News Digest — 3/30/20

Israel: Infections At 4037, 16 Deaths

The number of Israelis confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus passed 4,000 Monday morning (30th) as a senior official warned that a pending curfew may backfire in some population sectors.

The Ministry of Health reported 4,037 Israelis were infected, with 80 of those in serious condition, 63 of whom were breathing with the help of ventilators.  One hundred new cases were reported overnight – the death toll is at 16.

“I am assuming by the end of the week we will have over 150 patients in serious condition.  I do not see a model that we are ending this pandemic event with a small number of dead,” Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov told Kan Radio.  He said he stood by his earlier predictions that thousands might die from the disease.

Bar Siman Tov warned that although the wider public was finally heeding health ministry guidelines to stay home, the proposed nationwide closure might actually harm some sectors of Israeli society with large families.

“We see a change in the behavior of the Haredi (Jewish ultra-orthodox) and Arab societies.  But the majority of infection is within the home. If we impose a curfew on them, it will not help,” he said in an interview on Israel Army Radio.

Bar Siman Tov said it is unlikely schools would reopen when the upcoming Passover holiday ends April 15, repeating the government’s mantra that “the key in the end is a deep change in the behavior of people.”

Health officials led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been pleading with Israelis to stay indoors to stop the spread of the disease.  People are restricted to within just yards of their homes unless they are getting food or medicine.

Government officials have repeatedly warned that without everybody staying home and the infection-rate dropping there would be no choice but to impose a national lockdown.

Last week, police began enforcing stay-at-home rules and handing out fines of up to $1,400 to those loitering in groups outside.



Rocket Fired From Gaza, IDF Retaliates

The IDF reported Saturday (28th) that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket Friday night (27th) that fell in the southern Israeli town of Sderot.  There were no casualties or damages.

In response, Israeli tanks and aircraft struck three sites belonging to the Hamas terror group.  The Israeli military described the targets as “infrastructure used for underground activity.”

The rocket fire shattered weeks of total calm along the often-volatile frontier between Israel and Gaza, a coastal territory ruled by Hamas.

No Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for the launching but Israel holds Hamas accountable for any attacks originating from the enclave it controls.

The recent calm has prevailed as Gaza and Israel struggle to contain the spread of the coronavirus.  As confirmed cases of the coronavirus spread in the Gaza Strip, there are fears that the under-resourced health system there will not be able to handle the outbreak.      

Since Wresting control of the coastal enclave from the Palestinian Authority in a bloody coup in 2007, Hamas has prevented funding for basic needs in Gaza, diverting hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to attack Israeli civilians using rocket assaults, airborne arson campaigns, and terror attacks.



Israel Is Coronavirus Light Unto Arab Nations

Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, a prominent Iranian cleric, recently succeeded in shocking his followers by saying publicly that “If Israel has the coronavirus vaccine, if the treatment is unique and there is no substitute, then this is not an obstacle.”

The statement managed to rile-up the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ top brass who in turn urged the administration to convince Shirazi, a close friend of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, to “apologize” for his words, which he did, after three days.

But Iran’s business sector and youth quickly showed support for the aging cleric.

It’s amazing to discover how much the entire Arab world is following Israel’s efforts against the coronavirus.

Many of these nations, mainly ones with which Jerusalem has no official ties, are even cooperating with Israel health officials to a degree.

Doctors from Morocco to Iraq wish to learn how Israel is dealing with the epidemic, many writing to Israeli colleagues they have met at international conventions, trying to exact a promise to share medical information once there’s a breakthrough.

The Arab world does not look toward Europe, which is failing to deal with the virus, or the US, they are only looking to their long-time enemy.

Even one of the Persian Gulf states, whose name cannot be published, sent several protective suits to Israel in exchange for medical information.

Because of Israel’s methods of dealing with the virus, the cold relations between Jerusalem and Jordanian King Abdullah II’s palace in Amman have seemed to warm up behind the scenes with the kingdom following developments closely.

Israeli doctors are updating Jordanian, Palestinian, Egyptian and Persian Gulf counterparts on all the latest findings around the clock.

The Arab nations seem to generally repeat every step Israel takes.  If Israel imposes a partial lockdown, enlists the army and closes the streets from 9 p.m. till morning, and allows citizens out only to buy food and medicine, the Arab world takes note and does the same.



Rivlin Writes Letter To World Leaders, Wishes Recovery From Coronavirus

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin sent letters on Sunday (29th) to some of the world’s top leading officials who have contracted the coronavirus, wishing them a speedy recovery.  

Writing to Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and Minister of State of Monaco Serge Telle, he touched on the need to cooperate during the crisis saying “together, we will overcome this difficult time.”

In his letter Rivlin stressed the importance for international cooperation during the crisis, writing that, “The virus we are facing makes no distinctions for national borders, and uniting internationally is vital in fighting it.  Although many of us are now in isolation, drawing on our reserves of patience and forbearance, the world has become a smaller place, and we gain strength from each other.”

He continued by stating Israel’s readiness to cooperate with the global community “in any way possible – to ensure that we combat this cruel disease and prevent its further spread.”

Additionally, the president told them of a daily prayer the Jews recite three times a day, in which the words “the Almighty is a faithful and merciful healer – rofe ne’eman ve ‘rachaman ata” are recited.  “It seems to me that this prayer has a special significance for these days and for all peoples,” he wrote.



Sesame Street Enlisted In Battle Against Coronavirus

Elmo, Rooster and Cookie Monster are doing their part to help keep kids safe as the coronavirus grinds on.

The beloved Sesame Street Muppets are featured in some of four new animated public service spots reminding young fans to take care while doing such things as washing hands and sneezing.

One of Elmo’s signature songs, the toothbrush classic “Brushy Brush” has been updated to “Washy Wash.”  Rooster pops up in another of the 30-second spots to remind kids to “wash hands now” before eating, playing sports or using the bathroom.

The new spots will be distributed globally in 19 languages through partners that include HBO, PBS Kids, YouTube and the Ad Council. 

“As families around the world adjust to their new realities, parents and caregivers are looking for help in creating new routines, staying healthy and fostering learning at home while little ones are out of school,” said Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, senior vice president of curriculum and content at Sesame Workshop, in a statement.

“The workshop will continue to roll out new resources for parents and caregivers on creating new routines, fostering playful learning at home and managing anxiety,” the statement said.



Report: Chinese Markets Still Selling Bats, Despite Evidence Linking Them To Coronavirus

Chinese markets are still selling bats believed to be the original source of the deadly coronavirus, reports The Daily Mail.

According to the report, over the weekend thousands of Chinese customers were seen visiting “wet markets” in Guilin, south-west China.

Besides poultry and produce, Chinese “wet markets” are known to sell dozens of unusual  species for consumption, such as bats, lizards, and baby crocodiles which are generally killed on-site.

Bats and scorpions were being sold for “traditional medicine,” rabbits and ducks were being slaughtered and skinned on floors covered with “blood, filth, and animal remains,” and dogs and cats were “crammed into rusty cages,” the report said.

Jason Beaubien of NPR described what a Chinese wet market looked like after visiting one in late February.

“Live fish in open tubs, splash water all over the floor,” Beaubien said.  The countertops of the stalls are red with blood as fish are gutted and filleted right in front of the customers’ eyes.  Live turtles and crustaceans climb over each other in boxes.”

Scientists have not yet determined exactly how the coronavirus first infected people, but evidence suggests it originated in bats.

Of the 33 samples from the Wuhan market that tested positive in February for the coronavirus, officials say 31 were from the area where wildlife booths were concentrated.