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Closure of Bnei Brak, parts of Jerusalem set to expire, likely won’t be renewed

Health officials encouraged by slowdown of infection in virus hotspots; ministers to meet Monday morning to discuss next steps

Ultra-Orthodox pedestrians cross an Israeli police roadblock in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem  on April 19, 2020.(Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox pedestrians cross an Israeli police roadblock in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem on April 19, 2020.(Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

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

85-year-old woman dies from virus, raising death toll to 166

An 85-year-old woman dies from the coronavirus at Poriya Medical Center in Tiberias, bringing the COVID-19 death toll in Israel to 166.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, the woman was a resident of the Yokra assisted living facility in Yavne’el, making her the 18th person from there to die of the virus.

Likud said to warn Blue and White against advancing bills that would block PM from forming government

Coalition talks between the Likud and Blue and White parties is set to resume this morning.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, Likud has warned Blue and White it will immediately call off the talks if the latter advances legislation that would bar a Knesset member under indictment from forming a government, which would block Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from doing so.

“This is a red line for us,” Likud sources are quoted as saying.

A Channel 12 news report last night said Blue and White chief Benny Gantz told associates that his party and Likud were on the “brink of a deal” to form a coalition, though past reports that the sides were close to an agreement have not come to fruition.

Japan passes 10,000 domestic coronavirus cases

TOKYO — Japan’s health ministry says that 568 new cases of the coronavirus were reported the day before, bringing the domestic total to 10,361. A combined total including 712 others from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year came to 11,073, with 174 deaths.

The number of cases is still relatively small compared to the US and Europe, but that’s only as many as Japan’s limited testing has detected and actual infections are believed to be far more widespread.

Japan has finally started setting up additional testing centers in Tokyo and elsewhere, allowing primary care doctors to send suspected patients directly to testing stations rather than having them go through public health centers to screen eligibility, an earlier requirement that had prevented and delayed testing and treatment of many people.

Experts have noted that their strategy of going after clusters to trace infections is no longer effective to keep up with the surging cases and more tests are needed.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday expanded a state of emergency, which was limited to Tokyo and six other urban areas, to all of Japan, in a bid to prevent further spread of the virus nationwide amid concerns that hospitals are already overburdened with influx of patients.

It took two months for the cases to reach 1,000 since the first case was detected in mid-January, but the spread of the infections has accelerated in recent weeks and the number doubled from around 5,000 in just 10 days.

— AP

PM said to tell ministers that limiting protests would be seen as political

Likud ministers Gilad Erdan and Yuval Steinitz pushed for limiting the number of demonstrators who can take part in a protest, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told them his hands were tied on the matter, Channel 13 news reports.

“That makes sense but if I advance something like this they’ll says it’s political because the demonstrations are against me and therefore I’m prevented [from doing so],” Netanyahu is quoted saying.

So-called black flag protesters have been holding demonstrations over what they say is an erosion of Israel’s democracy under Netanyahu, including a rally last week in Habima Square in Tel Aviv in which organizers said some 2,000 people took part.

96-year-old woman in Netanya dies from coronavirus

A 96-year-old woman dies from the cornavirus at Laniado Hospital in Netanya, raising the death toll to 167.

IDF says it foiled drug smuggling attempt on Lebanon border

The Israeli military says it thwarted a drug smuggling attempt along the Lebanese border on Friday night.

Soldiers on patrol near the town of Ghajjar, which lies directly on the border between Israel and Lebanon, spotted suspects moving toward the frontier. When they reached the security fence, the troops found several bags containing drugs, the Israel Defense Forces says.

“The evidence was handed over to the Israel Police,” the military says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Number of virus cases rises to 13,362; death toll climbs to 171

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel rises to 13,362, an increase of 97 since last night and 158 over the past 24 hours.

The death toll from the virus in Israel is now 171.

The Health Ministry says 156 people are in serious condition, 109 of whom are on ventilators.

Another 140 are in moderate condition and the rest have mild symptoms.

So far, 3,564 have recovered from the virus.

Number of infections rises further in Arab town under lockdown

Bnei Brak continues to have the highest infection rate among communities with over 5,000 people, with 1,181.27 per 100,000 residents of the ultra-Orthodox city.

Deir al-Asad, an Arab town in the north, now has a rate of 715.72 infections per 100,000 people, the second highest in the country.

The town of 12,435, which has been declared a “restricted area,” had the seventh highest rate yesterday.

There are now 89 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Deir al-Asad, an increase of 17 since the day before.

The other communities with the highest infection rates in the country are Kochav Yaakov, Kiryat Ye’arim, Elad, Kfar Chabad, Efrat, Mitzpe Ramon, Migdal Haemek and Modiin Illit.

FM accuses Hezbollah of ‘provocative’ activity, says complaint to be filed at UN

Israel accuses the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah of “provocative” activity along the Lebanese-Israeli frontier and says it will complain to the UN Security Council.

