Cabinet Decides Not to Reopen Schools in Coronavirus Hot Spots

Decision comes hours ahead of beginning of new school year ■ Active cases in Israel top 20,000 ■ Health Ministry recommends reopening Egypt border

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The entrance to an elementary school classroom in Rishon LeZion, August 31, 2020.
The entrance to an elementary school classroom in Rishon LeZion, August 31, 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod
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Haaretz

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

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116,596 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 939 people have died. 

In the West Bank, there are 8,172 active cases; 161 people have died. In the Gaza Strip, there are 280 active cases and four people have died. 

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LIVE UPDATES

2:30 A.M. Coronavirus cabinet decides to keep schools in red areas closed

Israel's coronavirus cabinet has decided to keep schools in designated "red zones" closed, hours ahead of the beginning of the new school year on Tuesday morning. These red areas have the highest incidence of coronavirus cases in Israel.

The beginning of the school year has been a source of disagreement between Education Minister Yoav Gallant and the coronavirus czar, Ronni Gamzu. Although Gamzu supported a more prudent approach, Gallant insisted on a full reopening, including schools in red zones. 

The cabinet's decision not to open schools in red areas does not include schools for special needs and at-risk students. (Noa Shpigel)

MONDAY

8:43 P.M. Cases jump by over 2,500, death toll by 20

The death toll from the coronavirus has risen by 20 since Sunday to a total of 939. The number of cases has risen by 2,576 since Sunday, increasing the total number of cases to 116,596 and bringing the number of active cases to 20,648. The number of people in serious condition stands at 437, with 125 people on ventilators. (Haaretz)

8:30 P.M. Education minister says all schools to reopen Tuesday

Education Minister Yoav Gallant has said that all schools will be reopening on Tuesday, but that the ministry would consider arguments by the so-called coronavirus cabinet. Gallant has insisted that schools in coronavirus hot spots also be opened, in contrast with Ronni Gamzu, the country's coronavirus czar. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

7:15 P.M. Health Ministry releases list of hot spots

The Health Ministry has released a list of regional councils that have been defined as so-called red areas, where the infection rate is relatively high. The areas designated as hot spots were Daliat al-Carmel, Tira, Kafr Qasem, Ein Mahil, Immanuel,  Kafr Kana, Isfiya, Sha'ar Hanegev, Rechasim, Zemer, Al-Batuf, Lakiya, Beit Jann, I'billin, Ma'ale Iron, Kafr Bara, Jaljulya,  Nahal Shorek, Ka'abiyye-Tabbash-Hajajre, Jadeidi-Makr, Umm al-Fahm, Tiberias, and Betar Ilit.

Ronni Gamzu, the country's director of its coronavirus policy, said earlier Monday that it was unreasonable to reopen schools in hot spots, a day before the new school year begins.

7:00 P.M. Negotiations between Finance Ministry and lab workers at standstill

Negotiations between the Finance Ministry and medical lab workers made no progress at staving off a strike over poor working conditions.

Esther Admon, Chair of the Israel Association of Biochemists, Microbiologists and Laboratory Workers, said that "They brought us to a meeting at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem. We sat for maybe half an hour with the people in charge of wages at the Ministry of Finance, to hear that there was nothing new and there was no thinking [on the matter] … and we left."

Israel's public lab workers have threatened to strike, which will halt their work on diagnosing coronavirus cases, starting Sunday. (Noa Shpigel)

5:45 P.M. Coronavirus czar: It’s not reasonable to open schools Tuesday in towns with high coronavirus levels

With the first day of school in Israel on Tuesday, the country's director of coronavirus policy, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, challenged Education Minister Yoav Gallant's stance that schools should open all over the country, including locations with a particularly high incidence of the virus.

It is not reasonable to open schools in such places, he said, because it is impossible to avoid new cases in the process. Acknowledging his disagreement with Gallant, Gamzu, who is a former director general of the Health Ministry and a doctor by profession, said it doesn't look good for him to say one thing and for the education minister to say something else.

"It could be that I am also wrong, but why take a gamble?" he said. As things are now headed, towns with the highest incidence of COVID-19 will have to be put under lockdown from time to time, he added.

"We have a lot of experts who say I'm crazy for allowing the education system to open with 2,000 [new] cases a day. I do so with a heavy heart. I'm not gambling, but when it comes to the red cities [with the highest infection rates], there's no question," he said. The schools must not open.

