Archive for March 2020

IDF chief in quarantine after contact with coronavirus sufferer

March 31, 2020

Source: IDF chief in quarantine after contact with coronavirus sufferer

Aviv Kochavi attended debate 10 days ago with individual later confirmed to have been infected; heads of Home Front Command and Operations Directorate also present and also in isolation until the weekend

Ynet|
Published: 03.31.20 , 16:42

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi on Tuesday went into isolation after it emerged that he had attended a debate 10 days ago at which a coronavirus sufferer was also present.

In line with Health Ministry directives, the military leader’s isolation will last until the weekend, which will be 14 days after he had contact with the individual.

תוכנית תנופה של אביב כוכבי

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)
Kochavi is in quarantine at his office and from there will continue with his regular schedule. An IDF spokesman said that the chief of staff felt good, had no symptoms and would be examined Tuesday.
The head of the IDF Home Front Command and the head of the IDF Operations Directorate were also present at the debate.

 

US expert: Israeli response to coronavirus crisis is ‘right on target’

March 31, 2020

Source: US expert: Israeli response to coronavirus crisis is ‘right on target’ | The Times of Israel

Compared with the decentralized health system in the US, the Jewish state’s reaction to COVID-19 has been relatively swift and well-organized, says data scientist Dr. Martin Zand

Dr. Martin Zand (left) works with Jiong Wang, B.Med, M.S., research assistant professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. (Courtesy University of Rochester Medical Center)

Dr. Martin Zand (left) works with Jiong Wang, B.Med, M.S., research assistant professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. (Courtesy University of Rochester Medical Center)

When American medical expert Dr. Martin Zand visited Israel recently, the first coronavirus cases in the country were being diagnosed and publicized. He got on a plane back to the United States shortly afterwards, but he’s kept thinking about the COVID-19 pandemic, and the responses to it in both the US and Israel.

Zand is tackling the pandemic from many angles at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York. A practicing physician, he is the medical center’s senior associate dean for clinical research, as well as the co-director of its Clinical and Translational Science Institute. He coordinates the center’s research response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He described his role in a phone interview with The Times of Israel as “a combination between an air-traffic controller and a matchmaker,” adding, “I match needs with resources, trying to harmonize these efforts.”

Asked how he keeps himself calm, Zand said that “you have to remain calm in order to be effective and get things done. Pray for the best possible response in bringing cutting-edge therapies to our community and national efforts. Panic is not going to help.”

Zand stayed with family during his visit and he’s been able to continue monitoring the COVID-19 responses in both the US and Israel.

“From what I can see from the news, the response in Israel has actually been right on target,” Zand said. “Social distancing, travel restrictions, the testing and the hospital preparedness, the national response has all been very good.”

He’s a little more critical when it comes to the US. He says there is a “national shortage of a whole variety of supplies for COVID-19 testing.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to the media at the Javits Convention Center, which is being turned into a hospital to help fight coronavirus cases, on March 24, 2020 in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images/AFP)

Dramatically, in a press conference on March 25, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pleaded with the Trump administration to send badly-needed ventilators to help his state, which he called “the canary in the coal mine.”

“We have the highest and the fastest rate of infection,” Cuomo said. “Deal with the issue here. Deploy the resources. Deploy the ventilators here in New York for our apex. And then, after the apex passes here, once we’re [past] that critical point, deploy the ventilators to the other parts of the country where they are needed.”

Asked about such a system of sequential sharing, Zand said that its concept “is to make sure we shift resources to places that have the most need,” and that his labs have shifted to provide reagents for tests.

He said there is “a national shifting in the US of resources,” and although he has “not been involved in these discussions,” he said, “I know there is coordination in the Rochester health care system to make sure that everyone has adequate resource bases to take care of patients, and at this point there were some discussions about shifting resources to other parts of the country.”