In a statement, Foreign Minister Israel Katz accuses Hezbollah of multiple attempts to breach the border Friday night.

He says Israel “thoroughly condemns” the incident and expects the Lebanese government to prevent such threats.

On Friday night, the Israeli military fired flares along the volatile frontier after signs of a possible border breach. It said it later found damage to its security fence, just inside Israeli territory, in three locations.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 that ended in a stalemate. Under a UN-brokered truce, Hezbollah is barred from conducting military activity along the frontier.

There is no immediate comment from the Iranian-backed terror group. But in recent days, both Hezbollah and the Lebanese government have accused Israel of violating Lebanese airspace.

Last week, Hezbollah said an Israeli drone destroyed one of its vehicles in neighboring Syria, and Lebanon has reported Israeli drones flying over the capital Beirut. Lebanese soldiers also faced off with Israeli troops along the frontier.

— Agencies

Official: All businesses can open after Independence Day if no new rise in infections

Shaul Meridor, head of the Finance Ministry’s budget department, says all businesses will be able to open after Independence Day if there is not a rise in COVID-19 cases before then.

Meridor tells Army Radio that businesses that open will be required to adhere to certain restrictions.

Independence Day this year is on April 29.

Meridor’s comments come as dozens of self-employed workers protest outside the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem over what they say is a lack of government assistance amid the closure of many businesses due to the coronavirus.

Health Ministry document said to define criteria for who gets ventilator in case of shortage

People with severe disabilities who are unable to care for themselves will be the last in line for ventilators if there is a shortage of the machines due to a surge in coronavirus cases, Channel 13 news reports.

Quoting a Health Ministry document, the network says those who were fully healthy before contracting COVID-19 will get first preference, while those with some medical issues who are considered to have a 80 percent chance of survival will also get preference.

As of this morning, there were 109 people in Israel on ventilators, according to Health Ministry data.

The Health Ministry said last month there were 2,864 spare ventilators in the country.

Magen David Adom official: COVID-19 death toll may be higher than official count

An official from the Magen David Adom emergency service says the number of fatalities in Israel from coronavirus may be higher than the official toll of 171.

Dr. Rafael Strugo, the deputy director-general of MDA’s medical division, acknowledges to the Ynet news site that people could have died from the virus at their homes or assisted living centers without being tested and were therefore not included in the official count.

“An elderly person dies at a geriatric center, the nursing staff led by a doctor there declares the death and fills out a death notice. No one checked if [the deceased] died as a result of the coronavirus or if the virus complicated his preexisting conditions,” Strugo says.

He adds: “Also, not everyone who dies at a hospital has a coronavirus test done. Even there we don’t always know if coronavirus led to a deterioration in his health.”

Hamas official says Israel will bear responsibility for virus outbreak in Gaza

The Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group is warning Israel that more medical equipment for dealing with the coronavirus must be brought into the Palestinian enclave.

“Israel will be the one who bears responsibility for an outbreak of the virus in the Gaza Strip and therefore it must make it easier for shipments of aid to arrive and it is the one who needs to send these medical means,” Khalil al-Hayya, the deputy Hamas leader in Gaza, is quoted saying by the Ynet news site.

As of yesterday, there were 13 coronavirus cases in Gaza.

29-year-old with terminal disease dies of COVID-19, Israel’s youngest fatality

A 29-year-old woman suffering from a terminal malignant disease before being infected with the coronavirus died at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem, making her the youngest person in Israel to die of complications from COVID-19.

Self-employed cosmetic workers demonstrate in Tel Aviv

Self-employed cosmetic workers are protesting in Tel Aviv after they were not included in the businesses given permission by the government to reopen.

“We are asking for immediate compensation from the state. If compensation isn’t given we won’t be able to open in another month, people are collapsing,” Yair Kamir, head of the organization Israel Coiffure, tells the Ynet news site.

Demonstrations by self-employed workers are also being held in Haifa and the Upper Galilee, according to the news site.

71-year-old man in north dies of coronavirus

A 71-year-old man dies of coronavirus at Poriya Medical Center in Tiberias, raising the death toll in Israel from COVID-19 to 172.

Germany holds virtual commemorations to mark liberation of concentration camps

BERLIN — Germany is holding virtual commemorations for the liberation of two Nazi concentration camps 75 years ago, as long-planned anniversary events have had to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Before the outbreak occurred, dozens of survivors had planned to attend the ceremonies.

In a video message, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas recalls the over 20,000 people who died at Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin, noting that a minute’s silence for each of the victims would take two weeks.

Many of those killed at Sachsenhausen were Soviet soldiers. The camp was also used to intern Jews, political prisoners, gay people and Jehovah’s Witnesses from more than 40 countries.

The virtual ceremony also commemorates the liberation of nearby Ravensbrueck concentration camp.

