’s health ministry says the new coronavirus has killed another 43 people, pushing death toll to 237 amid 7,161 confirmed cases. Experts worry Iran may be underreporting its cases.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey endorses former vice president Joe Biden. Booker says on Twitter that Biden will “restore honor to the Oval Office and tackle our most pressing challenges.”
Booker ended his own presidential bid in January, pledging to do “everything in my power to elect the eventual Democratic nominee for president.”
“The answer to hatred & division is to reignite our spirit of common purpose,” Booker tweets.
The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, again calls on Iran to give inspectors access to two sites suspected of having harbored nuclear activities without being declared.
“I call on Iran to cooperate immediately and fully with the agency, including by providing rapid access to the specified locations,” Grossi says at the opening of the IAEA Board of Governors in Vienna.
In January, Tehran refused inspections at two sites that the IAEA wanted to verify. These locations are unrelated to Iran’s current activities but relate to the country’s military nuclear project in the 2000s, according to several diplomatic sources.
This “refusal undermines the agency’s… ability to provide credible assurance of the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran,” Grossi adds.
The State Prosecution says it opposes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to postpone the opening court session in his trial by 45 days.
The trial is set to open next Tuesday, March 17.
Earlier today, Netanyahu’s legal team asked for the delay, asserting they had not yet received all of the case material from the prosecution.
The Israel Defense Forces says it is adopting stricter restrictions on troops and military installations and is preparing to roll out more as it fears the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
In total, some 2,100 soldiers are currently in quarantine, most of them due to personal trips abroad, including a battalion commander. Another 300 have completed their required two-week isolation and returned to their units. One soldier has so far been diagnosed with the disease.
IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman says the coronavirus has not yet caused a major disruption to the IDF’s activities, though there are concerns that it may in the future.
According to Zilberman, while individual soldiers are being affected by the quarantining, their units are able to continue as normal.
As part of the military’s new limitations, any soldier returning from a trip abroad — regardless of the country — will be barred from their unit for two weeks.
“They don’t need to be in quarantine, but they can’t come to the IDF,” Zilberman says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu leaders Benny Gantz and Avigdor Liberman meet to discuss potential cooperation in attempting to form a government following last week’s election.
No details have emerged from the meeting as of yet.
Some 700 students and teachers from a Jerusalem bilingual school will enter home quarantine after a visit to the West Bank city of Bethlehem due to the rise in coronavirus cases in the city.
Yesterday the Health Ministry said any Israelis to have visited Bethlehem in the past 14 days must enter home quarantine.
In a cryptic tweet, Blue and White chief Benny Gantz says his party “can have a myriad of opinions but there is only one position and one decision — that of the party chief.”
His comments come amid reports that two MKs from the party’s right-wing flank have been told that they will have no place in the centrist alliance if they don’t support a minority government in order to remove Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office and prevent a fourth election.
Two people have been seriously injured and another woman lightly injured in an explosion of an oil tank in Caesarea.
The two seriously injured men were apparently installing the tank for home heating purposes when it exploded for unknown reasons.
The blast occurred near the home of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hamas criticizes the secretive criminal trials in Saudi Arabia of dozens of members and supporters of the Palestinian terror group.
The group, which rules the Gaza Strip, says Saudi authorities detained dozens of “the best of and the most elite of the Palestinian people residing in Saudi Arabia.”
A popular account on Twitter which focuses on the arrests and trials of dissidents reports that the Saudi government is conducting the trials before the Specialized Criminal Court, a secretive tribunal established to try terrorism cases.
The arrests intensified in 2019 and there has been no official comment from the Saudi government on either the arrests or the trials.
Hamas says the detainees, among them some Jordanians, were held for “supporting the Palestinian cause.” Earlier, a Hamas official explained that this means raising funds and soliciting donations.
— With agencies
Though it has said it opposes a delay to the start of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial, the State Prosecution says it has no qualms with Netanyahu being absent from the proceedings on March 17.
Officials say Netanyahu does not necessarily have to give his response to the accusations in next week’s court session, but it does insist on the session being held and future dates being set for the trial’s proceedings.
Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz speaks with representatives of the Arab Joint List amid his efforts to form a government.
Gantz tells Ayman Odeh, Ahmad Tibi and Mansour Abbas he seeks to form a government that will serve all Israeli citizens, Jewish and Arab, and prevent a fourth election.
The Balad party, seen as the extreme wing of the Joint List, was not part of the conversation.
Fear bludgeons financial markets around the world, and stocks, bond yields, and oil plunge on metastasizing worries about the effects of the new coronavirus.