"We manage risks," he said, in response to a question from Haaretz. "It's not a proper risk to take." (Noa Shpigel)

5:35 P.M. Interior minister holds discussion on opening border crossing to Egypt's Sinai

Interior Minister Arye Dery has held a discussion with other officials regarding the possibility of letting Israelis visit Egypt's Sinai peninsula, as long as they quarantine upon their return. Dery requested the opinions of Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu, the police, and the military's Home Front Command regarding the country's ability to ensure that Israelis returning from the Sinai area adhere to their quarantine. He also asked the National Security Council to be in charge of security and health coordination with Egypt. Dery said he would make a decision after receiving answers from these officials and bodies. (Noa Shpigel)

5:30 P.M. Teachers reach agreement government to avert strike

The national teachers' union has reached an agreement with the Finance and Education Ministries, averting a strike a day before the new school year begins. The teachers had been set to strike over the lack of a plan for high-risk teachers. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia) 

12:40 P.M. Health Ministry recommends opening border crossing into Egypt's Sinai to Israelis, subject to restrictions

The Israeli Health Ministry has recommended opening the Taba border crossing into Egypt near Eilat, allowing Israelis to visit Egypt's Sinai peninsula if they quarantine for 14 days upon their return to Israel.

In a letter to Interior Minister Arye Dery, the director of public health at the Health Ministry, Sharon Alroy-Preis, noted that Egyptian authorities have declared southern Sinai, where beaches and others attractions popular with Israelis are located, "free of the coronavirus" although there are cases of the virus there. "The reported cases there are few and geographically dispersed," Elrae-Preis wrote, but she added that Egypt's reporting regarding cases of the virus may be deficient.

"It is clear that the [Egyptian] administration is interested maintaining these sites free of the coronavirus because they are an important source of revenue," she noted.

In response to the letter, Dery has said that the issue will be considered on Tuesday at a meeting with senior officials from the Population and Immigration Authority and that he would be provided with all of the relevant professional opinions before a decision is made. (Noa Shpigel)

12:20 P.M. Human rights organizations petition for Israel to allow fuel passage into Gaza 

Five human rights organizations petitioned Israel's High Court, seeking to overturn the state's decision to cut fuel supply to the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing. The petition also seeks to lift all restrictions imposed on the movement of goods via the crossing amid the rise in coronavirus cases in the enclave. (Jack Khoury)

12:15 P.M. Gazans diagnose 69 new cases, one death in 24 hours

Sixty-nine more Palestinians in Gaza tested positive for the coronavirus and one more patient has died over the past 24 hours, the Gaza Health Ministry said. The number of active cases in the Strip rose to 280, while the death toll climbed to four. (Jack Khoury)

11:30 A.M. Israel diagnoses over 1,000 new cases 

The Health Ministry said that 1,037 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus, raising the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 115,057, out of which 20,334 cases are currently active and 123 are on ventilators.

Three more people have died of the virus, bringing the number of coronavirus deaths to 922. So far, 93,801 people have recovered from the virus.

The ministry added that 13,320 coronavirus tests were conducted on Sunday. (Haaretz)

10:00 A.M. Public lab workers strike deescalates at request of Health Ministry director general 

Israeli public health lab staffers will "return to the negotiating table" on Monday after "the personal request of the Health Ministry Director General, Prof. Hezi Levi, who called from the airport, before leaving with a delegation to Abu Dhabi, not to aggravate the strike today," Said Esther Admon, chairwoman of the Laboratory Workers' Union, on Monday. 

Levi "pledged that the Health Ministry would mediate and assist more actively and significantly in negotiations" with the Finance Ministry, in order to bring about a change in "their attitude towards us laboratory workers," continued Admon. 

Thus, the open-ended strike that started Sunday over poor working conditions and low wages, will not be exacerbated, and deciphering positive coronavirus tests will continue. (Noa Shpigel

SUNDAY

10:52 P.M. Coronavirus czar

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu, whose "traffic light" plan to curb local infections was approved by the cabinet Sunday, said he opposes the government's decision to open schools in cities designated as "red," or having high rates of infection. 