Germany’s culture minister, Monika Gruetters, says the current closure of memorial sites due to the pandemic makes it particularly important to hold virtual ceremonies and recall the atrocities committed by the Nazis.

Numerous further ceremonies are being affected by the lockdowns imposed to curb the virus spreading, including the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on May 8.

— AP

A man walks through the gate of the Sachsenhausen Nazi death camp with the phrase “Arbeit macht frei” (work sets you free) in Oranienburg, Germany, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Health official says group sports unlikely to be allowed for another 6 months

The deputy director-general of the Health Ministry says he doesn’t believe group sports that involve physical contact will be permitted for at least another six months, making it unclear when professional sports leagues can resume play.

“I don’t think any significant change should be counted on,” Itamar Grotto tells the Knesset’s Special Committee on Dealing With the Coronavirus.

He also says that if there is no fresh COVID-19 outbreak in the next two weeks, individuals could be permitted to run or do other forms of exercise by themselves at a greater distance from their homes.

“Two weeks is the minimum,” he says.

This morning, the government extended the range Israelis can go on walks or runs to 500 meters from their homes, up from 100.

Spain records large drop in daily virus death toll

MADRID — Spain registers a sharp drop in the daily death toll from coronavirus, with the number falling to 410 from 565.

The total fatalities in Spain, the third hardest-hit country in the world after the US and Italy, have reached 20,453, the health ministry says today. Infections rise to 195,344, with 4,218 new cases in the past 24 hours.

— AFP

Global coronavirus death toll passes 160,000

PARIS — More than 160,000 people have died from the new coronavirus around the world, almost two-thirds of them in Europe, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.

A total of 160,502 fatalities have been registered out of 2,331,318 cases. These include 101,398 deaths and 1,151,820 infections in Europe, the continent hardest hit by the virus.

The United States is the country with the most reported deaths at 39,090, followed by Italy with 23,227, Spain 20,453, France 19,323 and Britain 15,464.

— AFP

Italy to decide ‘in the coming days’ if restrictions to be loosened

ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte is promising a clear indication “in the coming days” of loosened restrictions in the so-called Phase II of the country’s response to the virus outbreak.

It is expected to allow more freedom of movement and an easing of the industrial shutdown.

Conte met with regional governors this weekend and tells the right-wing conservative daily il Giornale in an interview published today that “we are working on some proposals to loosen the measures in a way that we can ‘live with’ the virus in the coming months in conditions of maximum security.”

Italy’s lockdown runs through May 3. Regional governors in the hardest-hit north, which is also the nation’s economic engine, have been pushing to reopen more non-essential industry, which has been on shutdown since March 26.

Schools are expected to remain closed until September, while there is no indication yet of how Italy might be able to relaunch tourism, even domestically.

Conte says it is important to keep the curve of infection down and continue to ease pressure on hospitals and intensive care units.

Italy was the first Western country to be struck by the virus and has registered the most deaths in Europe, at 23,227.

— AP

Number of Jews worldwide nears global Jewish population in 1925

Ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which begins tomorrow evening, the Central Bureau of Statistics releases data on the number of Jews worldwide.

According to the CBS, there were 14.7 million Jews at the end of 2018, just short of the 14.8 million there were in 1925.

The 6.7 million Jews in Israel account for 45 percent of the world population.

The United States has the second largest Jewish population at 5.7 million, followed by France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Russia, Germany and Australia.

Knesset gives OK for MKs with virus or in quarantine to take part in committee meetings remotely

The Knesset Arrangements Committee gives the green light for lawmakers who have the coronavirus or in self-quarantine to take part in committee meetings by videoconference.

“On the matter of voting from afar, we’ll need to amend additional ordinances or solve the issue with legislation,” says Blue and White MK Avi Nissenkorn, who heads the committee.

Coalition talks between Likud, Blue and White said to resume

Coalition negotiations between the Likud and Blue and White parties have resumed, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Iranian FM Zarif to meet with Assad in Syria

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus tomorrow, Tehran says, in what would be their first official meeting in a year.

Zarif plans to travel to Damascus for a one-day visit to discuss bilateral relations, regional developments and Syria’s “fight against terrorism,” the foreign ministry says in a statement today.

Zarif will also meet his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem, it adds.

Iran, along with Russia, is one of the Damascus government’s main allies in the war that has ravaged Syria since 2011.

Zarif previously met Assad during a visit to Damascus in April last year.

The Syrian conflict has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions.

— AFP

Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Damascus, Syria, September 3, 2018. (SANA via AP)

Cabinet expected to allow Health Ministry to receive donations of medicine, protective gear

The cabinet is expected to give approval today for donations of protective equipment, ventilators and medicine to the Health Ministry.

One of the donations reportedly includes 100,000 face masks and 1,000 protective suits from the China-Israel Changzhou Innovation Park, according to Channel 12 news.