The most violent drops have come from the oil markets, where prices cratered more than 20%. But moves in stocks and bond yields were nearly as breathtaking. In the United States, the S&P 500 plunged as much as 7.4% in the first few minutes of trading, and losses were so sharp that trading was temporarily halted. Stocks trimmed their losses following the halt, and the index was down 5.5%, as of 10:25 a.m. Eastern time.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1,442 points, or 5.5% to 24,434 after briefly being down more than 2,000. The Nasdaq gave up 5.3%.
The carnage in the energy sector was particularly arresting. Occidental Petroleum, Marathon Oil, Apache Corp. and Diamondback Energy each sank more than 40%. Exxon Mobil and Chevron were on track for their worst days since 2008.
All the selling is the result of fear of the unknown. As COVID-19 spreads around the world, many investors feel helpless in trying to estimate how much it will hurt the economy and corporate profits, and the easiest response to such uncertainty may be to get out.
A Jewish Democratic pro-Israel lobbying group has endorsed Joe Biden for president.
Biden “is Democrats’ best hope for retaking the White House from Donald Trump and helping Democrats defeat Republicans up and down the ballot,”says Mark Mellman, president of DMFI PAC,
“As senator and vice president, Joe Biden has proven he will fight for Democrats’ broad vision for America, including a strong US-Israel relationship. Biden is the candidate who will unify the country, and our party, put an end to the hateful divisions created by Donald Trump, and restore dignity and integrity to a White House badly sullied by its current occupant.”
Balad party chief MK Mtanes Shihadeh says he was “not surprised” not to receive a phone call from Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz when he spoke with the leaders of Joint List parties earlier, but appears to hint he could support Gantz’s bid for the premiership regardless.
“We are acting only according to the interests of our voters, first and foremost to bring down [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the racist policy he is leading,” he tweets.
President Reuven Rivlin will hold consultations next Sunday with all political parties elected to the Knesset last week, ahead of tasking an MK with attempting to form a government.
Harel Tubi, director general of the President’s Residence, writes to the parties that Israel “is in a double crisis,” on both the political and health fronts. For this reason, consultations will last one day only, with limited time for each party.
“In accordance with the instructions and recommendations of the Health Ministry, it has been decided that a press center will not be set up at the President’s Residence during the round of consultations and no press — Israeli or international — will be permitted to enter.”
Party representatives’ statements will be broadcast live to the media.
A senior official in the Joint List tells Haaretz that that alliance of Arab parties has agreed on a meeting with representatives of Blue and White.
The meeting will include representatives of the List’s hardline Balad party, despite it being seen as unpalatable to much of the Jewish electorate.
Joint List chief Ayman Odeh says he told Gantz the slate will act “as one united faction” and not as four separate parties.
Two people have died of coronavirus in the western German city of Essen and virus hotspot Heinsberg, officials tell AFP, the country’s first casualties of the outbreak.
In Essen, an 89-year-old woman who was diagnosed with the virus on March 3 died despite medical measures to support her breathing and circulation, while Heinsberg officials said they would discuss the fatal case there at a 6:30 p.m. press conference.
The World Health Organization warns there is now a “very real” threat that the global outbreak of the new deadly coronavirus will become a pandemic, but stresses that the virus can still be controlled.
“The threat of a pandemic has become very real,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells reporters, while stressing that “it would be the first pandemic in history that can be controlled… we are not at the mercy of the virus.”
Two Israelis who recently returned from Switzerland have been diagnosed with coronavirus, the Health Ministry says.
A 38-year-old man flew out on February 23 at 11 a.m. on El Al flight 347LY from Tel Aviv to Zurich, and returned on March 1 at 9:15 p.m. on El Al flight LY344 from Zurich to Tel Aviv.
A 52-year-old man departed on February 29 at 5:20 a.m. on Swiss Air Lines flight LX257 to Zurich and returned on March 2 at 10 p.m. on Swiss flight LX256.
Any Israelis who were on those flights were instructed to enter home quarantine for a period of 14 days since the date of contact with the individuals.
The government is reported to be split on whether Israel should force all arrivals from abroad to self-quarantine, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set to rule on the matter tonight.
The Health Ministry, led by Minister Yaakov Litzman, is insisting that the move is necessary to contain the disease, according to Hebrew media reports. Interior Minister Arye Deri and Economy Minister Eli Cohen have warned of far-reaching consequences for the economy.
During a cabinet session, Deri noted that an instruction to any Israeli who returned from abroad over the past 14 days to enter home quarantine will affect an additional 268,000 people beyond the tens of thousands who are already isolated in their homes.
Cohen said such a move would be “an economic disaster.”
A 42nd coronavirus patient has been diagnosed. He is a 41-year-old man who recently returned from Spain.
He flew out on Feb. 25 on Pegasus flight PC786 to Istanbul at 5:30 p.m. and continued on Feb. 26 on Pegasus flight PC1099 to Madrid at 8:45 a.m.
