Coronavirus Israel Live: Border Police Chief Tests Positive, Public Security Minister Quarantined

Universities to hold exams remotely ■ Active coronavirus cases in Israel pass 10,000 ■ Three deaths registered in West Bank in one night ■ Netanyahu announces restrictions on gatherings

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People wearing protective masks against COVID-19 walk in the streets of Tel Aviv, June 29, 2020.
People wearing protective masks against COVID-19 walk in the streets of Tel Aviv, June 29, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Haaretz

This story is no longer being updated. For our most recent coverage, follow live updates here.

Israel and the West Bank are dealing with a renewed outbreak of the coronavirus, leading to proposals and measures intended to curb its spread and mitigate the economic ramifications of the crisis by both the Israeli and the Palestinian authorities.

29,032 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 330 people have died. 

In the West Bank, there are 3,588 active cases; 18 people have died. In the Gaza Strip, 72 people were diagnosed and one person has died. 

LISTEN: Bibi's bonanza, arresting activists and the death of God TVCredit: Haaretz

■ Coronavirus tracker: Live stats of cases and deaths

LIVE UPDATES

9:00 A.M. Police to enforce regulations in buses, trains 

The Israel Police said its operation to enforce coronavirus regulations will be expanded countrywide and include enforcement in public transport, with thousands of police officers inspecting restaurants, event venues, shops, buses and trains. 

The police statement said the operation will focus on the most crowded venues, restaurants and bus lines, where infection on a large scale is most likely to take place. (Josh Breiner)

8:55 A.M. Israeli coronavirus death toll rises to 331

A 69-yer-old man has died of COVID-19 at the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Sava, central Israel. He had been admitted to the coronavirus ward in March in severe condition. The hospital said that it allowed his family members to remain by his side through using protective means. (Bar Peleg)

8:20 A.M. West Bank death toll rises to 18

Two men died from coronavirus in Hebron on Saturday night. The total West Bank death toll stands at 18. (Jack Khoury)

7:20 A.M. West Bank death toll rises to 16

A 72-year-old woman from Nablus died from coronavirus. The death toll in the West Bank stands at 16. (Jack Khoury)

SATURDAY

10:50 P.M. Public Security Minister in quarantine

Israel's Public Security Minister Amir Ohana is in quarantine after coming in contact with Border Police Chief Yaakov Shabtai who tested positive for coronavirus on Friday, said a ministry statement. (Josh Breiner) 

10:25 P.M. Rivlin, Gantz and Kochavi not required to quarantine

President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and military Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi will not be required to quarantine, said the Health Ministry, after they came in contact with Border Police cheif Yaakov Shabtai who tested positive for coronavirus on Friday. (Haaretz)

10:20 P.M. Over 30,000 Israelis ordered into quarantine as digital tracking of coronavirus patients resumes

The Health Ministry sent messages on Thursday and Friday instructing more than 30,000 people to self-quarantine after the Shin Bet security service cellphone tracking system reported that they had been in close proximity to confirmed coronavirus patients.

However, some of those who were ordered into quarantine say they were at home at the time in question and were not in contact with anyone, but that they have no means of appealing the order.

The messages were sent after the Knesset on Wednesday passed a temporary legislation allowing the Health Ministry to avail itself of Shin Bet assistance to locate people who had been in the vicinity of confirmed patients. (Josh Breiner and Bar Peleg)

>> Read full story here 

People wearing protective masks walk in Jerusalem, June 30, 2020.
People wearing protective masks walk in Jerusalem, June 30, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

9:45 P.M. 11 cases diagnosed at Tel Aviv assisted living facility

Eleven people have been diagnosed at the Palace Tel Aviv assisted living facility. All residents in the facility were tested after one was found to be positive. A caregiver at the facility was identified as the source of the infections. (Haaretz)

9:30 P.M. Two Jerusalem prison officers diagnosed with coronavirus

Two prison officers at the Jerusalem Detention Center have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The facility has suspended taking in new prisoners, the prison authority said, and all prisoners and prison officers will be tested and, if necessary, enter quarantine.

9:20 P.M. 237 new cases diagnosed in West Bank

A hotel manager wearing a face mask uses a key to unlock an elevator at the Abu Mazen Hotel, which is closed to customers, in Hebron on July 1, 2020.
A hotel manager wearing a face mask uses a key to unlock an elevator at the Abu Mazen Hotel, which is closed to customers, in Hebron on July 1, 2020.Credit: REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

There were 237 new coronavirus cases diagnosed in the West Bank on Saturday, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, bringing the total number of active cases to 3,588. Of the 237 new cases, 173 were in the Hebron area. (Haaretz)

9:30 P.M. Israel records 977 new virus cases, 4 new deaths

The Health Ministry announced that the number of cases of the coronavirus in Israel had risen to 29,032 – an increase of 977 cases from the previous evening. Over the past 24-hours, Israel has recorded more new cases than Italy and Spain and France combined. In addition, four coronavirus patients died, bringing the death toll to 330.