"My unequivocal opinion has not changed: Starting the school year in red cities will bring an outbreak in these cities and others," Gamzu said. "I will continue to fight for this in the coming days." (Noa Shpigel)  

10:44 P.M. Israeli interior minister: Gaza coronavirus outbreak compels Israel to demand captives' return 

The renewed coronavirus outbreak in the Gaza Strip, along with Hamas's demands of Israel, "requires that Israel remain steadfast and demand the return of our captives and missing persons in Gaza," Interior Minister Arye Dery said in a tweet on Sunday night.

"Humaneness in exchange for humaneness. Enough of humaneness at the cost of our children."  

10:31 P.M. More nations designated "green," returnees can forgo quarantine

The Health Ministry added nine nations to its , meaning that traveling Israelis do not need to quarantine upon their return to Israel. 

The countries are Australia, Norway, Singapore, Uruguay, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Ireland and Portugal. (Noa Landau)

8:30 P.M. Cabinet approves coronavirus czar's plan on local restrictions

Israel's ministerial committee on the coronavirus crisis approved a plan developed by Prof. Ronni Gamzu, who is in charge of tackling the pandemic. It will go into effect on September 6. 

Gamzu's outline, dubbed the “traffic light plan,” imposes restrictions on cities according to risk levels based on the local infection rate: green, yellow, orange and red. Different color-coded areas would be subject to different restrictions.

The majority of areas designated as red and orange are Arab- or ultra-Orthodox-majority cities and towns. (Noa Shpigel)

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8:21 P.M. Health Ministry: Israel can open Sinai border

The head of the Health Ministry's public health services, Dr. Sharon Elrai, released a statement saying that the ministry supports reopening Israel's border with Egypt to Israeli travelers, so long as they self-quarantine for 14 days upon their return.

Egypt, which has a population of 100 million, has reported fewer than 100,000 coronavirus cases, the statement says, which is similar to Israel's numbers. This means that Egypt's reported infection rate is one-tenth of that of Israel.   

7:24 P.M. Israeli parents allowed to enter preschools with children despite coronavirus rules

Parents of children in preschool and first grade will be permitted to enter their children’s classrooms during the first days of the school year to aid in their children’s adjustment, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced Sunday. The parents will be allowed into the classrooms in groups of up to six.

The decision, coming two days before the start of the school year, has the approval of coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu.

Parents who enter the classrooms will be required to maintain a distance of two meters from each other, to wear masks and observe hygiene rules. Parents will also be allowed to remain in the schoolyards. According to Edelstein’s announcement, teachers will be permitted to let parents to remain with their children beyond the first few adjustment days if it’s deemed necessary. (Noa Shpigel and Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

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4:45 P.M. Knesset extends coronavirus state of emergency

The Knesset approved extending the coronavirus state of emergency via a telephone vote on Sunday afternoon.

Due to the expected lapsing of the state of emergency next week, and due to the fact that the virus still poses a significant risk to public health, the Knesset decided to extend it, beginning on September 7 and extending to November 6. (Noa Landau)

1:46 P.M. Top ultra-orthodox lawmaker says Uman pilgrimage should be restricted

Arye Dery, the chairman of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said that although he understands the importance of the annual Hasidic Pilgrimage to Uman ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, its scope should be limited amid the pandemic.

Dery urged the Hasidic public to understand that the global health crisis prevents the annual event from taking place in its usual format, adding that all synagogues around the world are operating in limited capacity. (Haaretz)

12:08 P.M. Three more Israelis die as active cases rise to 20,151

The Health Ministry said that 311 more people have tested positive for the virus, raising the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 113,648, out of which 20,151 cases are currently active and 121 are on ventilators.

Three more people have died of the virus, bringing the number of coronavirus deaths to 909. So far, 92,588 people have recovered from the virus.

The ministry added that 10,594 coronavirus tests were conducted on Saturday. (Haaretz)

9:21 A.M. Israeli public health lab staffers go on open-ended strike over poor working condition

Israeli public health lab staffers went on an open-ended strike on Sunday over poor working conditions and low wages. 

Some 2,000 workers from 400 public labs are expected to take part in the strike.

As a result, people who tested negative for the coronavirus will not be contacted, while those testing positive will continue to be notified. In addition, public hospital labs will only operate on emergency basis.

Intensive care labs will operate as usual, as will labs in neonatal intensive care departments, maternity rooms, oncology and emergency rooms. (Noa Spiegel) 

SATURDAY

10:18 P.M. Following uproar, Netanyahu appoints minister to oversee possibility of letting Bratslav followers into Ukraine for pilgrimage

The prime minister's office announced that the current higher education and water resources minister, Zeev Elkin, would head a team to examine a possible travel route to Uman, in Ukraine. 