A Samaritan’s Purse crew works on building an emergency field hospital equipped with a respiratory unit in New York’s Central Park across from the Mount Sinai Hospital, Sunday, March 29, 2020. (AP/Mary Altaffer)

Pros and cons of centralized health care

Zand feels that the decentralized American system of state and county government sometimes works to the nation’s disadvantage. He notes that states and counties all have their own departments of public health, “and at a national level, you don’t have an overruling coordinator of those state efforts in the same way that Israel does.”

According to Zand, “I think the most important contrast between Israel and the US health care system with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic is that Israel has a centralized health care system as well as a central public health care system. That has really helped coordinate the response across the country.”

He said that there are also efforts being coordinated in the US, “but it’s easier to achieve synchrony when you have an integrated national public health system.”

One way Zand sees this reflected in the two countries is in terms of social distancing. He explained that “in the US, because there’s no centralized public health system, social distancing measures are being adapted or defined differently by states.”

He cited “nuances of social distancing in different areas, attempts to deal with hardships of social distancing, especially for people who are involved in critical industries or health care during the crisis and need to work.” And, he asked, “what do you do for single parents who have children at home? How do you work from home when taking care of your elderly family members? … I think we’re all struggling with it.”

Police patrol on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem on March 28, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yet, he said, social distancing is one of the “essential pieces” in fighting the virus, a practice that is “really widely accepted and recognized,” along with sheltering in place, maintaining a distance of two meters from people outside, hand-washing, only going out for groceries, medical care or medications, and closing all nonessential businesses in high-risk areas.

“That’s certainly what Israel did early,” Zand said. “Those are a good thing.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will follow social distancing even in Israel’s centralized system, he notes.

Israeli police officers seen raiding the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, closing shops and dispersing public gatherings in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus, March 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“It’s going to depend on what the local character of social distancing is,” Zand said, “how often people take that guidance. Social distancing is only as good as the individuals who adhere to it. These kinds of local, regional differences make a difference in how effective it is, how the virus spreads in different regions in Israel.”

Whether it’s a centralized or decentralized system, whether in Israel or the US, Zand recommends following basic guidelines.

“If I had one message to leave to you,” he said, it’s that there is “hope for vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, but it’s going to take a while. We really need to focus on slowing this epidemic” through “public health measures like washing your hands, social distancing, staying home except for very, very essential things, shopping for food and medical concerns. Give the system a chance to come up with this treatment.”

 

Israel and the demise of the global village

March 30, 2020

Source: Israel and the demise of the global village – www.israelhayom.com

Israel’s ability to protect itself and adapt its economy to the new post-global village reality will in large part determine how it survives and prospers in the post-global village world now taking shape.

In the face of the steeply rising number of coronavirus patients and the breakneck speed of political changes in Israel, few people have stopped to notice that the world we have grown accustomed to living in for the past generation is falling apart. The global village is collapsing under the weight of the pandemic.

How Israel deals with this dramatic turn of events today, and in the coming weeks, months and years will determine both how we emerge from the present crisis and how we manage in the new world now taking form.

Israel’s food supply system is a perfect example of the global changes to being wrought by the virus. In Israel, five basic foodstuffs are produced locally: fruits, vegetables, eggs, poultry, and milk. Most grains, sugar, rice, salt, meat, and other foodstuffs are imported.

Out of a total agricultural workforce of 70,000, 25,000 are migrant workers from Thailand and another 25,000 are from the Palestinian Authority. According to Agriculture Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, concerns over the coronavirus prevented 1,500 workers from Thailand scheduled to arrive at the beginning of the month from entering the country. The Palestinian workforce is down to 18,000 and dropping due to the quarantine the PA has placed on its population.

The labor shortages couldn’t come at a worse time. Currently, there are a half billion shekels worth of fruit and vegetables ready for harvest. If they aren’t picked in the next three weeks, they will rot on the trees and in the fields.

