News Nosh 3.23.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Monday March 23, 2020
Quote of the day:
"The main problem with this sudden epidemic is that there is no one to hate, no one to take revenge on, and no obvious enemy to destroy."
--Israeli poet, Yehonatan Geffen, in an Op-Ed in Yedioth.*

You Must Be Kidding: 
Some Israeli backpackers returning from Peru to Israel rioted at the airport when told they must sign a Health Ministry form committing to self-quarantine.**

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • “At the the record points, next winter, there will be thousands of corona patients who will need respirators” - Health Ministry Director, Moshe Bar-Simon, in interview; 1,071 sick in Israel (Hebrew)
  • (IDF) Postponing the draft (Hebrew)
  • Postponing the summer - Attorney General approved postponing summer clock to prevent people from going outside
  • Grandma under closure // Smadar Shir
  • Lieberman: Essential to replace the Knesset Speaker
  • Gantz junction // Nahum Barnea
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • More than 1000 sick; 521 thousand unemployed
  • Deputy director of Health Ministry: “Put things in proportion, people will die from the panic”
  • Charging at the Knesset - Dramatic day in the plenum
Israel Hayom
  • “IDF preparing to take command”
  • Corona commando units - New job at the supermarket: “Distancing responsibility”; Panic at the pharmacy; Rise in domestic violence
  • In the midst of preparation for Tokyo (Olympics), I received a “Stop” // judoka Peter Paltchik
  • “Dismissing (Knesset Speaker) Edelstein will lead to elections”

Top News Summary:
Israeli Health Ministry officials’ predictions of 20,000 dead and a corona climax coming next winter with thousands on respirators, while the number of infected already passed 1,200 and the number of unemployed passed half a million (an all-time record in a country nearing nine million people). The Israeli army offered to manage the crisis, saying it is the only entity in Israel capable of handling an event so "dangerous and complicated,” but Haaretz+ reported that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is controlling it all and sidelining key health ministry professionals. Causing Israel added concern was that Gaza reported its two first corona cases and Israeli doctors called on Israel to help Gaza, warning of the possibility of the collapse of the densely populated Strip, with only 70 intensive care beds and a lack of respirators in a population of over two million. Prof. Eyal Zisser writes in ‘Israel Hayom’ that Israel is responsible for the consequences of the spread of corona in Gaza. (More corona-related news in ‘Corona Quickees’ below.)

The other top story was the big event at the Knesset expected Monday, when the Knesset reconvened, after Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) adjourned it last week, saying it was due to corona virus health restrictions, preventing a vote from being held to replace him as Speaker and from approving the establishment of Knesset committee - most importantly an Arrangements Committee, which will in turn quickly set up an interim Finance Committee and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The High Court ruled last week that, if by Tuesday afternoon there is no subcommittee on secret services set up, the emergency regulations imposed by Netanyahu, which instruct the Shin Bet to collect digital information on corona-infected people and those who were in proximity to them and to forward it to the Health Ministry, will expire. Sunday, at the opening of a High Court hearing of petitions to force Edelstein to hold a vote to replace him, the Knesset legal adviser said choosing a new Speaker now was problematic. Normally, new speakers are chosen after a government is formed. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit wrote “the establishment of committees should not be delayed” and that the Knesset should continue working as usual during the Corona crisis. The High Court said that the health officials' steps to combat corona don't justify the suspension of Knesset activities. Interestingly, former justice minister and a member of Netanyahu's right-wing bloc, Ayelet Shaked (Yamina party), said the Knesset operate despite the corona.

