Israel ranks first for ‘general public safety’ amid COVID19 – TV7 Israel News 02.04.20

Posted April 2, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized



Netanyahu, much of Israeli top brass in quarantine as health minister gets virus

Posted April 2, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Netanyahu, much of Israeli top brass in quarantine as health minister gets virus | The Times of Israel

Health Ministry chiefs, Mossad boss, national security adviser, all handling response to pandemic, enter isolation along with PM, who just emerged; IDF head already quarantined

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, with Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov, center, and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman at a press conference about the coronavirus COVID-19, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on March 11, 2020. (Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some of Israel’s other top officials in managing the country’s response to the coronavirus crisis will enter quarantine after Health Minister Yaakov Litzman was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, amid concerns that other senior officials could also be forced into isolation.

Netanyahu will work from his Jerusalem residence until Wednesday in accordance with Health Ministry instructions and the advice of his personal physician, Dr. Tzvi Berkowitz, the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement.

Health Ministry head Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, who has become the face of Israel’s management of the crisis with near daily briefings and media appearances, announced on Thursday morning that he would self-quarantine, due to the contact he had with Litzman in recent days.

Sigal Sadetzki, head of public health at the Health Ministry, will also enter a two-week period of home isolation, since she recently met with Litzman.

Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen, whose spy agency has been instrumental in obtaining medical equipment for Israel, and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, who has been coordinating the government’s response to the pandemic, will also be sent into isolation, according to Hebrew news reports. IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi is already working from quarantine, due to exposure to an infected officer, but has tested negative for the virus.

From left: Prof. Sigal Sadetsky, head of the Public Health Services in the Ministry of Health, Ministry CEO Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman outside the Central Laboratory of the Health Ministry at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, February 4, 2020. (Flash90)

Under Health Ministry orders, tens of thousands of Israelis are in self-quarantine due to possible exposure to the virus and the entire country is in an almost total lockdown that has seen most of the population confined to their homes, only allowed out for essential needs.

The number of COVID-19 deaths in Israel rose Thursday to 31, and the number of people diagnosed with the coronavirus increased to 6,211.

Last week, Litzman attended a Knesset session, and staff at the parliament are said to be checking the footage of security cameras to see who came in direct contact with the minister. It is expected that several lawmakers, and possibly some ministers as well, will have to self-quarantine.

Netanyahu had just emerged from self-quarantine on Wednesday evening, 14 days after he last met with one of his advisers, who also contracted the virus. He, his family and several close advisers were tested on Monday and were found to not be carriers.

Both Litzman and Bar Siman-Tov will continue to manage the country’s fight against the disease while in isolation, according to the Health Ministry.

“Bar Siman-Tov will remain in quarantine in a specialized facility that includes a work space and the relevant communication equipment,” the ministry said in a statement issued Thursday morning.

“We planned for a possibility like this and prepared accordingly,” the ministry’s director-general said. “I will continue to manage this event together with my managerial colleagues with digital tools.

“Needing to go into quarantine can happen to anyone, and we must abide by the orders. I continue to call for citizens of Israel to abide by the Health Ministry’s directives,” Bar Siman-Tov added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, in Jerusalem, on March 11, 2020. (Flash90)

Litzman, 71, and his wife Chava were both found to have contracted the disease, which is especially dangerous to people above the age of 65.

“His condition at this time is mild. He is not asymptomatic, there are some symptoms, but no more than that,” Dr. Itamar Grotto, deputy director-general of the ministry, told Channel 12 on Thursday.

The ministry is investigating from whom Litzman contracted the disease and is informing people who have been in contact with the minister to go into quarantine, Grotto added.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman announces new restrictions to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus during a press conference at his office in Jerusalem on March 11, 2020. (Flash90)

Grotto himself will not have to go into quarantine, he said, since all his recent meetings with Litzman have been held over the phone or through videoconferences.

It is possible that the health minister may have contracted the virus from another senior government official, according to Grotto, though he may also have caught the disease from someone within his ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem.

“There’s a high rate of the illness in the Haredi community, so it’s reasonable to think that it happened there,” he said.

Litzman, the head of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, has played a prominent role in handling the pandemic crisis alongside Netanyahu, attending key meetings with him, though the prime minister has been careful to maintain social distancing regulations.

Litzman has been frequently criticized for his handling of the virus outbreak in Israel.

Some have alleged he put the interests of the ultra-Orthodox community ahead of the general public in his handling of the fight against the pandemic. He reportedly pushed to delay stringent restrictions on public gatherings that would have affected observance of the Purim festival last month, and fought bitterly against last week’s closing of synagogues.