Another reported donation waiting approval is 2 million tablets of hydroxychloroquine from Teva Pharmaceuticals with an estimated worth of $300 million.

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malaria drug that has been touted by US President Donald Trump, though some medical experts have questioned its efficacy in treating COVID-19.

Internal probe opened into police hurling of stun grenade that hurt 9-year-old girl

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department has opened an investigation into an incident last week in which a 9-year-old girl was injured by a smoke grenade thrown by officers during clashes in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood, according to Hebrew media reports.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard acknowledges encounter with US warships during drill

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard acknowledges it had a tense encounter with US warships in the Persian Gulf last week, but alleges without offering evidence that American forces sparked the incident.

The incident Wednesday saw the US Navy release video of small Iranian fast boats coming close to American warships as they operated in the northern Persian Gulf near Kuwait, with US Army Apache helicopters.

In the Guard’s telling, its forces were on a drill and faced “the unprofessional and provocative actions of the United States and their indifference to warnings.” It says the Americans later withdrew.

The Guard releases no video or evidence to support its allegation. It also accuses American forces of blocking Iranian warships on April 6 and April 7 as well.

AP

Driving lessons and tests to resume, minister says

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich says driving lessons and tests will resume Monday.

Teachers will be expected to adhere to special hygiene procedures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, he says.

He says there are 4,100 driving teachers across the country whose jobs have been put on ice due to the pandemic, and tens of thousands of students.

President speaks to business owners protesting outside his home

President Reuven Rivlin speaks to some business owners and freelancers who protested outside his residence over what they said was the government’s failure to support them.

“I heard the protest of the self-employed outside Beit HaNasi [the President’s Residence] and invited its leaders to come and talk. This is an emergency and I promised them, and all self-employed people, that policy-makers will hear what they say. We need to see the big picture without abandoning anyone,” he tweets.

A photo shared by the president, 80, shows the talks being held with all present wearing masks.

With 596 new deaths, UK’s virus death toll surges past 16,000

The number of people in Britain who have died in the hospital from the coronavirus has risen by 596 to 16,060, according to daily health ministry figures.

“As of 5 pm on 18 April, of those hospitalized in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 16,060 have sadly died,” says the ministry, up from 15,464 earlier.

AFP

Hospital to begin treating virus patients with cannabis

Ichilov Medical Center will begin administering medicinal cannabis to coronavirus patients in moderate condition, as part of an experimental treatment, Channel 12 reports.

Doctors are seeking to use the antiviral properties of cannabis to slow the spread of the virus, it says.

Business owners rally in Jerusalem, demand more gov’t support

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid joined a rally outside the Knesset earlier today of business owners and freelancers who say the government must do more to bail them out as their financial losses mount due to the pandemic.

“They [the protesters] didn’t keep two meters’ distance, but for the self-employed I am willing to take the risk,” he tweets. “They’re angry, they’re yelling, and they’re right. The government ruined their lives without stopping to think what it’s doing to the economy and what it’s doing to them and their families. We must help them and fast.”

Demonstrations were held outside the parliament and President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

MK Yair Lapid at a rally of self-employed people calling for financial support from the government outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, on April 19, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

42 of Israel’s virus deaths were residents of Jerusalem

According to Health Ministry data, 42 of the country’s virus fatalities were residents of Jerusalem, the most for any city.

There have been 171 deaths in Israel from the coronavirus. Jerusalem is Israel’s largest city.

The next highest rates were recorded in Bnei Brak and Beersheba, which each had 13 deaths.

The city of Bat Yam came third, with 12 fatalities.

The average age of the virus victims is 82, with the youngest casualty aged 29 and the oldest 98.

As rules relaxed, Western Wall open only to residents of Old City

As Israel eases its virus restrictions, the Western Wall will be open for prayer for residents of Jerusalem’s Old City only.

The foundation that oversees the holy site says it is cordoning off various prayer areas to hold up to 19 people keeping a two-meter distance between them. This is in accordance with the new government regulation that permits group prayer of up to 19, with social distancing and provided all worshipers wear a mask.

“Please note that prayer at the Western Wall is still only allowed for those people who live within 500 meters of the Western Wall Plaza, meaning – only residents of the Old City of Jerusalem. Roadblocks have been set up at the entrances to the Old City and the police are not allowing anyone who is not a resident to enter,” it says.

Pence says 150,000 tests being conducted daily in US

US Vice President Mike Pence says 150,000 coronavirus tests are now being conducted daily in the US but suggests that governors and not the federal government are to blame for numbers not being higher.

Pence tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” that, “if states around the country will activate all of the laboratories that are available in their states, we could more than double that overnight.”

He says the nation has “sufficient testing today” for states to begin reopening their economies as part of the initial phases of guidelines the White House released this week.

Governors from both parties have said that while they do have more labs that could increase testing in many areas, they often are unable to do so because of federal delays.