Israel has 10,929 active cases, the vast majority of which are in mild condition; 84 people are in serious condition with 32 on ventilators.

7:05 P.M. Nearly 1,000 cases in West Bank are in minors

There are 994 coronavirus cases in those under the age of 18 in the West Bank, including 406 under the age of nine, the Palestinian Health Ministry’s figures show. Only 95 are over the age of 70. A rise in cases has not yet been reflected in a rise in hospitalizations and serious cases. (Jack Khoury)

6:00 P.M. Universities in Israel move exams online

Israel's higher education system announced Saturday that exams will no longer be administered on campus starting July 5, and will fully move online instead, a day before the government order banning in-person exams is to go into effect. 

The decision comes after a dispute between institutions of higher education and government orders. A committee within the Higher Education Council had drafted an outline on Firday, according to which 50 percent of exams in the sciences will be held in-person, and the rest will be administered remotely. The proposal also called for 25 percent of exams in other departments to be held on campus.

Higher Education Minister Zeev Elkin and the Health Ministry are demanded that no more than 10 percent of exams be held in classrooms. (Lior Dattel)

5:15 P.M. Border Police chief tests positive; Rivlin, Gantz, Kochavi may need to quarantine

Yaakov Shabtai tested positive for coronavirus on Friday and is in stable condition. The police and Health Ministry began an epidemiological investigation to locate anyone who had been in contact with him in recent days.

Shabati attended a ceremony on Thursday that included, among others, President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, military Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, MK Miki Zohar and other senior officials. The attendees maintained social distancing regulations and wore face masks, but they may still be required to enter quarantine.

Also, on Wednesday, Shabati attended a border commanders ceremony in the Occupied Territories, an event in which senior police officers were present. During the week Shabtai met with several senior commanders, some of whom are expected to quarantine as well. (Josh Breiner)

1:05 P.M. Designated coronavirus ward opens in Hebron hospital

Staff of the Palestinian Health Ministry in full hazmat suits transport the body of COVID-19 victim for burial in the West Bank city of Hebron, June 29, 2020.
Staff of the Palestinian Health Ministry in full hazmat suits transport the body of COVID-19 victim for burial in the West Bank city of Hebron, June 29, 2020.Credit: HAZEM BADER / AFP

A spokesperson for the Palestinian Health Ministry said medical teams have begun monitoring confirmed coronavirus patients, aiming to break the infection chain and put those infected in quarantine. In addition, a ward designated to treat coronavirus patients opened in a state-owned hospital in Hebron, where the number of confirmed patients in the highest in the West Bank.

The spokesperson added that the lockdown imposed on Friday throughout the West Bank, along with the implementation of recommendations to prevent infections, are supposed to curb the increasing infection and number of coronavirus patients in the West Bank.

Out of the 3,348 active cases in the West Bank, 13 are in serious condition, of which 2 are on ventilators. (Jack Khoury)

12:33 P.M. Palestinian woman dies of COVID-19, raising toll in West Bank to 15

The Palestinian Health Ministry said that another Palestinian woman had died from the coronavirus, bringing the death toll in the West Bank to 15. 

Over the past 24 hours, the number of confirmed cases has risen in the West Bank by 244, and the number of active cases now stands at 3,348, with most cases diagnosed in the Hebron area. (Jack Khoury)

FRIDAY

8:47 P.M. Over 200 new virus cases recorded in West Bank

Another 204 coronavirus cases were recorded on Friday in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. This brings the number of active cases in the West Bank to 3,025, most of which are in the Hebron area. (Jack Khoury)

7:45 P.M. Four West Bank virus deaths recorded in single day

A resident of Hebron and a resident of East Jerusalem died of the coronavirus, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, bringing the death toll from the virus in the West Bank to 14. (Jack Khoury) 

6:45 P.M. Over 1,000 people diagnosed with coronavirus 

Over the last 24 hours 1,008 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, raising the number of active cases in Israel to 10,060, according to data released by the Health Ministry.

The number of people who have died from the virus is 326. Meanwhile, 77 people in serious condition and 27 of those are on ventilators. (Haaretz)

3:20 P.M. Knesset intern tests positive

An intern for the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee's legal advisor tested positive for the coronavirus, a spokesperson for the Israeli parliament said. While Health Ministry officials are working to compile the intern's epidemiology report, the Knesset Guard told anyone who has been in close contact with the intern to stay at home. (Jonathan Lis)

3:00 P.M. Colleges and universities still in the dark about how to hold final exams during coronavirus crisis

Two days before a government order banning in-person exams is to go into effect, the higher education system has not yet decided how to hold student exams. A committee within the Higher Education Council drafted an outline, according to which exams in the sciences will be held in-person 50 percent of the time, and will be taken at home the rest of the time. Other departments will hold 25 percent of their exams on campus. However, Higher Education Minister Zeev Elkin and the Health Ministry are demanding that only 10 percent of exams be held in classrooms.