Police officers arrive to close synagogues in the city of Bnei Brak on April 1, 2020 (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

A group of senior medical officials in major hospitals have written to Netanyahu with an urgent demand to appoint a professional figure as health minister instead.

The doctors wrote in the letter that the coronavirus pandemic “has exposed and caught the healthcare system at a low point from an organizational and operational point of view, which everyone had been aware of.”

They laid out problems in the system, including widening gaps between the quality of health services in the center of the country and in the north and south.

“At this time… it is right for a professional to be appointed to head the Health Ministry — a doctor with a rich experience in Israeli healthcare,” they wrote. “Health comes before anything else, definitely before politics.”
Times of Israel staff and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.


Israelis told to wear face masks in public, mark religious holidays with close family only – Reuters

Posted April 2, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Israelis told to wear face masks in public, mark religious holidays with close family only – Reuters

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – All Israelis should wear face masks while in public as a precaution against the coronavirus, and upcoming Jewish, Muslim and Christian holidays should be marked only with immediate family, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

In televised remarks, Netanyahu also announced curbs on movement around an ultra-Orthodox Jewish town that has experienced a disproportionately large outbreak.

Israel has taken stringent measures to try to halt the spread of the virus, after recording more than 6,000 cases. At least 25 Israelis have died of COVID-19, according to Health Ministry data.

“We ask you, citizens of Israel, all of you, to wear masks in the public sphere,” Netanyahu said in televised remarks, adding that people could improvise “with a scarf or any other facial covering” in the absence of factory-produced masks.

Increasingly tight restrictions have largely confined Israelis to their homes, forcing businesses to close and causing unemployment to skyrocket to 24.4%.

On Monday, Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said Israel would spend 80 billion shekels ($22 billion) to help the economy weather the crisis and predicted a gradual return of business activity after the Passover holiday from April 8-15.

Netanyahu on Wednesday said the government would give Israeli families 500 shekels per child, up to a maximum of four children. The elderly would also receive 500 shekels, Netanyahu said, terming all the payments a “Passover gift”.

Those stipends would cost the state a total of 1.5 billion shekels, public broadcaster Kan estimated.

Netanyahu also said Israel’s majority Jews must mark Passover “with the nuclear family only,” adding that including elderly relatives in celebrations “would be to endanger them”.

Those same restrictions apply to Muslims and Christians, Netanyahu said, who make up most of Israel’s 21% Arab minority and will mark Easter and the beginning of Ramadan, respectively, later this month.

Israeli authorities will also tighten curbs on movement around Bnai Brak, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish town near Tel Aviv, which the Channel 12 TV news on Wednesday projected may account for as many as 30% of the coronavirus cases nationwide.

“We have decided to reduce to the minimum necessary the access and egress from the city,” Netanyahu said, while adding that residents would still be allowed to move around within the city if required.

Israeli officials describe the ultra-Orthodox as especially prone to contagion because their districts tend to be poor and congested, and in normal times they are accustomed to holding thrice-daily prayers with often large congregations. Some ultra-Orthodox rabbis have also cast doubt on the coronavirus risk.

Reporting by Rami Ayyub; Additional reporting by Dan Williams, Steve Scheer and Tova Cohen; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Hugh Lawson


Exclusive: Captain of aircraft carrier with growing coronavirus outbreak pleads for help from Navy

Posted April 1, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Exclusive: Captain of aircraft carrier with growing coronavirus outbreak pleads for help from Navy –

Note: This story has been updated with comments from the U.S. Navy and other developments.

The captain of a nuclear aircraft carrier with more than 100 sailors infected with the coronavirus pleaded Monday with U.S. Navy officials for resources to allow isolation of his entire crew and avoid possible deaths in a situation he described as quickly deteriorating.

The unusual plea from Capt. Brett Crozier, a Santa Rosa native, came in a letter obtained exclusively by The Chronicle and confirmed by a senior officer on board the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which has been docked in Guam following a COVID-19 outbreak among the crew of more than 4,000 less than a week ago.

“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” Crozier wrote. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”

In the four-page letter to senior military officials, Crozier said only a small contingent of infected sailors have been off-boarded. Most of the crew remain aboard the ship, where following official guidelines for 14-day quarantines and social distancing is impossible.

“Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,” Crozier wrote. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”

He asked for “compliant quarantine rooms” on shore in Guam for his entire crew “as soon as possible.”

“Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure. … This is a necessary risk,” Crozier wrote. “Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

The Navy did not respond to The Chronicle’s requests for comment Monday, but on Tuesday morning as the news spread, the Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly spoke to CNN.