Three weeks ago, the HaShomer HaHadash organization began getting flooded with calls from farmers for help. HaShomer HaHadash is a volunteer agricultural support organization founded in 2007 to protect Israeli farmers from Arab and Bedouin criminal gangs who extort farmers and ranchers and carry out agricultural theft and sabotage on a massive level.

“These calls were different,” explains HaShomer HaHadash’s leader Yoel Zilberman. “We are used to receiving calls about sabotage, and extortion and sending our volunteers to guard and herd. These calls were about the harvest, the national food supply.”

Zilberman and his colleagues realized the implications of the loss of a harvest for Israel’s food supply and began drawing up a plan to help the distressed farmers. Two weeks ago, Zilberman approached Hanegbi and offered to organize a corps of volunteers to save the harvest. Comprised of the organization’s roster of volunteers, cadets at pre-military leadership academies, youth movement alumni and from twelfth graders, Zilberman’s volunteers would work in shifts in the fields. With government finance, Hashomer Hahadash would provide for all their needs. Hanegbi agreed.

Last week, the government approved an emergency order to organize the corps of volunteers. The first hundred young people arrived in the fields on Tuesday. Operating in compliance with Health Ministry guidelines, HaShomer HaHadash launched a smartphone application called “Sundo” where prospective volunteers can join the operation. Zilberman plans to expand his roll of volunteers to include foreign students stranded in Israel with nothing to do after the coronavirus caused their programs to be canceled. He assesses there are up to twenty thousand foreign youth in Israel who could potentially join in the effort.

To be sure, this initiative, which will hopefully enable Israel to surmount the coronavirus-induced international labor shortage, is intended to be a short-term fix. All parties to the initiative assume that once the crisis abates, labor flows will return to their pre-coronavirus levels. But there is no way to know whether this assessment is correct. The coronavirus-induced shortage in migrant, agricultural laborers points to a much wider phenomenon that is unlikely to disappear when the quarantines are over.

The coronavirus pandemic won’t destroy global markets. But it will change them radically and reduce their size and scope. In the case of agriculture, the coronavirus has exposed large-scale vulnerabilities in both agricultural import models and domestic production. At the outset of the crisis, cargo ships laden with foodstuffs from China and Italy were laid up in the ports for weeks until port workers and the Health Ministry could develop protocols for safely offloading them. Dozens of shipments were diverted to Cyprus, at great cost to importers.

Who is to say that food supplies in China or other countries won’t be compromised again in the future? And what happens in the event of war? Naval warfare can easily endanger food imports to Israel over a prolonged period. The model of dependence on foreign suppliers needs to be adapted in the face of what we are learning.

As to domestic production, according to Hanegbi, over the past decade, the number of Israelis engaged in agriculture has decreased by 60 percent as the children of farmers are choosing other professions. Obviously, this is a major vulnerability. Israel needs food security and food security means expanding our domestic agricultural capacity. The incoming government needs to develop a national plan to support domestic agriculture and inspire young people to choose agriculture as a profession and way of life. In Israel, the next crisis is always just around the corner. And the next war or pandemic may make our current endangered harvest look like child’s play.

What is true in relation to agriculture is doubly true in relation to manufacturing. As we are finding in our race to purchase more respirators, it is ill-advised in the extreme to depend on foreign suppliers for food, medical equipment, and medicines in times of crisis. Until January 2020, it seemed perfectly rational to outsource manufacturing to China. Now, as we face global shortages in respirators and other medical equipment, it is obvious that China is not a trustworthy supplier.

This week Jim Geraghty published a timeline of China’s deception of the world regarding the nature of the coronavirus in the National Review. Geraghty showed that Chinese authorities in Wuhan realized the virus was spread between humans in the first week of December. But it wasn’t until January 20 that the Chinese admitted that this was the case.

In the intervening six weeks, the Chinese lied repeatedly about the infectiousness of the virus and jailed doctors and citizen journalists who tried to warn the Chinese people and the world of the danger. Also during those six weeks, five million people left Wuhan. Scores of thousands of them got on airplanes and flew to Europe and the US bringing the virus with them.