An order banning in-person exams in educational institutions was passed by the coronavirus cabinet on Monday, and Elkin announced that it will go into effect on Sunday in order to give colleges and universities time to prepare. The outline was going to be discussed on Thursday, but two hours before the meeting was supposed to begin, Elkin was told that it was postponed. He said that there is no use discussing the plan after he and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein agreed that institutions must supply a reason for holding on-campus exams for every department if they wish to do so.

With no clear guidelines, educational institutions are setting their own policies in the meantime. The Hebrew University in Jerusalem announced that the in-person exams planned for this week will be postponed but have not yet set a date for when they will be sat, and Haifa University will soon tell students how it will be replacing its exams – either by homework or online exams. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv University has delayed its decision on in-class examinations. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

1:39 P.M. Israel confirms dozens more cases, one more death

Israel has 9,678 active coronavirus cases, according to Health Ministry figures, marking a rise of 564 cases since Thursday evening and 145 since midnight. There are 27,611 cases in total.

After another COVID-19 patient died, the total number of deaths is 326. 74 patients are in serious condition, and 26 of them on life support. (Haaretz)

11:36 A.M. Hebron woman dies, bringing West Bank total to 12

The Palestinian Health Ministry said a 68-year-old COVID-19 patient from Hebron died, marking the sixth death in the area in less than a week. In total, 12 patients have died in the West Bank since the outbreak began.

According to official figures, there are 2,823 active cases in the West Bank, as a five-day lockdown to curb the spread of the disease comes into force.

In the Gaza Strip, three patients have recovered. According to Palestinian authorities, there are currently 12 active cases in the strip. (Jack Khoury)

9:05 A.M. Israeli mayor won't enforce new COVID-19 restrictions because they stifle business

Roey Levi, mayor of the Haifa suburb of Nesher, said in a tweet he would order city inspectors not to enforce some of the new regulations announced by the Israeli government, which he says disproportionately hurt businesses. 

“Nesher city inspectors will not partake in the ‘celebration’ of ruining the economy, and will only be ordered to enforce distancing and wearing masks,” he said. “The new restrictions are a death sentence for businesses and a blow to the livelihood of hundreds of residents.”

As of Friday at 8 A.M., governmental orders stipulate that public gatherings across Israel will be limited to 20 people. (Haaretz)

8:30 A.M. Active coronavirus cases in Israel near 10,000

Israel's Health Ministry said the total number of COVID-19 cases has reached 27,542, increasing by 76 since midnight. Active cases grew by 67 units and are now nearing 10,000, at 9,618. One more person has died on Friday bringing the total number of fatalities from the coronavirus to 325. (Haaretz)

6:01 A.M. Tougher line needed to fight the coronavirus, top army official says

The army’s Operations Directorate head, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, warned the Health Ministry this week that the current system used for breaking the chain of the coronavirus infection is flawed, and that the ministry must stop relying on the “public’s good will.”

“Testing for the virus at this stage is not done in a manner that employs basic capabilities for processing and integrating information, which significantly hampers the location of contacts of infected people and the obtaining of a full picture of the spread of COVID-19, beyond the fact that testing requires goodwill and cooperation on the part of citizens. This requires a change of paradigm,” Haliva wrote in a letter he sent to Health Ministry’s director-general and other senior ministry officials, as well as to the head of the National Security Council and the army’s chief of staff. (Ido Efrati)

>> Click here to read the full report

4:26 A.M. Hebron resident, 80, dies pf coronavirus, bringing toll in West Bank to 11

The Palestinian Health Ministry said that an eighty-year-old man from Hebron died of COVID-19, raising the death toll in the West Bank to 11.

A full five-day lockdown is expected go into effect Friday morning throughout the West Bank. (Jack Khoury)

THURSDAY

11:30 P.M Israel's COVID-19 cases reach 27,047, an increase of 790 in a day

The Health Ministry said that 790 more cases have been diagnosed in the past 24 hours, raising total to 27,047.

Of these registered cases, 9,176 are active, of which 25 are on ventilators. Since the outbreak erupted, 17,547 people have recovered. 

The ministry added that 21,430 coronavirus tests were carried out on Wednesday. (Haaretz)

9:50 P.M. Places of worship to allow up to 50 people

Interior Minister Arye Dery said up to 50 people will be allowed in synagogues, after a statement by the prime minister and health minister said prayers would be capped at 20.