Corona Quickees:
  • Israel Considers Cutting Off Parts of East Jerusalem to Stem Coronavirus Spread - Jerusalem Mayor Leon opposes the move which would sever access to thousands of permanent residents of Israel. Prime Minister's Office says a decision on the matter has yet to be made. (Haaretz+)
  • Senior health official: 20,000 Israelis could die of coronavirus - Health Ministry's deputy director warns Sunday if the epidemic isn't stopped in time, the spread might spin out of control; health authorities order half a million coronavirus testing kits to better map spread across country. (Ynet)
  • Israeli Inmates 'Scared to Death' of Coronavirus Outbreak in Overcrowded, Squalid Prisons - Poor hygiene conditions and no protective gear for guards who come and go from the outside world make prisons a dangerous site for the coronavirus's spread. (Haaretz+)
  • Domestic Violence Cases Climb in Israel as Coronavirus Closure Keeps Families at Home - Shelters expected to reach maximum capacity within days, authorities plan new ones. Requests for help spike amid confinement and economic distress caused by outbreak. (Haaretz+)
  • Because of corona: IDF is preparing to postpone July recruitment - Against the danger of the virus: Hundreds of combat soldiers enlisted in the Golani and Givati infantry brigades yesterday at various centers, with intervals between soldiers and in an open space instead of enclosed buildings. The physical-psychological tests (‘gibushim’) for the reconnaissance units and commandos have now been canceled. The IDF is examining the Ministry of Education's request to postpone the July recruitment due to the postponement of matriculation exams…The encouraging news: This week there will be another big recruitment, and the IDF says there is no drop in motivation to serve in combat units. (Yedioth Hebrew)
  • Attorney General approved the postponement of daylight saving time by a month to prevent walking around the streets - Interior Minister Deri extend the winter time until May 1 to prevent civilians from wandering in the street in the evening. Deri: "I received Netanyahu's agreement in principle.” The Attorney General has approved emergency regulations in principle. (Yedioth Hebrew and Ynet)
  • Israel’s Airlines Called on to Rescue Citizens Stranded All Over the World - But who gets flown and who pays for it depends on the country you’re in and the local coronavirus aviation policies. (Haaretz+, Maariv and Ynet)
  • Stranded: From South America to Asia, 8,000 Israelis Scramble to Get Home as Borders Close - Emergency airlifts have brought some travelers back to Israel as the coronavirus crisis intensifies, but others are still struggling to find a way home. (Haaretz+)
  • **Returned to Israel and refused to self-quarantine - Unbelievable: After efforts were made to bring Israelis stranded in Peru back to Israel, some of them refused to go into isolation and rioted at the airport. The State of Israel, the Foreign Ministry and El Al went out of their way to bring back some 1,100 Israelis who were stuck in Peru. Those Israelis also did not pay a penny for their rescue operation. Now it turns out that after landing in Israel, several dozen refused to sign the Health Ministry pledge form to go into self-quarantine. Some also rioted at the airport. "Nobody is talking about the barrage of curses we have been hit with today. About the fights. The shouting. The arguments. The unwillingness to commit to the Health Ministry's website on a commitment to self-quarantine,” wrote on Facebook D., who received them at the border. "Not to mention that they coughed ‘as a joke’ on the people who brought them into the country." Director of the Population and Immigration Authority, Shlomo Mor-Yosef, said: “I think this is terrible. The state has made a great effort to bring them back. Following the incident, Israelis who refuse to sign the quarantine form won’t be allowed to pass border control. (Yedioth Hebrew)
  • Despite Coronavirus, Diaspora Jews Can Still Come to Israel – if They Make Aliyah - Some 800 immigrants have arrived in the country since beginning of March – 500 of them from Russia; Jewish tourists in Israel can no longer change their status to immigrants. (Haaretz+)
  • 20 people maximum at a wedding, 10 at prayers: the instructions the police received - Police began to enforce the new regulations Sunday morning, but the guidelines are still unclear. Police say they will not be enforced against civilians going to the sea, for example. Other guidelines posted in the document: Dog hairdressers are allowed to operate. (Ynet Hebrew)
  • The regulations went into effect: close the markets, only up to two people in sports training - Sunday morning, the new emergency regulations that the government approved came into effect. The regulations stipulate that it is prohibited for "retail markets open to the general public, as well as a market booths," must not be operated. The municipalities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem claimed that the restrictions were not coordinated with them. (Ynet Hebrew and Ynet English)