Uman, the birthplace of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, is a holy site for the Bratslav Hasidim community, who show up in their thousands every year for a pilgrimage during Rosh HaShana, the Jewish new year. Ukrainian and Israeli authorities jointly decided to restrict travel, fearing a coronavirus outbreak.

Members of the sect over the last couple of days, getting into confrontations with local residents, and finding themselves stuck in airports. They have also expressed their anger at home, even on Saturday night. 

Elkin will lead a team made up of Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Interior Minister Arye Deri and Science Minister Izhar Shay. (Noa Landau)

9:05 P.M. Coronavirus death toll reaches above 900

The number of coronavirus cases has risen by 1,844 since Friday for a total number of 113,337, updated Health Ministry figures show. The death toll has risen by 15 to 906 and the number of patients in serious condition stands at 438. The number of people on ventilators is 116. There were 23,263 tests conducted on Friday. (Haaretz) 

4:25 P.M. Coronavirus czar says 20 Arab cities slated to be declared 'red zones'

Prof. Ronni Gamzu, the coordinator of Israel's coronavirus response, held an emergency meeting in the Arab city of Tira with Joint List lawmaker Ahmad Tibi and Deputy Mayor Dr. Walid Nasser over the rising rate of infections.

Gamzu said he would like the city to become a 'red zone,' along with 20 other Arab-majority cities, over issues with non-compliance with regulations, ranging from unsanctioned gatherings to quarantine violations.

Tomorrow, the so-called coronavirus cabinet will vote on Gamzu’s “traffic light” plan, categorizing cities as green, yellow or red, and imposing particular restriction based on the city’s rating.

Dr. Walid Nasser said fines for holding weddings were too low, and did not constitute enough deterrence. (Noa Shpigel)

FRIDAY

8:21 P.M. Scuffles in Ukraine as pilgrims attempt to reach holy site despite ban

Residents of Uman, Ukraine, scuffled with Orthodox Jews who were seeking to enter a building in the city that is the site of an annual Jewish pilgrimage.

In a video posted to Facebook on Friday by Sergiy Alekseev, a city council member representing the far-right Svoboda party, several Orthodox men can be seen in a confrontation with local residents and police.

Pilgrimages to Uman, which is home to the grave of Nachman of Breslov, an 18th-century luminary and founder of the Bratslav Hasidic movement, were supposed to have been curtailed this year due to coronavirus restrictions. Ukrainian authorities said they were closing the borders to foreigners until September 28 in what was widely perceived as a move to prevent the pilgrims from defying orders not to come. (Cnaan Liphshiz, JTA)

>>

11:45 A.M. Death toll rises by seven, cases by over 1,000

The number of coronavirus cases has risen by 1,090 since Thursday for a total number of 111,493, according to updated Health Ministry figures. The death toll has risen by seven to 891. The number of active cases stands at 20,444, with 426 patients in serious condition. The number of people on ventilators is 118. There were 36,372 tests conducted on Thursday. (Haaretz)

11:15 A.M. Housing minister threatens to quit coalition if holiday lockdown imposed

Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman threatened to withdraw his United Torah Judaism party from the governing coalition if a lockdown is imposed for the upcoming Jewish High Holy Days.

Litzman made his statement in an interview with Hamodia, an ultra-Orthodox newspaper catering to the Gur Hasidic sect, of which Litzman is the most senior government representative.

Litzman said at a housing conference that it was unacceptable for authorities to permit mass protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, as well as outdoor concerts, while significantly limiting the number of pilgrims to Uman in Ukraine, home to the grave of the founder of the Bratslav Hasidic movement. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

THURSDAY

11:50 P.M. Israel's lab workers threaten strike, halting virus test results

Israel's public lab workers are threatening a strike which will halt their work on coronavirus and various other tests starting Sunday, due to the failure of their negotiations with the Finance Ministry regarding improving their working conditions. According to the workers, they will only publish the results of the coronavirus tests of already hospitalized patients.

The Finance Ministry said that lab workers choose to "take advantage of this situation and strike during such a sensitive time."