"It's inconceivable that restaurants, bars and nightclubs, where the danger is far greater, would accommodate 50 people, and synagogues would only accommodate 20," said Dery, who is chairman of the ultra-orthodox Shas party. "Nightclubs don't keep social distancing and not everyone there wears a face mask. In synagogues there is no food, no dancing, and the people praying are wearing masks," he added. (Noa Landau)

9:40 P.M. As coronavirus cases skyrocket, Israel is making decisions in the dark | Analysis 

Collecting and sharing data have generally been the Health Ministry’s weak points since the crisis began, with no sign of a promised effective mechanism to identify trends and track important infection indices. The rising number of infections in recent weeks has forced the ministry to present a more detailed epidemiological picture to check the progress of the epidemic, the healthcare system's preparedness, and influence prevention measures. But a lot of vital information on all these subjects is not collected or shared with the public and other government ministries. 

Crucial questions remain unanswered. How many new cases are asymptomatic? What is the rate of infected people with unknown transmission sources? How many tracings are done daily and what is their success rate? How long did the process of breaking the infection chain take and how far is it from the fixed goal? How much does the Shin Bet security service surveillance and telephone tracing contribute to breaking the chain? What is the average length of hospitalization among COVID-19 patients? What are the main places of transmission? What are the dynamics of infection in schools? Who is high risk and what is the risk to family members?

Read the full analysis by Ido Efrati

8:16 P.M. Government re-imposes restrictions on gatherings after cases rise

Following a continuous rise in COVID-19 cases, the government approved on Thursday a limit on private indoor gatherings to allow for up to 20 people, with indoor venues, bars and nightclubs being confined to 50 attendees.

The same restrictions on indoor gatherings apply to places of worship, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a statement to the press.

A decision on restaurants was delayed to next week in light of a disagreements on the matter between the health and finance ministries.

Until now, gatherings of up to 250 people were permitted in indoor venues. Restaurants were permitted to host up to 100 people if at full capacity and up to 85 percent of capacity if this normally exceeds 100 people. Up to 50 people were allowed to pray at places of worship.

Netanyahu also promised to soon unveil an economic aid plan for the next six months, which he said would ensure financial security for Israelis who are struggling or have lost their jobs.

He said Israel had no choice but to re-impose some sanctions in order to once again "flatten the curve," and noted a rise in patients in serious condition and an increase in daily cases, which stands at around 1,000 a day, the highest Israel has seen since the pandemic began. (Noa Landau)

6:24 P.M. Government to discuss rise in infection rate

The government will convene at 7:00 P.M. on Thursday for a special session to discuss the rise in coronavirus infections in Israel.

The coronavirus cabinet, a Knesset panel aimed at tackling the pandemic, has not concluded its session yet, and the government is set to  vote on decisions made by the committee. (Noa Landau)

4:30 P.M. Army reservists called up to fight coronavirus resurgence

Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the call-up of 500 army reservists to help at coronavirus hotels housing patients.

In addition, Gantz instructed the army unit responsible for civilian matters in the West Bank to prepare for assisting the Palestinian population. (Yaniv Kubovich)

3:20 P.M. Police to step up enforcement of coronavirus restrictions

The Israel Police said it will carry out a nationwide operation over the weekend to enforce coronavirus regulations.

From Thursday evening until Saturday evening, police will be locating gatherings that exceed the allowed numbers of participants, particularly at event halls, weddings and other celebrations, and will also be enforcing face mask regulations.

The police said they would focus their efforts on "restricted" areas that have seen recent spikes in cases, particularly Lod and Ashdod. 

"At event halls and at weddings, these are some of the biggest causes of new infections, and we will direct officers to enforce violations of the regulations and not to act with patience, rather with a heavy hand," The Israel police said.

According to police, they have handed out an average of about 3000 fines a day for failure to wear a facemask, and last week 7,000 fines were handed out to businesses that violated regulations. (Josh Breiner)

2:15 P.M. Coronavirus cabinet set to reimpose restrictions limiting crowds

Israel's coronavirus cabinet will meet Thursday to discuss reimposing some restrictions amid a severe spike in cases. The Health Ministry will recommend limiting crowds at banquets, bars and restaurants to only 50 people, as well as reducing the number of people at houses of worship to up to 20 people. (Ido Efrati)

10:40 A.M. Israel's coronavirus cases rise by 195 to 26,452

The number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen by 195 to 26,452 by Thursday morning. Two more people have died, raising the total death toll to 324. Currently there are 8,647 active cases, of which 58 are in serious condition including 24 on ventilators. (Haaretz)

9:15 A.M. Rishon Lezion closes playgrounds, limits access to public parks

The Rishon Lezion Municipality decided to close playground areas at public parks and increase supervision there, in light of the dramatic spike in coronavirus cases in Israel. (Bar Peleg)

WEDNESDAY 

11:18 P.M. Israel announce more 'restricted zones' 

Israeli ministers approve restrictions on neighborhoods in the cities of Ashdod and Lod where relatively many cases of the coronavirus were discovered, declaring them "restricted zones."