AP

Iran says virus deaths rise by 87 to 5,118

Iran announces 87 new deaths from the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the official toll to 5,118, as it takes steps to reopen the economy.

It is the sixth consecutive day that Iran has announced a death toll under 100, though today’s toll was 14 higher than the day before.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour says 1,343 new infections had been confirmed, taking the total to 82,211.

Of those admitted to hospital, 57,023 have recovered and been discharged, while 3,456 remain in critical condition.

The Islamic Republic has struggled to contain what is the Middle East’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak since reporting its first cases on February 19.

Some officials and health experts in Iran and abroad have said the country’s casualty figures may be higher than those declared.

AFP

Gantz said threatening shuffle of judicial appointments panel

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is reportedly threatening to push for a reshuffle of the Knesset’s judicial appointments panel, in a move designed to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into signing a unity government deal.

Gantz is warning that should the talks fail to yield a government and fourth elections are held, he’ll move up the vote on the key committee before the national vote.

During coalition talks, Netanyahu’s party was previously said to have demanded veto rights in the judicial appointments committee, or that decisions only pass with a majority of eight out of nine members. Those demands were then shelved — with the parties agreeing that any decisions be made in agreement — before Likud was reported to have gone back on the matter, leading negotiations to stall.

The negotiations are ongoing.

Germany holds drive-in concert

Music fans in Cologne, Germany, were permitted to attend a live concert over the weekend — provided they didn’t leave their cars.

According to reports, some 250 vehicles were permitted to enter the Brings concert.

The music was transmitted to the car radios, like drive-in movies.

Germany has seen over 4,500 deaths and more than 144,000 coronavirus infections.

 

87-year-old woman dies of virus in Bnei Brak

An 87-year-old woman has died of the coronavirus at Bnei Brak’s Maayanei Hayeshua Medical Center.

She is the country’s 172nd victim of the virus.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising memorial scaled down due to virus

Sirens wail and Jewish prayers are said for the heroes of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising, but the annual memorial observances are scaled down and move to the internet because of the coronavirus pandemic and the need for social distancing.

Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, recites prayers at the monument to the ghetto fighters in downtown Warsaw.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and representatives of Jewish and Polish organizations lay wreaths. They are all wearing face masks and keep a distance from each other. President Andrzej Duda and Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski also send wreaths.

History lectures and virtual visits to ghetto sites are offered on the internet, mainly by the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which faces the monument to the ghetto heroes. Commemorative concerts are to be broadcast on Radio POLIN and on Poland’s state radio.

Museum director Zygmunt Stepinski says that the coronavirus pandemic “has forced us to change the formula” of the commemorations on the 77th anniversary.

On April 19, 1943, a few hundred poorly armed Jewish fighters put up resistance to the Nazi German army that started to “liquidate” the ghetto, sending the remaining inhabitants to the Treblinka death camp and razing their houses to the ground. The fighters held out almost a month in what was the first city revolt of World War II. They almost all died and the Germans destroyed the ghetto.

AP

Europe records over 1 million virus cases

The European Center for Disease Control says the continent now has more than 1 million confirmed cases and almost 100,000 deaths from the new coronavirus.

According to a tally posted on the ECDC website Sunday, Spain had the most cases in the region with 191,726, followed by Italy, Germany, Britain and France.

It lists Italy as having the most deaths in Europe, with 23,227, followed by Spain, France, Britain and Belgium.

According to the tally, Europe accounts for almost half the global case load and more than half the total deaths.

AP

White House, Democrats ‘very close’ to deal to aid virus-hit businesses

The White House and congressional Democrats say they could reach agreement soon on expanding funds to small businesses devastated by the coronavirus, with Democrats hoping to add money for hospitals, testing and state governments.

“We’re very close,” US Vice President Mike Pence tells talk show “Fox News Sunday” about negotiations on replenishing the Paycheck Protection Program whose entire $349 billion funding was exhausted by last Thursday.

“We’re going to work to expand that so that no one working in a small business in America would have to worry about missing a paycheck.”

US President Donald Trump has insisted his administration will do right by millions of American families and businesses ravaged by a pandemic that has infected 735,000 people in the United States, 39,000 of whom have died.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expresses hope a deal could be reached and passed by Congress in the coming days.

“I think we’re very close to a deal today,” Mnuchin tells CNN’s “State of the Union,” as he put forward a new target number of $300 billion, beyond the $250 billion under discussion last week.

Mnuchin says the White House has also agreed to add $75 billion to hospitals and first responders, and $25 billion to ramp up virus testing — clear wins for Democrats.

AFP

Health Ministry admits 19 false positives in virus tests

The Health Ministry says 19 virus tests results, conducted at a Weitzmann Institute of Science, falsely came back positive.

It announces the mistake after running the tests again at different labs.

France virus deaths near 20,000 mark

France reports 395 deaths from COVID-19 in 24 hours as the number of new hospitalizations continued a slow decline.