  • Police gave out 41 tickets to people refusing to disperse gatherings and to quarantine violators - Police reported that by 2:30 p.m. Sunday, 18 business closure orders were issued, 126 investigations were opened against quarantine violators and 19 investigations opened against Fake News distributors. (Maariv)
  • Israel Police in Lod patrol after citizens (many Arab-Israeli) breaching coronavirus restrictions - Walking down the streets of Lod with his officers, Lod Chief Inspector Roie Salem tries to explain why some parts of the city seem to run as usual. "The city's Arab public is less exposed to the media and therefore is less compliant with the orders," says Salem. "Most of the public complies with the orders, but we know that the infection could spread because of a single business." (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • (The ultra-Orthodox:) Afraid, but steadfast in study (at yeshivas) - The ultra-Orthodox public has been the target of public outrage over media images of them flouting Health Ministry instructions. When, in actuality, they are complying with the regulations – except when it comes to learning Torah. (Israel Hayom)
  • Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox riot in Mea Shearim (Jerusalem) - Ultra-Orthodox organized a violent reception for police, who aided Health Ministry inspectors to enforce the health orders against businesses who violated them. Police were called 'Nazis' and were hit by eggs. Three were protesters were fined 5000 shekels each for being in a crowd of more than 10 people. (Maariv , p. 5)
  • Israel Scrambling for Protective Gear, Emergency Stockpiles, Official Papers Show - ‘There is a "race" for supplies among all the emergency agencies in the country, and suppliers inventory is changing on an hourly basis,’ one request for funding notes. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel using AI to predict spread of coronavirus - New method already gaining worldwide attention, uses public questionnaires to track appearance of symptoms of virus across country; data then analyzed by algorithms to predict where COVID-19 most likely to develop. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Quarantined After Waving at Coronavirus Patient: How Accurate Is Israel's 'Terrorist-tracking' Tech? - The Shin Bet measures tracking coronavirus patients are sending Israelis into isolation with little information and no way to ask, some of whom had no contact with a patient at all. Health Ministry says error was corrected, but people who were mistakenly quarantined claim they received no word. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel's Mass Coronavirus Layoffs Leaving Tens of Thousands Without Jobless Benefits - Pension-age workers, newly released soldiers and foreign guest workers don’t qualify for help when they’re laid off or out on unpaid leave. (Haaretz+)
  • Supreme Court to Begin Live Streaming Hearings After Coronavirus Crisis - As a pilot, journalists at the Supreme Court Sunday were able to watch a closed-circuit broadcast of the petition against the closure of the Knesset by Knesset Speaker Edelstein. (Haaretz+)
  • Which locality has the most people in quarantine and infected (relative to population)? - Settlement of Efrat, located in Gush Etzion, leads with 23 patients infected with the Corona virus, half of whom live in the Tamar neighborhood. In second place is the Orthodox religious community of Kiryat Yearim in the Jerusalem mountains with 25 (now 26) and 6.5% in quarantine. Mount Hebron Local Council has highest percentage under quarantine at 4.9%, while in Modi'in-Maccabim-Reut regional councils there are 3,392 people in quarantine, which is 4.5% - most from the religious Kaiser neighborhood. (Maariv)
  • Israel Mulls Refunding Deduction From Asylum Seekers' Salaries Amid Coronavirus Crisis - With 30,000 suddenly without income, Finance Ministry considers returning all or part of wages taken by state as ‘security deposit.’ (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli couples tying the knot in tiny ceremonies over coronavirus - Roni Ben-Ari and Yonatan Meushar are among the couples to take advantage of Ein Hemed Forest Wedding Venue's special service of free, small-scale weddings for young couples whose planned ceremonies were thwarted by the epidemic. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Palestinian PM orders two-week West Bank lockdown to contain coronavirus outbreak - All residents must home-confine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as PM Shtayyeh urges Israel to provide adequate conditions for Palestinian workers in the country and share responsibility for Jerusalem's Palestinians. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Iran: U.S. Should Lift Sanctions if It Wants to Help Fight Coronaviru - Iran's death toll from coronavirus climbs to 1,812 with 127 new deaths. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Iran Blasts Trump Offer of Coronavirus Aid as White House Divided Over Iraq Missile Attack - Khamenei says U.S. could send medications that spread the coronavirus, as debate rages in Washington over sanction policy. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • War-torn Syria Braces for Lockdown After First Virus Case - Authorities said border crossings with Lebanon and Jordan would close at midday. Damascus Internaional Airport was closed to commercial traffic after a final commercial flight arrived from Moscow. (Agencies, Haaretz and Israel Hayom)