As of Thursday at 8 A.M. movement in and out of these zones will be restricted and business activity limited for a week.

10:50 P.M. Israel confirms record number of new daily cases

1,013 coronavirus cases have been diagnosed on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said, in the highest number of new cases in a day since the outbreak began. The total number of cases in Israel is 26,257, with 8,483 of them considered active.

There are 57 patients in serious condition, with 24 of them on life support. Two more COVID-19 patients died, bringing the total number of deaths to 322. (Haaretz)

9:40 P.M. Knesset passes temporary law allowing digital tracking of coronavirus patients by security service

The Knesset passed temporary legislation allowing for digital tracking of coronavirus patients by the Shin Bet security service after two votes on Wednesday.

The vote, which was to take place Tuesday, was delayed to give the governing coalition additional time to whip up support for the bill, which is aimed at curbing the recent spike in coronavirus cases in Israel. Fifty-three lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, while 38 opposed it. (Jonathan Lis)

9:04 P.M. Cabinet to announce more restricted zones

Within the hour, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene the cabinet to declare new restricted zones as national coronavirus cases continue to rise. (Noa Landau)

8:40 P.M. 50 more cases diagnosed in West Bank

Fifty more cases have been diagnosed in the West Bank, bringing the number of active cases to 2,435. The number of people on ventilators has risen to three. (Jack Khoury)

7:20 P.M. Cases rise by 777 to 26,021 

The number of coronavirus cases in the country has risen to by 777 to 26,021. The death toll has risen by one to 321. There are 8,271 active cases, including 25 on venגזירהtilators. (Haaretz)

6:40 P.M. Employment authority: Unemployment at 21%, more people returning to work than filing for unemployment

The country’s employment authority has announced that since lockdown restrictions began to be loosened in late April, it has received 381,364 reports of people returning to work, compared to 133,668 new job seekers. This puts the total number of job seekers to 852,432, of whom 591,797 are on unpaid leave, with the unemployment rate standing at 21 percent. (Sivan Klingbail)

6:35 P.M. Palestinians announce full lockdown throughout West Bank

The Palestinian Authority has announced a lockdown throughout the West Bank that is to begin on Friday and last for five days. (Jack Khoury)

6:25 P.M. Bnei Brak locks down area around yeshiva where dozens of cases found in past two weeks

The city of Bnei Brak has announced that it is locking down an area in the city that contains a yeshiva in which some 47 cases were located in the past two weeks. This includes 20 students who were diagnosed without having been on campus during that period.   (Aaron Rabinowitz)

3:37 P.M. Bnei Brak takes new steps to contain the virus

The Bnei Brak municipality approved a series of steps this morning to reduce the rate of coronavirus infection in the city. The city, which was hit particularly hard and placed under a full closure during the first wave of the outbreak, has decided to increase the number of regulations enforcement teams and to establish a system to ensure schools and yeshivas observe the rules, with reinforcements from other cities.

Under this new system, institutions that are found to have broken the rules will be closed immediately. Schools in which confirmed patients were found will also be closed. At the behest of the municipality, the number of hotels and housing solutions for confirmed patients was increased, so that they can leave the city.

Leading the new enforcement system will be three doctors, three municipality representatives, the Israel Police and local police. (Bar Peleg)

1:47 P.M. Israel is paying the price for Netanyahu refusing to appoint a 'corona czar' | Analysis

The warnings are piling up. The expert panel advising the National Security Council, the Military Intelligence’s coronavirus information center and the Israeli Society for Infectious Diseases have all warned the government that we will fall into the abyss if our apathetic attitude toward the coronavirus continues.

But the issue isn’t just the rising number of people infected or the delay in setting up an effective system to break the chain of infection. Something bigger is happening here. At the current stage of the battle against the coronavirus, Israel is suffering from a complete absence of leadership. Its leaders have demonstrated not only a lack of direction, but even a lack of concern.

Just a month ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Israel victorious over the coronavirus. He urged people to go out, have fun and visit their grandparents, even boasting that “the entire world” was seeking to learn how to fight the virus from us. But since then, such statements have been replaced by a gloomy, confused tone. Read the full analysis by Amos Harel

1:00 A.M. Palestinians report fourth coronavirus death in a day

A 70-year-old woman from Hebron died Tuesday night after contracting the coronavirus, in what the Palestinian Health Ministry says is the fourth death in a day in the area. Ten people have died in the West Bank so far since the beginning of the pandemic. (Jack Khoury)

TUESDAY

11:00 P.M. Israel sees 803 new cases in a day, highest ever daily increase 

According to the latest Health Ministry figures, 803 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed on Tuesday, making it the highest daily increase since the pandemic started. The total number of cases in Israel has gone up to 25,244, among those, 7,583 patients are currently considered actives cases. One more patient died Tuesday, bringing the total death toll to 320.