“After years of back and forth, and during the current period of the pandemic, the Finance Ministry should commit to change,” said Esther Admon, Chair of the Israel Association of Biochemists, Microbiologists and Laboratory Workers. “It is not enough that we have non-binding statements that won’t suffice when they are coupled with irresponsbility, thoughtlessness, and stabbing in the back, in the form of signing of dark agreements, hidden from the public eye, in the privatization of these labs.” (Noa Shpigel)

8:40 P.M. Six more Israelis die from the virus

The Health Ministry said 110,186 people have so far tested positive for the virus, an increase of 1,147 since Thursday morning. Six more people have died, raising the nationwide death toll to 883.

Israel currently has 21,589 active cases, out of which 115 are on ventilators, and 87,714 have recovered.

The ministry added that 34,210 coronavirus tests were conducted on Wednesday. (Haaretz)

1:15 P.M. Gaza demands medical equipment from Israel as coronavirus lockdown extended

Gaza will remain in lockdown at least until Sunday, health officials said after reporting two deaths and 26 COVID-19 cases in the first public outbreak of the coronavirus in the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

Palestinian factions issued a statement holding Israel responsible for the health of Gaza residents and demanded it lift the blockade and provide the Strip with medical and humanitarian supplies.

The ruling faction Hamas told Israel that it must implement agreements reached between the two sides, or a violent confrontation would be inevitable.

11:00 A.M. Two more Israelis die of coronavirus

Israel's Health Ministry released updated statistics, according to which the total number of infected Israelis stands at 109,039, and increase of 636 from the previous evening. Two more Israelis have died, raising the death toll to 877. The number of active infections stands at 21,145, with 858 in the hospital, 428 in serious condition and 125 on ventilators. (Haaretz)

10:20 A.M. Defense and finance ministers announce $25 million in funding for vaccine development

Finance Minister Yisrael Katz and Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced 86 million shekel (about $25 million) in funding for the Biological Institute to aid in the development of a coronavirus vaccine. The money is meant to fund the human trials that are set to begin after the Jewish High Holy Days.

"The Biological Institute is at work these days on a national life-saving project and it is our obligation to provide it with the means to do so," Gantz said. Katz added that the budgeting of the funds was part of "the enormous efforts I am investing for the good of the Israeli economy and the enormous importance of reviving the markets and returning them to a healthy and strong routine." (Yaniv Kubovich)

8:40 A.M. Coronavirus czar says protests contributing to high infection rates 

Coronavirus czar Ronny Gamzu said Thursday that he would be glad "if there would be no protests at this time. It is certainly raising infection rates." According to Gamzu, "any gathering is not good. A protest can also contribute to infection. There's no difference between a mass protest and a huge wedding."

"I encourage [Coalition Whip] Miki Zohar to legislate a law to limit demonstrations – come on already, what does he want from me," Gamzu said in an interview with Kan Bet. "We must be aware that there are checks and balances. Even if the government decides to limit protests the High Court of Justice almost certainly won't allow it. We must be aware of that. These are checks and balances of a democratic state. I can't fight that."

Gamzu added that the government is under pressure "from all sides" on the issue of the for the High Holy Days. Gamzu said that the government must make hard decisions, and that ministers "must back up the prime minister on this issue." When asked if Israel is afraid to make an unpopular decision and limit the pilgrimage, Gamzu said, "maybe so," adding that "here and there" the government may make "decisions that are too political." (Noa Shpigel)

8:30 A.M. Five-hundred-sixty-one new infections diagnosed

According to Health Ministry statistics, 108,964 Israelis have contracted the coronavirus, an increase of 561 from the previous night. The death toll stands at 875. There are currently 21,078 active infections, with 399 Israelis in serious condition, and 115 on ventilators. (Haaretz)

WEDNESDAY

11:00 P.M. Greece to double the number of Israelis allowed to enter country

Israel's Foreign Ministry announced that Greece will boost to 1,200 the number of Israeli citizens allowed to enter the country weekly. 

Travel restrictions within the European country will also be lifted according to the new regulations, which are slated to come into effect in early September. 

After a deal was brokered in mid-August amid over east Mediterranean underwater resources, , restricting their movements to Athens, Thessaloniki, Corfu and Crete. (Noa Landau)

7:50 P.M. Israel registers nearly 1,600 new cases in one day

According to the Health Ministry, there are 20,729 active coronavirus cases in Israel, out of 108,054 cases diagnosed to date. There are 404 patients in serious condition, and an additional 119 are on ventilators.