Still today, the Chinese are apparently hiding critical information about the virus from the world. While the Western media heralds the Chinese success in bringing the infection rate down to zero inside China, Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reported this week that the Chinese data are phony. Physicians in Wuhan told the agency’s reporters that the reason the rate of infection has dropped to zero is because the Chinese authorities have banned testing.

The coronavirus exposed a truth that global village fans have spent the past generation denying: Borders are important.

From 1997 until the coronavirus, Europe’s internal national borders were all open. Over the past few weeks, 15 EU member states have shut their doors and thrown away the key. Germany – the birthplace of the vision of the European common market and nation – initially banned the export of protective medical equipment to its European “brethren.”

When the Italians begged for help, no EU member state sent in medical teams to save their fellow Europeans.

If just last month, the heads of the European Commission had the last word in all discussions among EU member states, today no one cares what they have to say. As Professor Thomas Jaeger from the University of Cologne told the Los Angeles Times, “We’re seeing an enormous delegitimation of the authority of the EU government in this crisis. The longer the crisis lasts, the more nationalism will return.”

In many ways, regardless of how long it lasts, the pandemic has already taken a permanent toll on the European Union. EU members have taken one another’s measure and realized that when push comes to shove, they have only their own peoples and governments to rely on. The Italians and Spaniards aren’t likely to care what the feckless bureaucrats in Brussels or the selfish Germans have to say about their national policies after this is over.

The same goes for the UN and other major international governing institutions.

UN Ambassador Danny Danon wrote Wednesday in Israel Hayom that this is the UN’s finest hour. In his words, “UN institutions, particularly the World Health Organization, are proving that the organization remains the main body that the world needs in its struggle with Corona.”

Danon is mistaken, however. The WHO has played an unhelpful, indeed destructive role in this crisis. As Geraghty and others have shown, the WHO was a full partner in China’s dissimulation efforts. The WHO waited until January 21, after the first coronavirus patient was diagnosed in the US, to admit that it is transferred between people despite the fact that WHO officials knew that humans infected one another in early January. This week an Oxford-based research group announced it will no longer base its coronavirus assessments on WHO data, which it considers not credible.

This week Walter Russell Mead noted in the Wall Street Journal that international organizations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization are playing no significant role in the global fight against the coronavirus.  National leaders and agencies, who are directly responsible for protecting their people are calling the shots irrespective of WHO rules and IMF spending guidelines.

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the critical failings of the global village model for international integration. International labor markets, global trade and international governing institutions have proven vulnerable to shocks, unreliable and of limited use. It has also reminded us of foundational truths that have been shunted aside since the end of the Cold War. National borders protect nations. National authorities and fellow citizens are far more reliable and helpful in times of crisis than transnational, and international organizations.

To survive and protect themselves from global shocks, nations must have autarkic agricultural and manufacturing capabilities. China is not a reliable industrial base.

Israel’s ability to protect itself today, and adapt its economy to the new post-global village reality will in large part determine how it survives and prospers in the post-global village world now taking shape.

 

PM to self-isolate after aide turns out to be coronavirus carrier 

March 30, 2020

Source: PM to self-isolate after aide turns out to be coronavirus carrier – www.israelhayom.com

Although it is unlikely that Netanyahu was infected, his advisers say he is taking the precaution until this can be ruled out.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began self-isolating on Monday after one his aides tested positive for coronavirus, though an initial investigation determined the 70-year-old was unlikely to have been infected, officials said.

Netanyahu is scheduled to undergo a coronavirus test by Tuesday, the officials said. A previous test, on March 15, came back negative.

Israel’s Health Ministry regulations generally require a 14-day self-isolation for anyone deemed to have been in proximity with a carrier, with the duration reduced for the number of days that have passed since the suspected exposure.

The infected aide had been present at an event last week in the Knesset attended by Netanyahu as well as opposition lawmakers with whom he is trying to build an emergency coalition government to help address the coronavirus crisis.