Other Quick Hits:
  • Israeli forces open fire, killing Palestinian throwing rocks in West Bank - IDF says the 32-year-old Sufian al-Khawaja, along with an another man, had been hurling boulders at Israeli vehicles on a nightly basis at Nilin junction in the West Bank. Second perpetrator escaped, reportedly injured, but more huge rocks found in his car, west of Ramallah. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Israeli TV host fired by public broadcaster after online protest against government - Hours after she delivered an impassioned speech at a virtual demonstration against the shuttering of the Knesset and Israel’s courts, Arab Israeli journalist Lucy Aharish was fired Sunday from her position as co-host of a new talk show on the Kan public broadcaster. Kan says termination was not over demonstration. (Haaretz+)
  • Former member of Israel-backed militia killed in Lebanon - Security officials say man gunned down by unknown assailants at his grocery store shortly after Lebanese-American man who belonged to same militia released from prison in Beirut and flown to U.S. (Agencies, Ynet)

A fascinating documentation: A journey among the voters of the Joint List after the huge achievement in the elections
In the recent elections, the Arab sector came together to vote for the Joint List. At the height of the corona panic, residents of the Triangle explain what the party's secret power is, what Netanyahu's part is, and what MK Hiba Yazbak’s status is. (Eyal Levy, Maariv)
Gaza, like you never knew it
For modern-day Israelis, Gaza is synonymous with terrorism and alienation. But Gaza has a long history of a thriving Jewish presence, explains researcher Haggai Hoberman. (Nadav Shragai, Israel Hayom)

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Coronavirus Crisis Accelerates Israel’s Slide Into Erdogan-style Authoritarianism (Yossi Melman, Haaretz+) Israel joins an unsavory club of states led by hard right government weaponizing coronavirus fears to target political enemies and settle old scores.
"Crisis of Humanity": Netanyahu's real spin is meant for the dispute between Gantz and Lapid (Ben Caspit, Maariv) No one should envy Binyamin Netanyahu these days. The pressure on his shoulders is unprecedented. His life's work is drowning in great waters. He wants to finish nicely. He wants unity (government) - whatever it costs. It’s a desperate spin: "It's not a spin," Binyamin Netanyahu pleaded, "It's real ... It's a crisis of humanity ... You have to understand this,” and he tried with all his enormous power to convince viewers of the authenticity of his plea to Benny Gantz to throw off the Kahol-Lavan hot air balloon, the "crazy" - Yair Lapid - and rush "under the stretcher" to save the nation. Could he mean the same Gantz who Netanyahu himself, just a few moments ago, turned into a sex pervert, a stutterer, a loser, a collaborator with Hamas, a psychotic, a man who attends terrorist memorial ceremonies, a man who is hesitant and helpless? Yes, it's the same Gantz. So now it’s the time to stir trouble with all his power, loudly and unabashedly, between Gantz and Lapid. In stirring trouble he is outstanding. By the way, yes, it's a spin. Not because the situation is not an emergency. We are in a real emergency, but not one that requires a national unity government overnight. We are not on the eve of Six-Day-War, we are not in the middle of the Yom Kippur War, we are not debating before the Declaration of the State. We don’t need to send three divisions of the IDF into Lebanon, mobilize reserves or attack in Dahiya (Gaza). The plague must be fought. Most of the work is on the shoulders of the professionals. The disputes are internal. Yes tests, no tests. Nothing beyond that. The opposition does not interfere. Kahol-Lavan does not tweet or undermine government decisions. Even the digital media debate has not really delayed them. Netanyahu's (third consecutive) transitional government enjoys complete freedom of action in the Corona war. No one (other than the media, which is its job) bothers it in its decision making. The main reason why Netanyahu is struggling to drag Gantz under the stretcher is simple: So that he'll have someone to blame for this issue. To have someone to share responsibility for the health (system) failures. So that he won’t be left alone at the top, exposed to criticism that will come at some point - unless the rest of the freedom of speech is taken over by then….
Stop the Shin Bet Surveillance (Haaretz Editorial) The harm to personal rights – in this case the right to privacy – by Shin Bet surveillance, added to the other restrictions on movement, on demonstrating, and who knows what will come next, undermines the basic contract between a citizen and his country. Anyone who believes that these weapons, once the government has used them, will be abandoned when the coronavirus crisis abates is being naïve.