Twenty-two people died on Wednesday, raising the death toll to 875.

4:00 P.M. Ministry approves outdoor musical concerts

The Culture and Sports Ministry permited outdoor musical concerts and other large cultural events for up to 1,000 participants under social distancing regulations.

The minstry also approved indoor events, but has yet to determined the limit on audience size. (Nirit Anderman)

3:30 P.M. Knesset extends fines for regulations enforcement

The Knesset extended the law allowing the state to enforce the coronavirus guidelines using administrative fines. The fine for violating quarantine is 5,000 shekels ($1,470); the fine for failing to report to the state on quarantine is 3,000 shekels ($880); the fine for not wearing a mask in public is 500 shekels ($150). (Jonathan Lis)

2:24 P.M. Ukraine temporarily bans entry of foreign nationals ahead of annual pilgrimage

The Ukrainian government has announced a temporary ban on the entry of foreign nationals into its territory, amid the annual pilgrimage to Uman.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Tuesday that at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his country would significantly limit the number of pilgrims to Uman, which is home to the grave of the founder of the Bratslav Hasidic movement. The event, which occurs around the Rosh Hashanah holiday, draws tens of thousands of Hasidic visitors from around the globe every year.

Zelenskiy's office did not specify how many Bratslav Hasidic pilgrims would be allowed to enter and did not respond to a Reuters query as to whether the pilgrimage would be completely banned.

The Prime Minister's Office denied that Netanyahu wanted to limit the number of visitors. (Haaretz)

12:29 P.M. Palestinian man dies from coronavirus in Gaza

A 61-year-old man has died in the Gaza Strip after contracting the coronavirus, Palestinian authorities said on Wednesday as they clamped down on an outbreak of the pandemic in the enclave.

The fatality had suffered previous illnesses and had been on a respirator, the Health Ministry said.

Currently, there are 51 cases in Gaza, 37 of which recently returned to the enclave, and 14 are local residents. 

So far, two people have died from the virus in the Strip. (Reuters and Jack Khoury)

>> 

12:24 P.M. Health Minister calls on politicians not to use pandemic for own benefit amid dispute over Jewish pilgrimage

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein called on public officials to refrain from taking advantage of the pandemic for their personal benefit, adding that the recommendation coming from the Health Ministry's command center to battle the coronavirus should be adopted at this time.

Speaking at an inauguration ceremony of the command center, Edelstein added that "This year isn't the time to go to Ukraine," referring to the dispute over whether to bar the annual pilgrimage to Uman, which draws tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews from around the world.

"Unfortunately, we must act with national responsibility and understand it's not the time to visit the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav," the health minister said. (Haaretz)

8:00 A.M. Israel registers 881 new cases

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel stands at 107,341, an increase of 881 since Tuesday night. Around 20,500 cases are still active - of which 430 are hospitalized patients in serious condition and 118 are ventilated. To date, 867 people have died from the virus. 

On Tuesday, more than 33,000 tests were taken, and the weekly positive rate is between five and eight percent. 

TUESDAY

11:00 P.M. Cases rise by another 215, bringing number of new cases on Tuesday to 1,988

The number of total cases in Israel has risen to 106,460, marking an increase of 1,988 since Monday, according to updated Health Ministry figures. There are 21,779 active cases, with 853 hospitalized. There are 427 people in serious condition, with 121 people on ventilators. There were 30,112 tests conducted Monday. (Haaretz)

8:00 P.M. Deputy minister tests positive for coronavirus

Deputy Public Security Minister and Likud MK Gadi Yevarkan tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday, said a Knesset Spokesperson statement. 

The lawmaker was last at the Knesset was Monday. He had earlier entered quarantine following the positive diagnosis of Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata. (Jonathan Lis)

7:45 P.M. Israel sees 1,773 more cases, two more deaths

Israel diagnosed 1,773 more coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the national total to 106,245, Health Ministry figures show. Of those, 21,577 are active cases.

There are currently 427 patients in serious condition, and 121 on ventilators. Israel's death toll rose by two on Tuesday to reach 858. (Haaretz)

5:45 P.M. Coronavirus czar says 'has nothing to do in this position' without backing

Israel’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, said his pandemic advisory panel will recommend not opening schools in communities with high infection rates when the new school year starts on September 1, adding that he will ask the government to pass a cabinet resolution on the matter.