Of all active cases, 52 are in serious condition, while 24 are on ventilators. (Haaretz)

10:30 P.M. Health Ministry recommends full lockdowns on cities throughout Israel

Israel's Health Ministry has issued a recommendation to close down dozens of cities in Israel, as the list of towns that have recorded outbreaks keeps growing. The government is unlikely to take the suggestion.

A new report released on Tuesday by the government’s coronavirus information center said that over the last few days, there has been increased incidence of the disease in Nahariya, Ramle, Lod, Dimona, Beit She’an, Baqa al-Gharbiya, Kafr Qasem, Umm al-Fahm, Jaljulya and Tira.

Larger cities, like Bat Yam, Ashdod, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, also have hundreds of active cases, compared to just a few per day in May. (Ido Efrati)

10:20 P.M. Mother of Palestinian who died from COVID-19 in Hebron in turn passes away from the disease

The mother of a Palestinian man who died from the coronavirus on Tuesday has passed away from the disease as well, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. The woman who was in her 60s is the tenth Palestinian fatality from the virus (9 in the West Bank, one in Gaza) and the third one in the Hebron area in the last two days. Earlier on Tuesday, the Health Ministry in Ramallah reported the death of a 44-year-old man, the woman's son. (Jack Khoury)

8:01 P.M. Second Palestinian death around Hebron in 24 hours

A 44-year-old resident of Hebron died on Tuesday from COVID-19, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, the second coronavirus death in that area of the West Bank within 24 hours. According to his family, Mashhur al-Ja'abari's family suffered from other medical problems and his condition deteriorated rapidly since he caught the virus several days ago. He died at a Bethlehem hospital.

Nine Palestinians with COVID-19 have died since the outbreak began in the West Bank in March, and one died in the Gaza Strip. According to official figures, there are 2,116 active coronavirus cases in the West Bank, with nine of them in serious condition. The Hebron District has about 1,500 active cases, and Bethlehem and the Jerusalem area have also been identified by authorities as hot spots.

Despite a relatively low number of patients in serious condition, the Health Ministry has warned of a severe shortage in ventilators should efforts to curb the spread of the virus, particularly in the Hebron area, fail. Over the weekend, the Palestinian government announced several measures limiting gatherings and movement, in a bid to further contain the outbreak. (Jack Khoury)

7:18 P.M. Education Ministry tells schools to prepare for coronavirus restrictions in the next year, including full closure

As the 2020 school year comes to a close, a letter from the Education Ministry's director general has become public, asking principals to prepare for three different scenarios in the next school year: Full closure, a mix of distance learning and in-class tuition, and regular curriculum, with specific regulations. 

The document asks school administrators to build programs for each eventuality, allowing for more flexibility and responsiveness. Schools will only be expected to teach 70 percent of the current compulsory curriculum. The decision over the number of hours taughts, the separation in tiers, and other techniques used during the coronavirus outbreak would be left to school authorities. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

7:00 P.M. Israel registers 469 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, total beyond 25,000

Israel's Health Ministry said 469 people were diagnosed with the coronavirus since midnight on Tuesday, in another jump in infections that brings the total active cases to 7,403. The number increased by 714 units in the last 24 hours, the ministry said, noting that 19,922 tests were performed on Monday. The death toll from the virus stands at 320 and the overall number of patients since the beginning of the crisis stands at 25,041. Currently, 24 people are being treated with ventilators. (Haaretz)

5:00 P.M. PA says one man died of coronavirus in Hebron

A 44-year-old man has died from the coronavirus in the Palestinian city of Hebron in the West Bank, the Health Ministry in Ramallah said in a statement. His passing brings the total death toll from the coronavirus in the Palestinian Authority areas  up to 9. Hebron, where another Palestinian died from the disease on Monday,  has recently emerged as a hotspot for the pandemic in the West Bank. (Jack Khoury)

2:40 P.M. EU bans travel from Israel over coronavirus 

The European Union published a list barring travelers from several countries, including Israel, from entering member states in light of the severity of their coronavirus outbreaks. Also barred are the United States, Russia, Brazil and China. Only 14 countries were deemed 'safe,' including Morocco, Australia, South Korea and Japan.  

There are currently 43 people diagnosed with the coronavirus per 100,000 in Israel, a rate that is two times higher than the threshold determined by the EU. The list is meant to be updated every two weeks. (Hadar Kane)

12:10 P.M. After Netanyahu's intervention, digital tracking bill will go to second and third votes today

Following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request, the move to delay the Knesset vote on Shin Bet digital tracking measures to next week was cancelled, and a second and third reading on the bill will likely take place today. 