Yes, track them (Shalev Julio, CEO and Founder of NSO, Yedioth Hebrew) The use of technological means in the medical context to monitor the spread of the corona virus raises concerns about privacy. But using it properly and proportionately will not compromise privacy and can save lives. The biggest challenges facing the states today are first and foremost, the correct mapping of the infected, the regulation of the tests, the prediction of the future infection and accordingly to that, active and effective preparation of medical services. The decision approved by the Israeli government allows the Ministry of Health to obtain two critical data to help stem the spread - locating the places where the patients were staying and mapping the people who were in their area. All that is needed to conduct the epidemiological investigation reliably and simply is, in the knowledge of the patient, to access the data of cellular companies and understand relatively simply and reliably where the patient had been in the previous 14 days to discover the disease.
Between being hijacked and unity: The democracy we have to save because of the raging virus (Ben Caspit, Maariv) Israeli democracy is dying under the auspices of Corona. This is the time when you have to fight for it. The battle between the Treasury and the Ministry of Health shows that the opinion is the one who with the opinion is the one managing to scare Netanyahu last.
Netanyahu’s Extortion-by-coronavirus Is by Far His Most Shameful and Least Forgivable Offense (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) The prime minister cites a national emergency to prove the need for unity but will never relinquish his main goal: Avoiding criminal trial.
The ugly zigzag of Kahol-Lavan shows that a unity government is a cowardly way out (Dr. Haim Misgav, Maariv) Those (Netanyahu) who are willing to connect with those (Kahol-Lavan) who want to rob the Jewish people of their national home [reference to Kahol-Lavan connecting with the Joint List - OH] in exchange for a ruling at the helm should not be interlocutors with my (right-wing) camp.
American Jews Don't Care That Israel's Democracy Is Falling Apart (Charles Dunst, Haaretz+) There’s a disconcerting, and indefensible, ‘no comment’ from every major U.S. Jewish group, politician and public intellectual on Netanyahu’s palace coup. The coronavirus crisis isn’t the only reason.
A minority government will unravel Blue and White (Rabbi Dov Fischer, Israel Hayom) Having experienced the revelation that Blue and White reneged on the core promise not to form a government with Arab parties that would destroy Israel, those chastened voters will have to draw conclusions.
Detour required: As the official opposition, the Joint List will give us a hard time (Yitzhak Levanon, Maariv) The establishment of an emergency government or unity government sounds tempting and on the face of it, most desirable. The difficulty with this solution is that the Joint List party, the third largest party, will become the official Opposition with everything this signifies by the law. Regular political briefings by the Prime Minister to the heads of the Joint List on all issues, including providing answers on sensitive issues. Not least is sitting in Knesset security committees on sensitive issues, such as Israel's fight against Hamas, fighting against Iran's establishment in Syria and Lebanon, extremist terror and the Iranian nuclear program. An Opposition such as the Joint List could create problems that will be hard to avoid…If one has to choose between the Joint List in as the formal opposition in the heart of Israeli politics and between the Joint List giving support (to Kahol-Lavan) from the outside, I choose the second alternative.

Other Commentary/Analysis:
Responsibility for Gaza will fall on Israel's shoulders (Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom) Hamas is capable of firing rockets at Sderot, but not caring for its civilian population. Israel is already sending aid, both to help the people of Gaza and to head off domestic and foreign criticism.
Coronavirus confirmed in Gaza: This is what Israel must do – now (Shannon Maree Torrens, Haaretz+) The identification of the first two cases of coronavirus in Gaza is a frightening moment for its inhabitants. But there are immense legal and moral ramifications for Israel, the occupying power.
*When there is no real enemy (Poet Yehonatan Geffen, Yedioth Hebrew) The main problem with this sudden epidemic is that there is no one to hate, no one to take revenge on, and no obvious enemy to destroy. If we knew that the virus was being spread by Iran, Syria or Hamas, we would have attacked them without thinking twice, and now all that's left for the prime minister, the scared king who knew how to draw Iran's nuclear capability with a chalkboard at the UN, is to pose with a shabby Kleenex and to ask not to congregate, not to be old and not to cough. I have often thought that everything that holds this stupid, belligerent, leaderless government together is the enemy we are destined to destroy, and I don't even want to think what will happen here if all of a sudden peace breaks out and there are no more wars. And so, the most powerful army in the world is helpless in the face of an unknown enemy, and how exactly can our forces destroy a mysterious virus that strikes us and the world without mercy, and we have no one to blame, and so little intel? Poor Israel Defense Forces. Poor Ronnie Daniel (Israeli military affairs TV reporter infamous for lack of balance in reporting - OH).