Gamzu also said: “If I see I don’t have the tools to curb the spread [of the coronaviurs], then clearly I have nothing to do in this position."

Addressing reporters, Gamzu also reiterated his recommendation not to allow Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) pilgrimage flights to the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav in Uman, Ukraine in September due to the danger of increased infection.

Gamzu said he was aware that around 2,000 Israelis planned to make the trip to Uman in September, “and if another 2,000 or 3,000 go, we’ll have to arrange for quarantine in hotels for everyone after their return.” (Noa Shpigel)

>>

5:08 P.M. Ukraine restricts Jewish pilgrimage following Israel's request

Ukraine said it would limit the number of Hasidic Jews from Jews planning to enter the country for an annual pilgrimage after Israel voiced feared the event would be a coronavirus hotspot.

"At the request of the Prime Minister of Israel, a decision was made to significantly restrict the Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman to celebrate Rosh Hashanah," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office said in a statement. (Reuters)

>>

11:00 A.M. Top health official says the number of cases doesn't warrant lockdown

The Director General of Israel's Health Ministry Hezi Levi said further restrictions on the public will be considered once the number of COVID-19 patients in serious condition reaches 600 to 700. 

As of Tuesday morning, there are 424 patients in serious condition, and 120 people are ventilated. The number of active cases stands at 21,368 - out of 105,252 people diagnosed since February. The death toll stands at 856. 

MONDAY

11:22 P.M. Gaza reports first cases outside quarantine areas, declares lockdown

Gaza reported its first cases of COVID-19 in the general population on Monday, as authorities confirmed four infections at a refugee camp and security forces declared a full lockdown for 48 hours.

The four cases were from a single family, according to a government statement.

The closure would affect the entire Gaza Strip, according to an official from Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the territory.

Until Monday the 360 sq. km. coastal strip, which is home to two million Palestinians living in densely packed cities, towns and refugee camps, had reported no infections outside quarantine centers set up for people returning home from abroad. (Reuters)

>>

7:55 P.M. Five more die of coronavirus

Since yesterday, 1,491 more Israelis have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, bringing the national total to 104,154, Health Ministry figures show. Of those, 21,682 are active cases.

There are currently 417 patients in serious condition, and 118 on ventilators. Israel has registered five more deaths since the previous count, bringing the toll to 844.

4:04 P.M. Theaters and event halls to reopen at minimized capacity

Starting from September 1, auditoriums and theaters will reopen at 60 percent capacity and about 100-250 people per entrance, a Knesset press release said. About 200 of The Knesset Coronavirus Cabinet will finalize the number of people allowed per event hall, and about 200 of these businesses have already been approved for reopening.

The cabinet's chairwoman, Yifat Shasha-Biton (Likud), said that "we worked around the clock in order to allow closed event halls to reopen as well. It was agreed that they will open on September 1, and we've promised to ensure that the plan that will go into practice on that same date is in fact realistic." 

According to the Culture Ministry, 187 of these complexes have received approval from the Health Industry to reopen for performances of up to 500 people, and 12 more to 500 to about one thousand people. Guy Gutman, head of the Health Minister's office, said that the plan will be implemented quickly, and businesses that apply for approval will receive it within 24 hours.

Deputy Health Ministry Director Itamar Grotto said the coronavirus cabinet will make a decision on the matter today or tomorrow. According to Israel's coronavirus "traffic light" plan, the country has been divided into zones: green areas can open their auditoriums at 60 percent capacity (as opposed to the 70 percent the Culture Ministry has asked for) in units of 100 people per entrance. Exceptionally large auditoriums will be able to host about a thousand people.    

For the time being, only closed auditoriums and theaters that are supported by the Culture Ministry are receiving compensation for wages lost during the coronavirus crisis. Shasha-Biton called on the Culture Ministry to find a solution for the compensation of loss of income for smaller-scale auditoriums outside of major cities, which do not receive state funding, but Gutman denounced the plan to compensate private businesses. (Jonathan Lis)

3:35 P.M. Israel, UAE to cooperate on health-related issues

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein spoke on the phone today with his Emirati counterpart, Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Oweis, and the two agreed on immediate cooperation between Israel and the United Arab Emirates on all health-related matters, a joint statement from both ministers said.