He returned on a direct El Al flight LY398 from Madrid on March 2 at 11:45 p.m.
All Israeli passengers on those flights were ordered to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days since contact with the patient.
On March 3, the man visited the “Mapalim” event hall in Rishon Lezion at 9 p.m.; on March 4, he stayed at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv between 6:00 a.m. and 4 p.m., and was at the “Shimurei Eichut” supermarket in Holon at 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Israelis who may have had contact with the man during that time may also need to self-quarantine.
Cyprus reports its first two confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, meaning that all 27 European Union member states have now reported infections.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou says the two cases are both Cypriot men who had recently traveled home from overseas, and had been among dozens of people tested.
“Two of… 50 samples were positive, so these are the first cases of the coronavirus in Cyprus… there is no need to panic,” Ioannou tells a press conference early on Monday evening.
After reports that Blue and White representatives will meet with officials from the Joint List including Balad, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says in a video posted to Twitter: “Benny Gantz is sending his envoys to Balad to form a minority government dependent on terror supporters, a government that will be dangerous for Israel.
“That is in direct contravention of our victory, in direct contravention of promises [Blue and White leaders] made.”
In an extraordinary step, the Israeli government has announced that all arrivals from abroad, no matter their port of origin, must self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival.
The decision is not retroactive and is effective immediately.
Channel 12 says thousands of flights are likely to be cancelled, and the practical impact is that Israel will “now be isolated” from the rest of the world.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says of the decision to require quarantine for all arrivels from abroad: “This is a difficult decision, but it is necessary to maintain public health, and public health is above all else.”
He says the decision is in effect for a period of two weeks at this point.
The Finance Ministry assesses the government decision to send all those arriving in Israel under home quarantine will cost Israel some NIS 4.9 billion ($1.4 billion), Channel 12 reports.
All foreign citizens will henceforth only be able to enter Israel if they can meet the requirement of a 14-day home quarantine, the Health Ministry’s director general says.
Others will be turned back.
Government officials are giving conflicting accounts as to when exactly the new quarantine requirements on all arrivals from abroad come into effect.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri tells Channel 12 the decision will come into force in 72 hours. But Health Ministry director general Avi Bar Siman Tov says it is in effect from this moment forward.
The Times of Israel is looking for clarification.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri clarifies that all Israelis arriving in the country from this moment forward must enter a 14-day quarantine.
Meanwhile, the decision to turn back all foreign citizens who cannot home quarantine in the country will enter into effect in 72 hours.
El Al officials tell Channel 12 they recommend Israelis abroad return quickly, as many routes could soon shut down.
Arkia is sending some 180 employees to a non-paid vacation and will cancel most international routes until further notice. Avi Nakash, one of the company’s main shareholders, tells Channel 12: “This is a death blow. There is no more Israeli aviation. Not Arkia, Not El Al, not Israir.”
Israir will also cancel most, if not all, international routes within a week.
Did Israel’s decision to quarantine all arrivals from overseas come just so it could justify isolating those coming from the United States?
Channel 13 reports that US Vice President Mike Pence pressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that if Israel moves to quarantine arrivals from America, it must be part of action affecting the entire world.
Pence reportedly said he understood Israel’s position, but a decision specifically targeting the US — when no other nation has done so — would be ill received in his country.
A cruise ship with a cluster of coronavirus cases that forced it to idle off the California coast for days arrives at a port in the San Francisco Bay Area, as state and US officials prepare to start bringing passengers to military bases for quarantine or get them back to their home countries.
The Grand Princess pulls into the Port of Oakland with more than 3,500 people — 21 of them infected with the new virus. It is unclear how many travelers will get off the ship today. The captain told passengers that not everyone would.
US passengers will be flown or bused from the port — chosen because of its proximity to an airport and a military base — to bases in California, Texas, and Georgia for testing and a 14-day quarantine. The ship is carrying people from 54 countries, and foreigners will be whisked home.
About 1,100 crew members, 19 of whom have tested positive for COVID-19, will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship, which will dock elsewhere, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
The Palestinian Authority security forces have arrested Palestinians who were involved in spreading rumors about coronavirus infections in Bethlehem by way of a WhatsApp voice recording, a PA security source says.
The PA Preventative Security collared Muataz Salim of Dar Salah, a village of east of Bethlehem, after he created the voice recording, in which he feigned being a PA Health Ministry official and spoke about infections in Bethlehem, the security source, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, says in a phone call, without elaborating further on the contents of the audio.
The PA General Intelligence Services also nabbed two Palestinians in Hebron, who received the recording from Salim and sent it to others, the source adds.
— Adam Rasgon