Archive for June 21, 2020

Hospitals told to prepare to reopen specialized COVID-19 wards as cases mount 

June 21, 2020

Source: Hospitals told to prepare to reopen specialized COVID-19 wards as cases mount | The Times of Israel

Health ministry tells medical centers to prepare for ‘extreme scenario’ with hospitalizations on the rise, a month after most hospitals closed their coronavirus divisions

Medical staff working at the new COVID-19 unit at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, March 31, 2020. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

Medical staff working at the new COVID-19 unit at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, March 31, 2020. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

The Health Ministry on Sunday instructed hospitals around the country to prepare to reopen their coronavirus wards as the number of new COVID-19 cases continued to climb by nearly 300 a day.

Several hospitals shuttered their coronavirus wards last month as the number of new cases dropped to several dozen a day, but daily infection numbers have since rebounded.

The head of the ministry’s General Medicine Division told hospital administrators in a letter that the directive comes against the backdrop of a rise not just in total cases but also in the number of hospitalized patients, of those in serious condition, and of hospital staff forced into quarantine.

“The guideline is to prepare for the immediate opening of a single ward dedicated to [treating] the coronavirus,” wrote Dr. Sigal Liberant-Taub.

The Health Ministry said Sunday morning that there were 20,686 total cases since the start of the pandemic, including 4,716 active cases, which is some 2,000 more active cases than just a couple of weeks ago. Over 200 people were hospitalized, including 43 patients in serious condition and 28 people on ventilators.

Medical workers treat a patient at the coronavirus ward at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv on May 4, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

According to official figures, 905 medical workers are in quarantine, including 168 doctors and 306 nurses.

Liberant-Taub told the administrators that they should be prepared for an “extreme scenario,” urging them to “refresh” their medical staffs on the importance of personal protective equipment, of working in small teams and of separating the respiratory wards that are more likely to receive coronavirus patients from other departments, in an effort to limit exposure to the virus.

Beds at a coronavirus critical care unit at Sheba Medical Center (Courtesy)

Top officials are set to meet Sunday to discuss new measures intended to keep a lid on the new outbreak, though authorities are reportedly concentrating on increased enforcement of rules requiring masks in public, including upped fines, rather than new restrictions on movement or shutting down the economy.

Currently, authorities can hit people with a NIS 200 ($58) fine for not donning a mask in public areas.

On Saturday, the IDF’s Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center warned that Israel has entered a second wave of infections and said if it did not take immediate steps to bring numbers down, it could face a thousand new cases a day and hundreds of new deaths in a month’s time. However, some government officials distanced themselves from the report, claiming it was predicated on faulty statistics.

Despite the rise in cases, the cabinet on Friday gave the go-ahead to hold cultural events of up to 250 people with certain limitations. The green light applied to cinemas and theaters, and took immediate effect. In certain situations, with prior approval, events of up to 500 people will also be authorized, the cabinet decided.

 

UN nuclear watchdog passes resolution criticizing Iran, in first since 2012

June 21, 2020

Source: UN nuclear watchdog passes resolution criticizing Iran, in first since 2012 | The Times of Israel

Motion calls on Tehran to provide IAEA inspectors with access to two sites suspected of undeclared nuclear activity in the early 2000s; Iran has blocked access for months

Rafael Grossi, (left) Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), opens a virtual meeting of the Board of Governors of the IAEA in Vienna, Austria on June 15, 2020 (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Rafael Grossi, (left) Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), opens a virtual meeting of the Board of Governors of the IAEA in Vienna, Austria on June 15, 2020 (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

The board of governors at the UN’s nuclear watchdog has passed a resolution critical of Iran, diplomatic sources said Friday, the first of its kind since 2012.

The resolution calls on Tehran to provide inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with access to two sites in Iran in order to clarify whether undeclared nuclear activity took place there in the early 2000s.

It “calls on Iran to fully cooperate with the Agency and satisfy the Agency’s requests without any further delay, including by providing prompt access to the locations specified by the Agency.”

Iran has been blocking access to the sites for months, prompting a growing diplomatic row.

The resolution was carried by 25 votes in favor versus two against, with seven abstentions. Russia and China, both of which had spoken out against the prospect of a resolution earlier this week, voted against.

It had been put forward by France, Germany and Britain and supported by the United States, even though the American ambassador to the UN in Vienna had said “the text could be strengthened.”