Pandemic is no reason to let Iran off the hook (Jonathan S. Tobin, Israel Hayom) If Iran is suffering from the virus, the blame belongs to terror-supporting theocratic tyrants and Obama's appeasement, not Trump's sanctions.
Economic respirator machine (Sever Plocker, Yedioth Hebrew) If Netanyahu fails to formulate a massive economic rescue plan, it will lead to a historic failure that will never be forgiven. In interviews and speeches, the Prime Minister disseminates dizzying prophecies of destruction. Recently he talked about a global crisis that there was nothing like it since the Middle Ages. But at the same time, Netanyahu voiced his firm opposition to a dramatic increase in the government's budget and a great deal of aid to the economy, claiming that it could cause inflation - a lesson he learned, he said, from the teachings of conservative economist Prof Milton Friedman. The contradiction between the two messages should concern us. For whatever reason, Mr. Netanyahu: Either Israel is galloping toward a biblical disaster, so it is imperative to take all steps to prevent it - or it it needs to save the budget to keep a low deficit and restrain money printing, because there’s a light flickering at the end of the tunnel. The PM's position, which is contrary to the position of the Governor of the Bank of Israel and to the opinion of almost all of the community of economists, is not only wrong. Under the present circumstances, it can cause paralysis and a tragedy forever. Let's look at other countries: In Germany, known for restraining budgetary policy management, the Minister of Finance announced a comprehensive program to save the economy of up to € 600 billion, close to 15% of GDP. But more than the sum is important: the German government is restarting the 2008 fund to buy shares and bonds and provide business credit guarantees to keep them from laying off millions of workers. The German Economy Minister stated: The German government has no red lines and will not hesitate to take over private companies and operate them as government companies. In Trump's US, the White House, Treasury and Congress are working together on an almost $400 billion aid package for businesses, corporations and individuals, about 20 percent of U.S. GDP. The package will include grants, credit guarantees, and the purchase of corporate shares and bonds to save economic and employment activity and to preserve home savings. And us? The government reconciles with the "temporary" dismissal of hundreds of thousands of business sector employees (if the businesses received generous assistance from the state, their employees would go on paid leave), reconciles itself with the absurd budget limit, with severe erosion of public savings and with harm to exports, high-tech, the self-employed and small businesses. The Israeli economy, which is sick with corona, needs an emergency rescue plan immediately, needs a "respirator" on a relative scale equivalent to a US-German ratio of between 150 billion and 200 billion shekels. However, the Prime Minister does not show a willingness to formulate such a plan or even close to it. He intends to aid up to 1.5% of the GDP only, about 20 billion shekels, which is a tenth of what is needed, and he rationalizes his approach with dubious reliance on outdated monetary theories. Likewise, Netanyahu's outrageous economic decisions are influenced by narrow-minded political considerations associated with establishing a new government headed by him. This is a historical failure that is unforgivable.
Coronavirus is not the only deadly disease (Prof. Ariel Finkelstein, Yedioth/Ynet) Many people require ongoing treatment for a host of ailments, but physicians are being told to delay care that Health Ministry officials deem not crucial during a pandemic, and people will die and they too deserve proper care.
Coronavirus and the Jewish community (Isaac Herzog, Israel Hayom) As communities all over the world find themselves paralyzed by their new reality, the Jewish people as a whole and the state of Israel – in particular – must act on the virtue of taking care of each other.
How Special Interests Are Influencing Israel’s Coronavirus Restrictions (Noa Landau, Haaretz+) Away from the public eye, ministers push for exceptions to regulations based on the pressure being brought to bear on them
Coronavirus in Israel Is a Civilian Crisis, but the Army Can Help Turn the Tide (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) The Health Ministry refuses to draw upon the army’s resources, while decision-making on a response to the epidemic is in the hands of a threesome led by Netanyahu.
Will coronavirus drive Israel into a recession?
(Erab Bar-Tal, Israel Hayom) With massive restrictions imposed on the economy is an effort to curb the spread of the virus expected to remain in place at least until after the Passover holiday, experts believe that the damage the move will inflict on the economy could exceed $12.5 billion, bring project growth for 2020 down to zero.