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will draft a new, more fixed law soon to replace the current bill, which if it passes today will be valid for three weeks. 

Yesterday, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee backtracked on its plan to promote the temporary bill after opposition lawmakers blocked the initiative. According to sources familiar with the details, the opposition’s initiative was led by Eli Avidar of Yisrael Beiteinu.      

After the Knesset approved breaking up the bill to several clauses and voting on each clause separately, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Zvi Hauser backtracked and agreed with representatives from the opposition that a softer version of the bill will be voted on in its entirety on Monday. (Jonathan Lis) 

10:59 A.M. Number of cases rises to 24,688

The number of coronavirus diagnoses in Israel has risen to 24,688, Health Ministry data shows, marking a rise of 121 since midnight.

There are currently 7,096 active patients, 46 of whom are in severe condition, and 24 of whom are on ventilators.

One Israeli has died since yesterday, bringing the toll to 320. (Haaretz)

10:38 A.M. Eight daycare centers and kindergartens in central city close after instructor tests positive

Eight kindergartens and daycare centers closed in the central city of Herzliyah after an instructor who had visited them tested positive for the coronavirus. 

All the centers' staff and children have been sent into isolation until the Health Ministry concludes its epidemiological investigation. (Bar Peleg)  

8:45 A.M. Health Ministry director general: some ministry activities should fall under Defense Ministry, local authorities' purview

In an interview with Kan Radio, Health Ministry Director-General Hezi Levi said that he would prefer that parts of the ministry's activity would fall under Defense Ministry jurisdiction, "and that's what we're doing." 

"It's not just the Defense Ministry, it's local authorities...As a military man, I'm aware that every organization needs to do what it has a relative advantage in. There's no doubt that the activities on the ground themselves need to happen together with additional local authorities managing them, and everyone needs to fulfill their responsibility, and we're busy with that as well." 

MONDAY

10:19 P.M. Opposition blocks digital tracking law, vote delayed 

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has backtracked on its plan to promote a temporary bill allowing digital tracking of coronavirus patients, after opposition lawmakers blocked the initiative.

According to sources familiar with the details, the opposition’s initiative was led by Eli Avidar of Yisrael Beiteinu.      

After the Knesset approved breaking up the bill to several clauses and voting on each clause separately, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Zvi Hauser backtracked and agreed with representatives from the opposition that a softer version of the bill will be voted on in its entirety on Monday. (Jonathan Lis) 

9:40 P.M. Justice Ministry cancels April fines levied on restaurants for violating COVID-19 restrictions

Fines levied on restaurants and coffee shops in the period from March 25 through April 25 for violating coronavirus restrictions will be canceled, the Justice Minister said on Monday.

“Due to legal doubt that arose whether the prohibition to open restaurants and coffee shops is a criminal prohibition,“ the fines are canceled, the Justice Ministry said. (Bar Peleg)

9:26 P.M. Israel extends aid for seniors through mid-August

The Knesset approved a bill Monday extending financial benefits for seniors above the age of 67 who were furloughed due to the coronavirus crisis. Seniors put on unpaid leave were alotted 4000 shekels a month, for March, April and May.

The bill extends the benefits through mid-August, after which the matter will be reexamined. (Jonathan Lis)

8:40 P.M. Universities to hold frontal exams this week, move to remote exams next week

Following pushback from universities, Higher Education Minister Zeev Elkin said he had granted the request of universities and colleges to administer final exams on campus as planned this week. From Sunday onwards, all exams will be held remotely.

Elkin said that the directive ordering universities to have students take their final exams from home would only go into effect over the weekend. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

7:59 P.M. Netanyahu announces 2-billion-shekel package for small, medium-sized businesses hit by coronavirus

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he and Finance Minister Israel Katz were earmarking an additional 2 billion shekels (about $580 million) to small and medium-sized businesses to help offset the economic damage caused by the coronavirus.

"I understand your pain, I hear your cries," Netanyahu said. The 2 billion shekels is in addition to the 100 billion shekels already budgeted to aid those harmed by the economic shutdown during the crisis, most of which has yet to be distributed. (Noa Landau)

7:49 P.M. Over 400,000 back at work since lockdown’s end, but even more still getting jobless benefits

Some 401,000 Israelis have returned to their jobs since the end of the coronavirus lockdown, the National Insurance Institute reported on Monday. But more than 673,000 are still getting unemployment benefits.

Meanwhile, the Employment Service said that as of Monday 861,861 people were still registered with it, equal to 21.2% of the labor force. Of those, more than 70% were on unpaid leave and had not been laid off from their jobs.