The new deaths — 227 in hospitals and 168 in nursing homes — brings France’s total epidemic death toll to 19,718, top health official Jerome Salomon tells reporters.

AFP

Liberman to Gantz: Netanyahu won’t sign a coalition deal

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman is pressing Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who is also interim Knesset speaker, to advance a series of laws that would prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government.

“Benny Gantz, this is your moment of truth. As someone who knows Netanyahu better than anyone, I asses that he won’t sign a coalition deal with you, not today and not tomorrow. Meanwhile, all he’s done is buy time.”

Liberman urges Gantz to advance bills that would disqualify candidates facing criminal charges from forming a coalition, effectively knocking Netanyahu out of the running, as well as legislation to annex the Jordan Valley.

Coalition talks between Gantz’s Blue and White and Netanyahu’s Likud are ongoing.

Unemployment rises to 26%; 1,093,465 people out of work

Unemployment in Israel rises to 26.25 percent, or 1,093,465 people, Channel 12 reports.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, unemployment in Israel was at a record low of under 4%.

Virus outbreak in New York ‘on the descent,’ says governor

The coronavirus outbreak in New York — epicenter of the epidemic in the United States — is “on the descent,” Governor Andrew Cuomo announces.

“We are past the high point, and all indications at this point is that we are on the descent,” Cuomo tells a press conference.

“Whether or not the descent continues depends on what we do, but right now we’re on the descent.”

AFP

Treasury said to support reopening hair salons

Finance Ministry and Economy Ministry officials support the reopening of hair salons and other beauty treatments as coronavirus lockdown rules are rolled back, according to Channel 12.

The network says these businesses could be permitted to reopen in the next two weeks, despite health officials’ insistence restrictions would not be further relaxed during that time.

Other street-front businesses were permitted to reopen on Sunday, with hygiene conditions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Hundreds gather at Tel Aviv rally against Netanyahu

Hundreds of protesters are gathering in Rabin Square for a “black flag” demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh are expected to address the rally.

Protesters are staggering to keep social distancing, according to photographs from the protest.

Education minister says school year to continue through July

Education Minister Rafi Peretz says the school year will be extended to July, with summer vacation in August.

“There will be no alternative but to extend studies into July,” he tells Channel 12. “It cannot be that everyone will return to work and the teachers will go on vacation.”

It is unclear when schools will reopen.

 

Lapid accuses Netanyahu of destroying Israel’s democracy, with Gantz’s backing

Addressing a protest in Tel Aviv, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid accuses Netanyahu of destroying Israeli democracy and his former ally Benny Gantz of enabling it to happen.

“They are fighting to get into the government,” his says of his former partner. “Telling themselves stories. They say, ‘We’ll fight from the inside.” You won’t fight from the inside. You don’t fight corruption from within. If you’re inside, you’re part of it.

“A person with indictments can’t appoint a police chief, a state prosecutor, an attorney general, the judges who will deal with his case. That is Netanyahu’s list of demands. Those that give in to those demands aren’t an opposing voice, they are just decoration…

“That’s how democracies die in the 21st century. They’re not wiped out by tanks overrunning parliament. They die from within. Five years ago, Turkey was still a functioning democracy. Four years ago, Hungary was still a democracy. They died from within. Because good people were silent and weak people surrendered.”

He vows he will “never surrender.”

As unity talks between Gantz and Netanyahu continue, Lapid derides the effort.

“The government being formed isn’t an emergency government or a national unity government. It is the fifth Netanyahu government. In the negotiations, they didn’t even talk about the coronavirus. They didn’t talk about the economy. They talked about themselves. About their jobs. Those who broke up Blue and White and defrauded us are going to sit under a man indicted for fraud. Those who breached our trust, are going to sit under a man indicted for breach of trust. Those who were bribed with jobs and perks, are going to sit under a man indicted for bribery.”

Netanyahu faces bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges in three cases.

Number of protesters said to rise to 2,000

Hebrew media is reporting that the number of protesters at the rally against Netanyahu and corruption has surpassed 2,000.

Trump’s lockdown exit plan ‘delusional,’ say opponents

US President Donald Trump’s administration clashes with state governors on Sunday, over lifting coronavirus lockdowns, in a standoff embittered by his support for protests against the restrictions.

Vice President Mike Pence said that every US state has the ability to do enough testing to allow preliminary re-opening of the economy and a partial restart of normal life in America.

But some state governors say testing capacity is far behind levels needed to avoid sparking new outbreaks of the virus.

The United States has so far recorded 735,000 coronavirus cases — the highest number of any country — and registered 39,000 deaths.

“We believe the testing that we have today… once we activate all of the labs that can do coronavirus testing, is sufficient for any state in America to move into phase one,” Pence tells FOX News Sunday.