“The preliminary assessment is that there is no need for the PM to self-isolate as he was not in close contact with the patient, nor did he meet with her,” an Israeli official initially said. But later on Monday, the official said Netanyahu had “decided that he and his personal staff will be in isolation until the epidemiological investigation is completed”.

Israel has reported more than 4,000 cases and 16 fatalities as of Monday morning. With the Health Ministry warning that the dead could eventually number in the thousands, Netanyahu was due to convene officials on Monday to discuss a proposed total lockdown of clusters of coronavirus carriers to make sure they remain isolated from the rest of the country.

The Israeli official said Netanyahu has been following medical advice and holding most meetings by video-conference.

 

Fears of redoubled coronavirus assault in April. No remedy yet in sight – DEBKAfile

March 30, 2020

Source: Fears of redoubled coronavirus assault in April. No remedy yet in sight – DEBKAfile

Most experts forecast a second global assault by the coronavirus pandemic in April along with an unprecedented surge in infections and deaths. T

he global figure of coronavirus infections stood at 750,000 on Monday, March 20, including 33,000 fatalities. China, the first epicenter of the covid-19’s global offensive, has passed this dubious honor to the United States, Italy and Spain. An ominous silence hangs over the city streets of America and world capitals, such as London, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Jerusalem, Berlin and others. Storefronts are darkened as people confined to home live in dread for their livelihoods.

As the US became the world coronavirus capital with more than 120,000 cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the US National Institute for Infectious Diseases, warned that millions of infections lie ahead of America with more than 100,000 deaths. President Donald Trump had to back away from his forecast that the nightmare would be over by Easter (in two weeks) and extend restrictions for combating the virus’ spread until the end of April. A field hospital has gone up in New York’s landmark Central Park and the US Navy’s “New York” hospital ship is heading for port with 1,000 beds.

Italy’s death toll rose by almost 900 deaths in one day to 10,000 on Sunday night, a figure that may double by the end of April. Spain also reported more than 800 deaths in a 24-hour span. The UK is bracing for 20,000 covid-19 deaths.

Russia has sealed its borders by land, air and sea to non-residents; the mayor of Moscow ordered all residents to self-isolate. Germany, with 57,000 confirmed cases and 455 deaths, is putting its trust in extensive testing and quarantining to break the infection chain, a strategy borrowed from South Korea.

In Israel, which has suffered 15 deaths from covid-19, infected cases rose on Monday to 4,347 with the number of serious cases requiring hospital care climbing to 80. New measures were introduced this week to tighten the near complete lockdown even further. It was coupled with expanded testing by region. The thinking is that  mapping the affected areas geographically to pinpoint the hotbeds of infection will eventually help lift the lockdown on infection-free parts of the country for returning to normal.

Health specialists and economists are locked in the same heated tug-o’-war over the need for total lockdowns for halting the spreading virus versus the likely irreversible economic damage they generate. The latter argue that the shutdown while possibly halting the disease would kill the victim’s economic life support.
The argument rages amid fears that giving into the economic arguments in response to a temporary ebbing of coronavirus infection would bring forth a redoubled outbreak in April going into May. This second wave could be even more ferocious than the first. Signs of this second covid-19 assault moving in are visible in China, Taiwan and Singapore, who relaxed restrictions after successful efforts to contain the spread of the plague.

Hanging over these debates is the fact that too little is known about the nature of coronavirus and its responses. The search for a remedy or vaccine may take years before one is certified for use and manufactured in sufficient quantity to beat a plague that knows no borders.

Two experimental anti-virus remedies for coronavirus are being tested in Israel’s hospitals. At the Sheba Medical Center, Prof Galia Rahav is supervising the use of  anti-bodies contained in blood drawn from volunteers who have recovered from covid-19. The plasma which contains the antibodies is being separated from the blood samples and injected in critical cases in hospital. The US FDA has approved the experiment. Remdesivor, a drug developed by the American company Gilead, which successfully stemmed the ebola outbreak, is being extensively used in the corona intensive units of Israeli hospitals, likewise in critical cases. Evaluating the results of both experiments calls for tests to be conducted on large, monitored groups for regulated periods.