The NII said that since the start of the coronavirus crisis, it had received 1.075 million applications for unemployment benefits. Of those 73,000, or 6.7%, were rejected because they didn’t meet eligibility requirements. Even as the lockdown in Israel began to ease after April 19, about 130,000 unemployment applications were filed. The figure doesn’t count people above the legal retirement age, who don’t qualify for jobless benefits ordinarily but due to the coronavirus have been receiving special grants.

The figures come a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz said the government would extend unemployment benefits until mid-August. The decision was made after estimates that benefits for some 262,000 Israelis were due to expire at the end of June.

On the other hand, applications for income support, which had grown during March and April, declined in May and June, the NII said. In March, at the start of the coronavirus crisis, 9,418 applications for income support had been filed. The number grew to 11,290 in April, but in May it fell to 6,385 and in June, up until the 24th of the month, it had reached 5,497. (Sivan Klingbail and Avi Waksman)

7:28 P.M. Israel confirms 521 new COVID-19 cases, bringing total to 24,276

The total number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen to 24,276, the Health Ministry reported – an increase of 521 cases since Sunday evening. The death toll sits at 319. Israel currently has 6,768 active cases, with 24 patients on ventilators. 

The ministry added that 10,364 coronavirus tests were conducted on Sunday. (Haaretz)

7:02 P.M. Chaos prevails in Israeli academia as criteria for online final exams remains unclear

Final exams for college students, which were supposed to start this week, have been thrown into chaos after the government’s coronavirus cabinet decided on Monday that most exams should be administered at home rather than on campus.

While the decision did allow some exams to be exempted from the at-home rule, it has not yet set criteria for which exams qualify. The Council for Higher Education and the Health Ministry are supposed to set these criteria at some point in the future.

Adding to the confusion is that the decision will take effect only after Health Ministry Director General Hezi Levy signs the necessary regulations, and it’s not clear when he will do so. Until then, schools can hold finals on campus as planned, but they have no way of knowing how long that will be possible.

Ben-Gurion University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv University all said they will not administer online exams before Levi signs the directive. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)   

3:40 P.M. As cases rise, government decides to tighten restrictions

Israel's coronavirus cabinet has decided to limit public gatherings amid fears of a second wave:

Up to 250 people will be allowed at concert halls and event venues, and up to 50 people will be allowed to attend circumcision ceremonies and funerals.

Starting July 10, weddings held indoors will be allowed to host 50 percent of the venue's capacity, capped at 100 participants, with a maximum number of 250 attendees at outdoor venues. On July 31, the maximum number of attendees for indoor venues will be increased to 250.

University students will take exams online, while 30 percent of the workforce in the public sector will work from home. (Noa Landau)

2:00 P.M. Israel begins random antibody testing survey to determine scope of infection

After a delay of several weeks, and against the backdrop of expert criticism, random nationwide coronavirus antibody testing started on Monday in 191 communities in Israel, including 13 virus hot spots, as the government attempts to get a full picture of the outbreak.

Unlike swab tests, which are designed to diagnose patients currently infected, antibody testing should be able to show how far the virus has spread within the general population, whether or not those that have contracted it have developed symptoms.

The program will last several days, during which 75,000 tests will be carried out at health maintenance organization community clinics around the country. Designed by the Health Ministry, it is meant to be random in order to obtain a representative sample based on geographic location, size, socio-economic status and ethnic or religious background. (Ido Efrati)

>> Read the full report here

11:57 A.M. Coronavirus cases in Israel continue to rise

Coronavirus cases have risen to 23,989, according to the Health Ministry, while the number of deaths rose by one to 319. The number of active cases is currently 6,556, with 46 of those in serious condition. (Haaretz)

11:22 A.M. University leaders appeal to Health Ministry to let exams go ahead

University leaders sent a letter to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, asking him to allow university exams to proceed as usual.

Due to the increase in cases, a meeting is due to take place today to dicuss cancelling them unless they can take place at home.

The letter argued that, given workplaces and recreational facilities are open, it would be logical for the government to allow exams to go ahead. They added that cancelling the exams would be harmful to students. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

9:46 A.M. Almost 100 new virus cases discovered in the West Bank

Ninety-seven new cases of the coronavirus have been detected in the West Bank, including 53 in the Hebron area and 27 in Nablus, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. This brings the total number of active cases in the West Bank to 1,701 and total diagnoses since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak to 2,025. (Jack Khoury)

8:17 A.M. West Bank woman dies of coronavirus

A woman in her forties from Hebron died from the coronavirus, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Eight people have now died of the virus in the West Bank. (Jack Khoury)

12:20 A.M. Daily new virus cases remain high

299 Israelis have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in the last day, according to data released by the Health Ministry, with 39 of those people in serious condition. The number of people who have died remains at 318. (Haaretz)

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