News Digest — 4/3/20

Thousands Of Elderly Being Transferred Out Of Haredi City

Bnei Brak, the city of ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi Jews, has seen the highest infection rate of coronavirus in Israel.  In order to protect its more vulnerable residents, the elderly, Israeli government ministers decided on Thursday (2nd) to approve an operation to move thousands out of the city.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett decided the 4,500 residents 80-years-old and above will be taken to special quarantine hotels where they will ride out the pandemic in better health circumstances than if they remained in the city where the coronavirus rages.  

An entire IDF division, the 98th, has been deployed to Bnei Brak and began the transfer, Friday morning (3rd).

Reports say the government debated imposing a total lockdown of the city but decided against it for the time being.  Instead it is being designated a “restricted zone.”

According to Ministry of Health statistics, one out of seven confirmed coronavirus patients in Israel are residents of the city of Bnei Brak.

Ran Sa’ar of Maccabi, one of Israel’s largest health providers, made a shocking declaration on Thursday (2nd), estimating that 38% of Bnei Brak residents, or 75,000 people are infected with the coronavirus.

Haredi cities, especially Bnei Brak, were late to take action in the face of the fast-spreading pandemic.  The strictly haredi community shuns televisions, smartphones and the internet. Partly for this reason the warnings of the government reached them late.

The haredi community was also more susceptible to the virus’s spread given its emphasis on communal prayer and other activities that brought hundreds together.

The community also saw the toll coronavirus took among the Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods outside of Israel in places like Brooklyn.



Hamas Chief Threatens Israel Over Ventilators For Coronavirus

The head of Hamas in Gaza warned Israel if more ventilators for coronavirus patients were not brought into the Palestinian enclave, then the terror group will “take them by force.”

“If ventilators are not brought into Gaza, we’ll take them by force from Israel and stop the breathing of six million Israelis,” said Yahya Sinwar, according to Hebrew media reports.

The terror chief highlighted Hamas’ efforts to contain the virus outbreak in Gaza, saying, “When we decided to establish compulsory quarantine facilities for people returning to Gaza, we knew that it would be a difficult decision that would cause a lot of criticism against us.”  

“It’s our first line of defense.  We can’t allow the epidemic into Gaza,” Sinwar said, according to Channel 12.

He accused Israel of not allowing medicines into Gaza saying he wouldn’t return Israeli soldiers bodies until medical supplies came in.

Hamas is holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were captured by the terror group and killed during the 2014 war.

Sinwar, who is heading Hamas’ response to the pandemic made the comments via remote video to television and terror groups’ digital platforms.  The address appeared to be his first public statement on the outbreak.

The virus has found a way into Gaza, even though the Mediterranean enclave has been largely cut off from the world by and Egyptian-Israeli blockade since Hamas seized control of it from the Palestinian Authority 13 years ago.  The blockade is in place to prevent Hamas from importing weapons and military supplies.

As of Tuesday (3/31) Gaza had confirmed over a dozen coronavirus cases, saying the patients’ were in stable condition, according to the health ministry.

The terrifying possibility of an outbreak in one of the world’s most crowded territories – 2 million people squeezed into an area twice the size of Washington DC – does not seem to have registered fully.  Many in Gaza seem to accept Hamas’ assurances that the threat is contained.



Fatah Ignoring Epidemic, Stages Armed Rally To Celebrate Prisoner Release

Palestinian gunmen from the Fatah terror group fired their guns in the air at a mass celebration they organized at a PA town adjacent to Jerusalem in clear violation of health rules, an Israeli reporter revealed Thursday (2nd).

Despite clear rules from the Palestinian health ministry against large gatherings, masked terrorists brought hundreds of people into the streets of Qalandiya just outside Jerusalem’s municipal boundary and beside the runway of the capital’s Atarot Airport, abandoned during the second intifada due to gun fire from the town.

“A corona-day’s reception for released prisoners at Qalandiya must have gunfire – that is a must,” Ynet reporter Elior Levy tweeted.

The Palestinian news website Shahed reported that “the gathering of citizens and the shooting comes just hours after a PA government spokesman announced that the coronavirus had reached a dangerous level,” in the Palestinian territories.