“I heard about the letter from Capt. Crozier (Tuesday) morning, I know that our command organization has been aware of this for about 24 hours and we have been working actually the last seven days to move those sailors off the ship and get them into accommodations in Guam. The problem is that Guam doesn’t have enough beds right now and we’re having to talk to the government there to see if we can get some hotel space, create tent-type facilities,” Modly said.

“We don’t disagree with the (captain) on that ship and we’re doing it in a very methodical way because it’s not the same as a cruise ship, that ship has armaments on it, it has aircraft on it, we have to be able to fight fires if there are fires on board the ship, we have to run a nuclear power plant, so there’s a lot of things that we have to do on that ship that make it a little bit different and unique but we’re managing it and we’re working through it,” he said.

“We’re very engaged in this, we’re very concerned about it and we’re taking all the appropriate steps,” Modly said.

So far, none of the infected sailors has shown serious symptoms, but the number of those who have tested positive has jumped exponentially since the Navy reported infections in three crew members on March 24, the first time COVID-19 infections had been detected on a naval vessel at sea.

Asked Tuesday what should be done about the Roosevelt, President Trump said he would “let the military make that decision.”

Retired Admiral James Stavridis, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told The Chronicle Tuesday in an e-mail that “we should expect more such incidents because warships are a perfect breeding ground for coronavirus.”

“Unfortunately, naval vessels are ideal breeding grounds for the spread of viruses because it is impossible to do social distancing on one” because of the tight quarters on board, Stavridis said.

The ship’s problems will “compound,” Stavridis said, because you can’t tie the vessel up “and send everyone ashore. It is full of weapons, billions of dollars of equipment, fire hazards, and nuclear reactors.”


Syrian media says Israeli war planes attack near Homs 

Posted April 1, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Syrian media says Israeli war planes attack near Homs | The Times of Israel

No immediate comment from Israel; Syrian opposition says target of strike was al-Sharyat military airport used by Iran

F-16 jets fly above the Herzliya airport on November 15, 2019. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

F-16 jets fly above the Herzliya airport on November 15, 2019. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Syrian air defenses in the central province of Homs opened fire Tuesday night on missiles launched from what state media claimed were Israeli warplanes.

Syrian State TV said the warplanes fired the missiles while flying in Lebanese airspace. The outlet said the warplanes targeted a Syrian army position without saying where exactly. It said some of the missiles had been shot down, though Syrian media has been known to make such claims falsely.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), an opposition war monitor, said Israeli warplanes fired eight missiles at al-Shayrat air base in Homs province. It said explosions were heard and believed to have been caused by anti-aircraft defenses while intercepting these strikes, but gave no further details.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.


conducted airstrikes targeting the Shayrat Military Airport in the Region in .

This video shows an air-to-surface missile (rocket motor equipped) launched by Air Force’s F-16Ds hitting its target

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If the target was al-Shayrat base it would be the second time this month that the Israel Defense Forces has reportedly struck the site which is said to be used by Iran as a forward base for bringing weapons into the country.

On March 5, according to Syrian opposition sources, a series of Israeli airstrikes targeted four Hezbollah-linked sites in central and southern Syria.

SOHR said the Israeli attack targeted two military airports near the city of Homs in western-central Syria — al-Shayrat and al-Dabaa — as well as two locations in the area of Quneitra, across from Israel’s Golan Heights.

On March 2, as Israel held elections, the IDF bombed a Syrian vehicle that the military said was used in an attempted sniper attack on Israeli troops near the Golan border.

The IDF acknowledged the strike.

SOHR said the vehicle belonged to members of a militia loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The Only Truth@TheOnlyTruthInc

: It’s the second time this month targets the airbase. This site has reportedly become ‘s air base in used to store weapons & operations command.

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In recent years, Israel has repeatedly carried out airstrikes in Syria against targets belonging to Iran and its regional proxies Hezbollah and other Shi’ite militias.

Though Israeli officials generally refrain from taking responsibility for specific strikes in Syria, they have acknowledged conducting hundreds to thousands of raids in the country since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

These have overwhelmingly been directed against Iran and its proxies, notably the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, but the IDF has also carried out strikes on Syrian air defenses when those batteries have fired at Israeli jets.

Israel has in the past accused Iran of attempting to set up rocket launching crews and other “terror infrastructure” in the Syrian Golan Heights, to be used against Israel, as well as of trying to entrench a military presence in the country.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.


IDF chief in quarantine after contact with coronavirus sufferer

Posted March 31, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

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

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’

Posted March 31, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

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.”