 

UN praises ‘excellent’ Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in fight against pandemic

March 30, 2020

Source: UN praises ‘excellent’ Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in fight against pandemic | The Times of Israel

But officials in Ramallah, while acknowledging coordinating emergency response with Jerusalem, continue to slam Israel, say ‘occupation knows nothing of humanity’

Palestinian health workers handle a Coronavirus test sample of Palestinian workers as they cross back from Israel at a checkpoint near Hebron, March 25, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Palestinian health workers handle a Coronavirus test sample of Palestinian workers as they cross back from Israel at a checkpoint near Hebron, March 25, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Perhaps uncharacteristically, the United Nations has showered praise on Israel for its “excellent” cooperation with the Palestinian Authority in fighting the coronavirus.

PA government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem has repeatedly mentioned working together with Israel in his daily press briefings. However, other Palestinian top officials have continued to condemn the Jewish state, accusing it of cruelly abusing the health crisis to violate Palestinian human rights.

“We hold discussions and consultations every day with the relevant UN officials. We hear from them praise for the State of Israel for the coordination and good cooperation in dealing with the coronavirus crisis, which in our view is essential and necessary for an effective response to the spread of the virus,” Alon Bar, deputy director-general for the UN and international organizations at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said Sunday.

Israeli and Palestinian officials, having long worked together on security and civil matters, recently set up a special mechanism to communicate “moment by moment” on all issues related to the virus, a senior Palestinian official told The Times of Israel.

Palestinian health workers handling a coronavirus test sample of Palestinian workers as they cross back from Israel at a checkpoint in Tarqumiya on March 25, 2020 (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

But while the Palestinians don’t generally talk too much about their coordination with Israel, various UN officials went out of their way over the past week to highlight it.

Last Tuesday, the Palestine branch of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs — which is not known for its praise for Israeli government activities — published its first “emergency situation report,” noting “unprecedented cooperation on efforts aimed at containing the epidemic” between Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

“Representatives from both ministries of health, as well as from Israel’s Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) have been meeting on a regular basis to agree on matters of mutual concern, such the understandings concerning Palestinian workers employed in Israel,” the report stated.

“As part of this efforts, COGAT is facilitating four trainings for Palestinian medical teams, while the Israeli [Health Ministry] donated over 1,000 testing kits and thousands of PPEs [Personal Protective Equipment] to the West Bank and Gaza.”

A Palestinian Authority policeman delivers supplies to the hotel staff who tested positive to coronavirus in Bethlehem, West Bank, March 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

The PA last week also acknowledged that Israel had transferred $25 million in previously withheld tax money, after PA Finance Minister Shukri Bishara and his Israeli counterpart, Moshe Kahlon, met — according to the PA Finance Ministry — to discuss the economic impact of the coronavirus on Israel and the Palestinians.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres mentioned the close cooperation between Jerusalem and Ramallah on Wednesday during a press conference announcing the launch of the “COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan.” All UN special envoys in volatile areas have been urging warring parties to agree on a ceasefire, he said, adding that he was encouraged by the fact that these calls have resonated in some areas.

“I see… different parties to a conflict cooperating in order to respond to this dramatic situation,” he said. “To give an example, in fighting COVID-19, the Palestinian Authority and Israel have been able to work together, even if we know the extreme division that exists politically between the two.”

Israel Foreign Ministry

@IsraelMFA

Watch the Secretary General @antonioguterres commending Israel and the Palestinian Authority for their joint efforts to minimize the spread of in Judea & Samaria and prevent its outbreak in the Strip.

Embedded video

Also on Wednesday, President Reuven Rivlin phoned PA President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the pandemic.