On Monday (3/30) Israeli officials warned that a “medical annexation” of the Palestinian-controlled territory might be necessary because the PA is an “epidemiological black hole” where the true extent of the pandemic is unknown.  Although acknowledging that the PA was making efforts to fight the spread of the epidemic, former Director of the Ministry of Health Dr. Gabi Barabash said the movement of Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem, where people are coming and going freely in crowds, would affect everyone.

“What’s happening there will affect what happens in the rest of Israel,” Barabash said.

Fifteen Palestinian workers, employed at an Israeli meat packing plant, who were found to be infected with coronavirus, live in Qalandiya, Israel media reported Monday (3/30).  



Coronavirus Passover: Why Is This Year Different From All Others?

Holiday Guidelines From The Health Ministry 

As the Health Ministry strives to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic across Israel, it has issued a list of guidelines in conjunction with the Chief Rabbinate to help keep Israelis safe.

This Passover, it stated:

→ We will celebrate in our own homes and only with our nuclear families.

→ None of our dishes or other utensils will be kashered and no chametz will be burned outside of our homes.

→ We will not hire outside cleaning help but will clean our homes on our own with store-bought bleach or other cleaning products.

→ We will order our groceries to be delivered.

“This Passover, send love remotely through zoom or phone calls,” the ministry advised, adding that if for any reason people leave their homes, they should wear a face mask and stay two meters from anyone they encounter.  The ministry said people should pray alone, and refrain from taking walks in nature or anywhere more than 100 meters from their homes.

“Please obey all guidelines so that we can all celebrate together next year,” the Health Ministry wrote.

Passover begins on Wednesday evening, the 8th, at sundown and continues through Thursday evening, the 16th.



Race Car Mechanics, Academics Reverse-Engineer Breathing Device For Corona Victims

A group of British engineers from the academic and car-racing worlds, teamed up with doctors to create a medical device for seriously ill coronavirus victims in less than a week, the Guardian reported this week.

After consulting with clinicians in University College London Hospital (UCLH), engineers in the College’s Institute of Healthcare Engineering took apart a standard Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine used to help people with breathing problems and redesigned it within days.

They created the new device together with colleagues who usually work on improving race cars at Mercedes Formula One.    

“From being given the brief, we worked all hours of the day, disassembling and analyzing an off-patent device,” said UCL engineer Tim Baker.  Using computer simulations, we improved the device further to create a state-of-the-art version suited to mass production.

It took only a few days more for the UK regulatory authorities to approve its use.

The redesigned device’s importance lies in the fact that it could help save coronavirus patients from being put on ventilators, which are increasingly in short supply around the world.

“These devices are a halfway house between a simple oxygen mask and invasive mechanical ventilation which requires patients to be sedated,” explained UCL critical care consultant Prof. Mervyn Singer.  “They will help to save lives by ensuring that ventilators, a limited resource, are used for the most severely ill.”

This is because as long as patients can breathe on their own, the CPAP is a completely non-invasive way of helping them inhale when their lungs are seriously congested by the disease.  It works by delivering a constant flow of air and oxygen to the body’s air tubes via a mask that covers the mouth and nose.

Ventilators, which mechanically pump oxygen directly into the lungs and draw out the carbon dioxide, can then be saved for people who cannot breathe on their own.

Patients on ventilators must also be kept in an intensive care unit, which has a high-ratio of medical staff to patients.  Those who can use the new CPAP instead will save precious space and hospital manpower, as they can be kept in an ordinary isolation ward.

Israel currently has some 2,900 ventilators throughout the country. This week many dozens were on machines, and the number of critically ill patients has more than doubled in the last week.

Health authorities fear a situation where the number of those needing artificial respiration will overtake the number of ventilators and force doctors to decide who should get the life-saving equipment and who should not.

Dr. Orly Weinstein, the Health Ministry official in charge of purchasing medical equipment, told The Jerusalem Post this week that 11,000 ventilators are on order with 2,000-3,000 expected to be manufactured in Israel in the next two months.