General view of the board of governors meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, August 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Earlier this week Iran warned that such a resolution would be “counterproductive” and that it would take “appropriate measures” in response.

Russia’s Ambassador to the UN in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov echoed that position after the resolution was passed on Friday.

“While stressing the need for Tehran and IAEA to settle this problem without delay, we believe that the resolution can be counterproductive,” he tweeted.

Even though the sites in question are not thought to be directly relevant to Iran’s current nuclear program, the agency says it needs to know if activities going back almost two decades have been properly declared and all materials accounted for.

Speaking to reporters after the resolution was passed on Friday, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said it would be “absolutely unacceptable” if an example were to be set that states can be selective in their implementation of agreements with the UN agency.

“There are no exceptions. There is no Additional Protocol a la carte,” Grossi said, referring to the agreement under which the IAEA requested access to the sites.

“I intend to sit down with Iran very soon and to try to solve this as soon as possible,” he said, adding that Iran’s ambassador to the UN in Vienna Kazem Gharib Abadi would be his first port of call.

Earlier this week Gharib Abadi argued in a statement that the IAEA’s access requests were based on allegations from Iran’s arch-enemy Israel.

Iran this week argued that the IAEA’s access requests were based on allegations from Israel, which has flagged at least one site as a “secret atomic warehouse” and pressed the IAEA to investigate.

Iran’s alleged atomic warehouse in Turquzabad, Tehran. (YouTube screenshot)

Despite the row over the two sites, the IAEA says it still has the access it needs to inspect Iran’s declared nuclear facilities, as the agency is mandated to do under the landmark deal between Iran and world powers reached in 2015.

However the latest row comes as that deal continues to unravel, with Iran continuing to breach the limits on nuclear activity in the accord in retaliation for the United States’ withdrawal from it and reimposition of sanctions.

At the start of this week’s meeting on Monday, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi repeated his appeal to Iran to “cooperate immediately and fully” and grant access.

While the new resolution is largely symbolic in character, it could be a prelude for the dispute being referred to the UN Security Council, the only UN body that can impose sanctions.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal two years ago and went on to re-impose tough economic sanctions on Iran. In retaliation, Iran has been slowly abandoning limits on its activities set out under the deal, including on the size and enrichment level of its uranium stockpile.

Iran has accused the European parties to the deal — France, the UK and Germany — of not doing enough to mitigate the impact of American sanctions.

 

Iran’s currency hits record low amid sanctions, virus, international pressure 

June 21, 2020

Source: Iran’s currency hits record low amid sanctions, virus, international pressure | The Times of Israel

Day after IAEA censures Tehran for blocking access to two sites and EU diplomats say they’ll back extending arms embargo, rial plummets to 190,000 for each dollar

A man counts his banknotes and traveler checks in Tehran, Iran, on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

A man counts his banknotes and traveler checks in Tehran, Iran, on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran’s currency has dropped to its lowest value ever at 190,000 rial for each dollar amid severe US sanctions against the country, new international pressure over its nuclear and weapons programs and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Iranian currency has tumbled from a rate of 32,000 rials to $1 at the time of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Since US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose crippling trade sanctions over two years ago, Iran’s oil exports, the country’s main source of income, have fallen sharply.

Last week, Senior Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said that Iran’s oil revenues have plummeted to $8 billion from $100 billion in 2011.

Iran recently sent five tankers with at least $45.5 million worth of gasoline and similar products to Venezuela.

It was a way to bring money into cash-starved Iran and put Venezuela’s own pressure on the US, which under Trump has pursued maximalist campaigns against both nations.

On Friday the UN’s nuclear watchdog censured Tehran and three European powers said they backed extending an arms embargo against the country.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) passed a resolution put forward by European states, urging Tehran to provide inspectors access to two sites in Iran to help clarify whether undeclared nuclear activity took place there in the early 2000s.

It called on Iran to fully cooperate with the IAEA and satisfy its requests without delay, including by providing prompt access to the sites. Iran has been blocking access to the sites for months, prompting a growing diplomatic row.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday said the UK, France and Germany were “accessories” to Israel and the US and accused them of breaking agreements they made in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal after foreign ministers of the three nations toughened their stance on Iran, backing a UN arms embargo extension.

However ,the countries also warned the US against “any unilateral attempt to trigger a UN sanctions snapback.”