“The world is dealing with a crisis that does not distinguish between people or where they live,” Rivlin told Abbas, adding “the cooperation between us is vital to ensure the health of both Israelis and Palestinians.”

He added that “our ability to work together in times of crisis is also testament to our ability to work together in the future for the good of us all.”

Two days later, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov briefed members of the Middle East Quartet (the UN, the European Union, the United States and Russia) about the effects of the coronavirus on the already tense situation in Gaza. In his remarks, he stressed the “excellent coordination and cooperation that has been established with all Israeli and Palestinian interlocutors,” according to a readout of the briefing.

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov at a press conference at the (UNSCO) offices in Gaza City, September 25, 2017. (Adel Hana/AP)

“Israeli and Palestinian authorities continue to coordinate their responses closely and constructively, a major factor in the containment achieved so far,” the readout added, stressing that Israel has also facilitated the entry of “critical supplies and equipment” into the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave.

“Examples of critical supplies include swabs for collection of samples and other laboratory supplies required for COVID-19 testing and Personal Protective Equipment to protect health workers. This is in addition to Israel’s cooperation to allow for the movement and access of personnel involved in the COVID-19 response to and from both the West Bank and Gaza,” the readout stated.

On Saturday, the UN released a detailed press release about the briefing, stressing Mladenov’s praise of the Israeli-Palestinian coordination in the fight against the pandemic.

A UN press release saying good things about Israel was yet “more proof aliens have taken over,” joked Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, a pro-Israel watchdog based in Geneva.

Hillel Neuer

@HillelNeuer

World is now so upside down that the U.N. just issued a statement on Palestinians that does NOT condemn Israel.https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1060572 

Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority

COVID-19: UN envoy hails strong Israel-Palestine cooperation

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, has praised the coordination between the Israeli and Palestine authorities in reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic.

news.un.org

But it didn’t stop there. On Sunday, Mladenov’s deputy, Jamie McGoldrick, who coordinates the UN’s humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians on the ground, took to Twitter to “commend the Palestinian and Israeli authorities for their efforts to deal with COVID19 and for the exemplary levels of collaboration.

“Their close coordination and prompt actions will save lives,” he added.

Jamie McGoldrick@jamiemcgoldric8

I commend the and authorities for their efforts to deal with and for the exemplary levels of collaboration. Their close coordination and prompt actions will save lives.

The only UN-affiliated body that was critical of Israel regarding coordinating the COVID-19 crisis was the World Health Organization, whose Palestine branch’s latest monthly report accused Israel of obstructing Palestinians’ access to vital medicine.

It quoted a Gazan mother of five named Itidal who said she feared to travel to East Jerusalem, where she usually goes to pick up her prescription of Herceptin, which she takes to fight breast cancer. In order to leave the Gaza Strip, she needs to apply for a special permit from the Israeli authorities, which is sometimes granted and sometimes denied, according to the report.

“Despite my fear and confusion from the new situation of coronavirus, I persisted to apply because I felt that if I don’t get the treatment my health will just deteriorate,” Itidal was quoted as saying. Why can’t the drugs simply be shipped to Gaza? she wondered.

Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus, at the main market in Gaza City, March 19, 2020. (Adel Hana/AP)

“As patients, why should we suffer to receive treatment? I appeal to the authorities to provide the drugs we need in Gaza at this difficult time,” she went on, according to the WHO report. “That will eliminate needless suffering of cancer patients, support our efforts and reduce costs.”

‘The hateful occupation continues its aggressive practices’

Palestinian officials were less subtle than Itidal in their criticism of Israel, attacking the government in Jerusalem in the harshest terms.

Last Tuesday, Milhem, the PA government spokesman, accused Israel of “dumping” an ill Palestinian worker — who he said had been suspected of carrying coronavirus — at a checkpoint in the central West Bank a day earlier.

“They dumped him in the middle of the road while he was experiencing pain,” he said. “They welcome us as healthy people and then throw us in the middle of the road as sick people. This is in contravention of human rights.”