“Phase one” ends stay-at-home restrictions for healthy people, and allows restaurants, cinemas, sporting venues, places of worship, and gyms to re-open with physical distancing.

“We have every confidence that we can have a sufficient amount of testing to be able to re-open America,” Pence says, vowing to double the numbers of tests.

But Virginia Governor Ralph Northam pushes back at the Republican administration’s claims that there was enough testing, saying, “That’s just delusional.”

Gretchen Whitmer, Democratic governor of Michigan, says, “We could double or even triple the number of tests that we’re executing daily if we had the swabs and reagents,” and calls for more federal government help.

As the US struggles to quell the mounting death toll, political battle lines are also being drawn ahead of the November election as Trump seeks to reduce damage to his chances of holding onto office.

AFP

Sobbing felafel store owner becomes face of pandemic’s economic toll

As Israeli business owners hit hard by the pandemic slowly reopen their shops, a sobbing felafel store owner tells Israeli television that he has been devastated financially from the crisis and can no longer feed his children.

“Look at my wallet, it’s empty,” Yuval Carmi of Ashdod tells Channel 13, pulling out his wallet. “I don’t have a shekel in my pocket.”

“I’m embarrassed, from my children, to tell them I have nothing I can buy for you. I have nothing to give them. I have nothing to give them to eat.”

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do,” he says, crying and then apologizing for his tears.

Yuval Carmi, a felafel store owner in Ashdod, has been hit hard by the pandemic. (screen capture: Channel 13)

The TV report describes Carmi as the face of the economic devastation being wreaked in Israel by COVID-19, a man whose anguished pleas “within hours have turned him into the symbol of the economic collapse… a man who paid his taxes for years and provided honorably for himself and his family, and who, with his business in ruins, doesn’t understand why the state isn’t helping him.”

The TV station filmed him earlier in the day, and screens a longer story on him during the primetime news.

Yuval Carmi in his felafel store in Ashdod. April 19, 2020 (screen capture: Channel 13)

It says Carmi stood quietly when the TV station’s camera crew arrived, “and just asked to be allowed to tell his story.” As they started filming, Carmi reports that a customer had just arrived, but the police had prevented him from serving him, because falafel stands, like all restaurants are not allowed to serve customers but only to deliver food, “and I’m not set up to do deliveries.”

He says he reopened his small store this morning, believing that the newly eased COVID-19 restrictions meant he was allowed to do so, but that the police have told him he can only do deliveries. “It’s falafel,” he wails. “Falafel has to be eaten hot and fresh.”

He says he pays NIS 12,000 shekels (some $3,500) a month in rent, but now has no more money. When he tried to order from his suppliers after the Passover festival, he says, they refused to supply him. “I have a family, I have children at home, I don’t know what to do,” he says.

Carmi says he is not looking for handouts, but merely wants to earn an “honorable living.”

“I didn’t receive any money from the state. My whole life, I’ve paid national insurance, income tax. Everything, everything on time. I made an honorable living.”

Asked why doesn’t ask for a government-arranged loan, he says “it’s impossible to get hold of them.” From watching TV, “you’d think we’ve been given millions,” he says. “Not a shekel. Nothing. Nothing. I want to set myself on fire. I don’t know know what to do.

“I’m embarrassed to go home. Embarrassed to speak to my wife. What can I bring them? My daughter gave birth two months ago. I couldn’t even buy a present for the baby. What’s left for me in this country? What kind of a country is this?”

“I’m sorry for crying,” he then tells the reporter. “It’s not nice. It’s not nice for me to be seen crying like this…. I love this country. I’m 56 years old and I still do (IDF) reserve duty.”

He says he’s never had a check bounce, but now has debts of NIS 65,000 (some $18,500) having been required to close the store amid the pandemic.

He asks the TV crew to come into the store and eat some falafel. “By this stage, our whole crew was in tears,” the reporter says — “for Yuval and thousands like him, wondering why the state isn’t helping them in their hardest hour.”

She says people have been phoning the TV station since its first report on him went out earlier in the day, offering donations, but he doesn’t want to take them.

A second crew now interviews Carmi, who says “I thank the people of Israel but I don’t want donations. I just want to make an honorable living.”

The most moving call he’s had, he says, is from someone who saw him giving a group of soldiers at his stand free meals two months ago. “This person asked to pay for the meals. I told him, no. ‘It’s my mitzvah (good deed) to give free’.”

He urges the prime minister and the government to “take care of the small businesses.”

Over one million Israelis have registered for unemployment since the outbreak began. Netanyahu has highlighted loans and grants available for suffering businesses, but there has been a flood of criticism that the ostensible financial support is almost impossible to obtain.

Number of coronavirus cases in Israel rises to 13,491

The number of coronavirus cases rises to 13,491, according to a Health Ministry update.

There have been 172 deaths from the virus.

Of those sick, 146 are in serious condition, 109 of them on ventilators.

