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Public security minister mulls declaring public emergency amid virus outbreak

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Sunday that he was considering declaring a state of emergency in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

“I’m going to consider the need to announce a ‘civilian state of emergency,’ which will give authorities much broader powers,” he said at the opening of a fire station in Jerusalem, without specifying the scope of such a declaration.

“We are living in challenging times, between the coronavirus and the complicated political situation that we’ve been in for too long,” he added.

In a separate statement Sunday, Erdan announced that he had ordered the Israel Prisons Service to bar visits by Palestinians from the West Bank to security inmates in Israeli prisons due to the ongoing outbreak.

Last week, the Kan public broadcaster reported that Israel’s police, prison service and Justice Ministry were considering an emergency protocol in which all non-essential court hearings would be pushed off due to coronavirus fears.

The special procedures would mean there would only be hearings for remand extension and urgent petitions, in order to prevent the spread of the virus into Israeli jails.

However, law enforcement officials have yet to confirm the report or hand down a decision on the matter.

Health Ministry deputy director general Itamar Grotto on Sunday estimated that the number of Israeli COVID-19 cases could surge to tens of thousands.

Netanyahu declared on Saturday that the disease was a pandemic.