This picture taken on March 16, 2020 during a presentation of the hospitalisation service for future patients with coronavirus at Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital in the Israeli city of Ashdod, shows the director of the epidemics service checking stocks of medication, while wearing protective clothing. (AFP / Jack Guez)

Hoax claim circulates online that Israel has no COVID-19 cases after it developed a 'cure'

Multiple posts shared hundreds of times on Facebook and Twitter claim Israel has no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, as it has already developed a "cure". The claim is false; official World Health Organization (WHO) data and Israeli media reports state at least 298 people have been confirmed to have contracted the disease as of March 16; Israel has implemented travel restrictions and closed businesses in response to the spread of COVID-19. Various countries have been working develop a vaccine for COVID-19 and WHO guidance currently states there is no "cure" for the virus to date. 

This post was published on Facebook on March 13, 2020. It has been shared 351 times.

The post features an image of the Israeli flag alongside an Urdu caption which translates to English as: “In all countries of the world there is presence of coronavirus and strategies are being devised to prevent it, but only in Israel, neither there is any patient of coronavirus, nor any activity is being seen to safeguard from it. So it will not be wrong to say that this virus is created by Israel and its cure is also with Israel. What is your opinion?”

Below is a screenshot of the misleading Facebook post:

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post

COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO on March 12, 2020. It emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. It has since spread worldwide and as of March 16, the number of cases and deaths outside China has overtaken total cases in China, according to this WHO report.

A similar claim was also shared in this Facebook post, and on Twitter here and here.

The claim is false. 

According to reports by Israeli newspapers The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post published on March 16, 2020, Israel's Ministry of Health has 298 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country. 

The first paragraph of The Times of Israel report reads: “The Health Ministry on Monday night said the number of COVID-19 cases in Israel has climbed to 298, as data shared by the authorities showed that one-quarter of those infected by the coronavirus showed no symptoms.”

The Jerusalem Post article says the government has implemented additional measures to prevent further spread.

It reads, in part: “The government imposed increasingly severe limits on both the public and private sector on Monday evening, as the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus climbed to 298.

“The public sector will operate according to an emergency framework, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a press conference, with all government and local authority workers placed on paid leave until the end of the Passover holiday, except for those deemed critical for continued operations. Private sector firms exceeding 10 employees will be required to reduce staff present in the workplace by 70%.”

This dashboard on the WHO website, which provides daily updates on global COVID-19 numbers by country, also states 250 cases have been recorded in Israel as of March 16, 2020.

Below is a screenshot of the map, with Israel’s figures highlighted yellow by AFP:

Screenshot of the map, with Israel’s figures highlighted yellow by AFP

The WHO has said there is currently no medicine that can prevent or treat COVID-19.

The Q&A section of its website reads, in part: “To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019… Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19.”

Below is a screenshot of the relevant section on the WHO website:

Screenshot of the relevant section on the WHO website