New emergency regulations have come into effect in Israel today, placing tougher restrictions on movement to help battle the spread of coronavirus. These restrictions mean that Israelis should stay at home at all times unless for purposes of essential work, stocking up on food, medical issues or a limited number of permitted activities.
Israel has already ordered all schools, universities and kindergartens to close along with leisure and recreational sites. Many places of work have also been instructed to have employees work from home where possible. Israel has also sealed its borders to all foreigners.
The number of coronavirus cases in Israel currently stands at 705, and there have been no deaths yet.
A 38-year-old East Jerusalem bus driver who was Israel’s first COVID-19 patient in serious condition has now improved and is now only showing mild symptoms.
Israel approved the use of a cellphone tracking tool developed by the Shin Bet security service to track infected citizens and others who may have come into close contact with them in the past two weeks. A similar strategy has been used by South Korea and Taiwan.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service have opened a new drive-through facility in Tel Aviv so that Israelis can receive on the spot testing for the coronavirus while they wait in their cars. At the moment, this facility is only open to those with specific doctor referral but if it proves successful, additional facilities will open up across other major cities.
Over the past few days, the Health Ministry has increased testing for the virus from around 500-700 tests up to about 2,200 tests per day. Officials have estimated that this will increase to 5,000 tests per day by next week.
The IDF has also been called in to work in conjunction with Magen David Adom (MDA). The military service has established a call centre, a national emergency portal, a blood drive which aims to obtain at least 7,000 units of blood and logistical help for the drive-thru test centres. The IDF are also helping out with the quarantine hotels across the country.
The IDF’s elite 81st intelligence technology unit is working alongside the MDA, the health ministry and various hospitals on a variety of technological aspects. This includes producing face masks for health care providers and 50 vans with internal separators to protect drivers from the infected patient as well as developing a new application to better manage the data from the thousands of checks being performed on suspected coronavirus carriers daily.
Additionally, Israeli tech start-ups have been brainstorming how their inventions, some intended for entirely different purposes, can help in the current crisis.
At Chaim Sheba Medical Centre, the largest medical centre in the Middle East, EarlySense have produced a no-contact system that goes under patient’s mattress to monitor their breathing patterns, heart rate and potential signs of respiratory infection.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been working together since the first case of coronavirus. Israelis and Palestinians are in constant communication on all matters related to the virus and have now set up a joint operations room.
Yotam Shefer, the head of the international department at The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the body responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, also confirmed that coordination between Israel and Palestinians was “very tight and strong”.
Shefer confirmed that Israel has given the Palestinians 400 kits to test for the virus, 500 sets of protective gear for medical professionals and additional security forces. Israeli and Palestinian medical professionals have participated in joint professional workshops and online tutorials about combating the virus.
He emphasised that “the health of all citizens in the region stands above all and is our top priority”.