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh bewailed Israel’s “hateful occupation [that] continues its aggressive practices against our people.

“This occupation knows nothing of humanity, and the international community is required to curb its illegal practices,” he said.

Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh د. محمد اشتية

@DrShtayyeh

At such trying times for the whole world, we in are facing as this hateful occupation continues its aggressive practices against our people. This occupation knows nothing of humanity, and the international community is required to curb its illegal practices.

On Sunday, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat angrily pointed out that the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Arabic Twitter account posted a call for regional cooperation with several Arab states in the region — but not Palestine.

“As someone who knows well the extent of cooperation between Israel & the PA on #Corona, it’s unfortunate that you choose to sow division during this time of crisis,” the ministry tweeted in response.

Dr. Saeb Erakat الدكتور صائب عريقات@ErakatSaeb

Israeli Foreign Ministry sharing tweet in Arabic that excludes Palestine from regional cooperation on Corona https://twitter.com/israelarabic/status/1244174021731717123?s=21 

View image on Twitter
إسرائيل بالعربية

@IsraelArabic

في أجواء الكورونا التعاون هو افضل الحلول#كورونا

View image on Twitter

إسرائيل بالعربية

As someone who knows well the extent of cooperation between Israel & the PA on , it’s unfortunate that you choose to sow division during this time of crisis

You’re welcome to follow our account to see just how well this cooperation is reflected.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

Coronavirus cases in Israel rise to 4,347, with 80 in serious condition

March 30, 2020

Source: Coronavirus cases in Israel rise to 4,347, with 80 in serious condition | The Times of Israel

Health Ministry adds 100 patients to Sunday night’s tally; says 81 in moderate condition, 134 have recovered

Medical team members at the Barzilay hospital, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, wear protective gear, as they handle a coronavirus test sample on March 29, 2020. (Flash90)

Medical team members at the Barzilay hospital, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, wear protective gear, as they handle a coronavirus test sample on March 29, 2020. (Flash90)

The Health Ministry said Monday morning that the number of Israelis infected with the coronavirus was 4,347, a rise of 100 cases since Sunday night.

The cases included 80 in serious condition, of whom 63 were attached to ventilators, the ministry said. Another 81 were in moderate condition, 134 had recovered, and the rest had mild symptoms.

The daily increase had been the single largest since the first coronavirus case was recorded in the country, and put it in 17th place in terms of infection numbers worldwide.

The death toll in Israel from the coronavirus is 15, with three new fatalities recorded on Sunday. Of the 15 people to die in Israel from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, 13 were over the age of 70. An 82-year-old Israeli man in Italy also died of the disease.

One of those in serious condition is a man in his 20s who had no preexisting medical issues. Due to increasing difficulty breathing, he was sedated and hooked up to a ventilator, Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital said Sunday.

Illustrative: A doctor checks a medical ventilator control panel while wearing protective clothing at the Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital, March 16, 2020. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The continued rise in virus cases came as a top Health Ministry official reportedly warned that Israel needed to prepare for a situation in which 5,000 people infected with the virus needed ventilators.

“This is a difficult scenario, but we can endure it,” Dr. Vered Ezra, head of medical management at the ministry, was quoted as saying by Channel 12 news in a briefing.

According to a report prepared last week for the Knesset’s Special Committee on Dealing With the Coronavirus, there are at most 1,437 ventilators in the country still available to treat patients. The Health Ministry disputed that figure, saying there were 2,864 available ventilators.

There have been growing concerns there may not be enough ventilators to treat all of the most seriously ill, leaving doctors with life and death decisions on whom to keep alive.

Israelis were ordered starting last Wednesday to remain in their homes unless they are taking part in a small number of approved activities, including purchasing food and medicine or taking a short walk no more than 100 meters (328 feet) from their home. Those found violating those regulations are subject to fines of upwards of NIS 500 ($140) or imprisonment.

The government was set to weigh imposing further restrictions.