The 'Butcher' Who Fled Lebanon in a U.S. Helicopter (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Who released a former bigwig in an Israel-backed Lebanese militia and allowed the man, accused of torture, to flee to America as the coronavirus sweeps across Lebanon?
Breaking With Tradition, Israel's State Comptroller Won't Examine Coronavirus Crisis in Real Time (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) Insider sources also say the state comptroller, a Netanyahu pick, has softened a number of reports due to come out on Monday.
The long-term consequences of COVID-19 (James Dorsey, Israel Hayom) As the coronavirus spreads, so does its likely political and economic fallout. For authoritarians and autocrats, this could mean complete collapse.
Haaretz and the Coronavirus: How We Are Reporting the News and Staying Safe (Avi Scharf, Haaretz+) Israel is not yet under complete lockdown, and we at Haaretz are ready to continue our journalistic mission and uphold the newspaper’s values at this critical time – not only a health emergency, but also an emergency for democracy during a constitutional crisis.
“We will increase the ability to perform tests immediately"
The Ministry of Health has already prepared a thousand beds for Corona patients, 500 more for the respiratory tract, and they don’t see the end. Last night, Health Minister Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov (MBST) said in a special interview with him on Twitter that only about 500 beds with respirators are available at the hospital right now. MBST explains that the epidemic climax - where thousands of Israelis may need respirators - may only arrive next winter. However, he looks toward Passover with hope and keeps his fingers crossed that after the holiday the situation will change: "I'm assuming that at the climax, there will be thousands of patients who need respirators...I hope the quarantine will conquer the rate of infection, and we will begin to gradually and in a managed way release sector after sector.” (Interviewed by Nadav Eyal in Yedioth Hebrew)
What is the latest scenario - not the horror scenario, but the likely one - by which the health care system is operating? How many patients, and what distribution of the severe cases?
MBST: ”We have many reference scenarios that are constantly being updated. The key question is what will be the number of patients who will need ventilation at the climax. In the end, we will know how to deal with the number of patients. The patients who need ventilation assistance are the challenge. I'm assuming that at the climax, thousands of patients will need respirators.”
A document you issued to hospital and HMO directors on the 19th of the month includes their preparation plan. A total of 664 beds with respirators, aside from intensive care. If the likely scenario is thousands needing respirators, where will there be more beds?
MBST: "We are preparing a lot of beds. Also in general hospitals, geriatric centers and hotels, too, according to the patient's level of acuteness. In addition, we are purchasing more and more respiratory devices.”
On the subject of tests. I talked to a frustrated health care doctor. He has suspected cases, but is told that if the case has no connection with an isolated or ill person and he has not returned from abroad, there is no permission to do a test.
MBST: "We're trying to let go there, too. You understand that there is no possibility to give everyone tests. We've set ourselves a goal of reaching 5,000 and then 10,000, per day. The process will already include more freedom for doctors in hospitals and outpatient clinics. Besides, I think it's important to understand that tests don’t rescue people from quarantine."
Professor Sigal Sadecki, head of public health at the Ministry of Health, explains that it is a matter of access. It is inefficient, in her view. Why shouldn't Israel aspire to extensive testing as much as possible? How do you conquer the epidemic without tests to find the patients?
MBST: "We strive to do more, but realize that the contribution of this will be limited to getting out of isolation. We are also planning to start serological testing (antibody testing) soon with the wave of limitations they have at this time."
The matter is not about leaving quarantine. Quarantined people still infect their household, and also at work, and at the supermarket. If they have symptoms, why wait for them to infect and not do 30,000 tests a day?
MBST: “Speak specifically about who you think we want us to check."
1. Any medical team that shows symptoms at all, even if not exposed to an infected person or to someone in quarantine. 2. Every sick person at an outpatient clinic whom a doctor thinks needs a test 3. A faster test for home quarantined with speedy results, so they can update their chain of people they infected and put them in isolation.
MBST: “I agree about a medical team member with symptoms. This is the plan now. We will release more tests to the community doctors but you realize it can reach tens if not hundreds of thousands a day. For home quarantined - every test done correctly is correct the time of the test. I am very worried it will cause them to go out of isolation before their time is up.“
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.
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