Another 142 are in moderate condition and the rest are displaying mild symptoms.

According to the figures, 3,754 people have recovered from the virus.

Minnesota high school students mock Jews being sent to Auschwitz in TikTok video

Two Minnesota high school students are criticized for sharing a video titled “Me and the boys on the way to camp,” which photoshops them dancing in a Nazi boxcar and happily skipping into Auschwitz, on the video social media platform TikTok.

The video contains humorous music, the lyrics of which include, “Tell everybody I’m on my way.”

In response, the Minnetonka High School in Nicollet, Minnesota, where the two boys shown in the video are students, assigned a research paper, entitled “Hitler’s Final Solution at Auschwitz.”

Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, says in a statement that he is “ increasingly concerned about a grave empathy deficit, which enables students and others to weaponize their knowledge about the Holocaust to insult the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, and further traumatize Jews, at a time when we are experiencing a demonstrative increase in anti-Semitism.”

Hunegs praises Nicollet Public Schools Superintendent Denny Morrow for the “seriousness” with which he has approached the incident.

JTA

High Court discrimination petition targets government’s all-male coronavirus panel

The High Court of Justice has ordered the state to respond to a petition alleging discrimination over the government’s failure to have women on its panel of experts dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

The state must respond in 10 days to the petition, which is filed by a coalition of civil rights groups.

Partial closure of Bnei Brak, Jerusalem neighborhoods set to expire

Emergency regulations with specific lockdown measures for residents of the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak and many Jerusalem neighborhoods is set to expire at midnight.

It is not expected to be immediately renewed by the government. A cabinet meeting is set for Monday at 10 a.m. to discuss the issue.

The special measures kept residents of Bnei Brak under a tighter lockdown, and prevented many Jerusalem residents, mostly in predominantly ultra-Orthodox areas, from leaving “zones” demarcated by the authorities.

The two areas have seen high rates of coronavirus infection, but health officials have been encouraged by the effects of the containment measures and willingness of sick residents to be moved to isolation hotels.

Residents of the Jerusalem neighborhoods will now be under the same restrictions as the rest of the country, which keep them within 100 meters of their homes, with exceptions of purchasing food, supplies, outdoor exercise, and going to work.

US coronavirus deaths surpass 40,000

The number of deaths from the new coronavirus in the United States tops 40,000 on Sunday, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.

It shows the number of fatalities countrywide at 40,585, with almost half of them in New York.

AFP

Virus victim named as Holocaust survivor, 96, who met the pope

The Yad Vashem museum identifies a coronavirus victim as Holocaust survivor Eliezer (Lolek) Grynfeld, 96.

The Polish-born Grynfeld died last week, it says, and is survived by his wife, two children, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

“During the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto in August, 1944, Eliezer worked in forced labor and, along with his mother, were deported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Upon arrival, he was separated from his mother, who was sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Eliezer was later taken on a death march and along with other inmates escaped before joining up with Soviet forces and helping as a translator,” says Yad Vashem.

“After the war, Eliezer returned to Lodz, where he was reunited with his mother. He decided to immigrate to Israel, but was stopped in Germany by the Allies who put him in a Displaced Persons camp where he met his wife Rachel. Eliezer fell ill in the DP camp and his mother came and took him with her to Poland, with Rachel joining him a year later. He eventually immigrated to Israel, in 1956, with his wife Rachel, and worked in the military industry.”

During Pope Francis’s 2014 visit, Grynfeld was among the six survivors who greeted the pontiff at Yad Vashem.

Pope Francis kisses the hand of a Jewish man at the Hall of Remembrance during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, May 26, 2014. (AP /L’Osservatore Romano)

Global coronavirus death toll climbs to 164,016

The worldwide death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic rises to 164,016 on Sunday, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1900 GMT.

More than 2,363,210 declared cases have been registered in 193 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December.

Of these cases, at least 525,200 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Many countries are testing only the most serious cases.

In the United States, the worst-hit country, the death toll stands at 40,585 with 742,442 infections. At least 67,052 patients have recovered.

Italy is the next most-affected country with 23,660 deaths and 178,972 confirmed infections.

It is followed by Spain with 20,453 fatalities and 195,944 confirmed infections, France with 19,718 deaths and 152,894 infections and Britain with 16,060 deaths and 120,067 cases.

AFP

Israel set to mark its first virtual Holocaust Remembrance Day

Israel on Monday night and Tuesday will solemnly mark its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, though all events and ceremonies will be moved online due to the pandemic.

The annual ceremony at the Yad Vashem memorial has been pre-recorded.

In lieu of in-person survivor testimony, the museum is directing Israelis to peruse its digital resources on the Holocaust and many Israelis are expected to attend videoconference testimonies later in the evening.

Holocaust survivors have been among the 172 fatalities of the virus in Israel, including Eliezer Grynfeld, 96, who greeted Pope Francis at Yad Vashem in 2014.

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