The ministers, according to the statement, agreed to appoint a representative to coordinate cooperation between the two countries, specifically in efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The statement said that the conversation was conducted "in good spirits and out of a genuine will to conduct close coordination between the two countries." (Noa Landau)  

2:20 P.M. Two more ministers and three MKs enter quarantine

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, as well as Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, his deputy Gadi Yabarkan and Knesset members Ayelet Shaked (Yamina), Tehila Friedman-Nachalon (Kahol Lavan) and David Bitan (Likud) were all required to be quarantined after their exposure to Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata who was diagnosed with the coronavirus earlier Monday, following a Health Ministry epidemiological investigation. (Haaretz)

12:50 P.M. Deputy public security minister enters quarantine

The deputy public security minister has entered quarantine following the positive coronavirus diagnosis of Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata. Gadi Yevarkan said he had met with Tamano-Shata on Wednesday and was told on Monday, a day after Tamano-Shata was diagnosed, that he was required to quarantine, he said. He added that he felt excellent and was in good health. (Haaretz)

11:15 A.M. Death toll rises by five to 839

Five more people have died of the coronavirus since Sunday, raising the country's death toll to 839. The number of cases has risen by 962, bringing the total number of cases to date to 103,274. The number of patients in serious condition has risen to 411, with the number of people on ventilators standing at 116. (Haaretz)

8:30 A.M. Foreign Minister Ashkenazi tests negative for virus 

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi tested negative for the coronavirus on Monday, and is not required to quarantine. 

The minister will be tested again for the virus ahead of his departure to the European Union's foreign ministers conference in Berlin later this week. (Noa Landau)

SUNDAY

11:41 P.M. Joint List MK enters quarantine

Joint List MK Walid Taha entered quarantine on Sunday night after coming in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case, the Knesset spokesperson said.  

Taha is expected to leave quarantine on September 3. (Jonathan Lis)

11:18 P.M. Shaked enters quarantine after confirmed contact with virus case 

MK Ayelet Shaked will enter quarantine after meeting with Aliyah and Integration Minister Pinina Tamano-Shata on Wednesday.

Tamano-Shata tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday, the Knesset spokesperson said.

After checking with the Health Ministry, Shaked will stay in quarantine according to government issued guidelines. (Jonathan Lis)

11 P.M. Israel diagnoses 730 new cases on Sunday 

Israel diagnosed 730 more coronavirus cases on Sunday, raising the overall number of patients in the country since the beginning of the pandemic to 102,663, of which 22,315 are active cases. 

Of all active cases, 398 are currently in serious condition and 115 are on ventilators. The total death toll rose by nine since the last update on Sunday morning to reach 834. (Haaretz)

10:30 P.M. Litzman calls for Coronavirus Czar's resignation over letter to Ukraine's president

Construction and Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman said on Sunday that Coronavirus Czar, Prof. Ronni Gamzu exceeded his authority, and must resign after Gamzu sent a letter to the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday asking him to halt the flights for pilgrims to the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav for the High Holidays. “I have never seen a bureaucrat send a letter to a president," Litzman said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will discuss the issue on Sunday night. (Noa Shpigel)

9:40 P.M. Israeli minister tests positive for coronavirus

Aliyah and Integration Minister Pinina Tamano-Shata tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday, the Knesset spokesperson said. Tamano-Shata was last in the Knesset on Wednesday, the spokesperson said.

The Health Ministry is carrying out an epidimeological investigation. It has yet to be decided if additional lawmakers will be required to enter quarantine. (Jonathan Lis)

8:00 P.M. Death toll rises by nine, cases by 447 

Israel diagnosed 447 more coronavirus cases on Sunday, raising the overall number of patients in the country since the beginning of the pandemic to 102,380, of which 22,045 are active cases. 

Of all active cases, 398 are currently in serious condition and 115 are on ventilators. The total death toll rose by nine since the last update on Sunday morning to reach 834.

Israel conducted 10,963 COVID-19 tests on Saturday, and 6,237 on Sunday thus far. (Haaretz)

11:40 A.M. Death toll rises by six to 825

Six more people have died of the coronavirus since Saturday, raising the death toll to 825, according to updated Health Ministry figures. There have also been 217 more cases diagnosed since Saturday, bringing the number of active cases to 22,022. There are 408 patients in serious condition, with 112 people on ventilators. There were 10,795 tests conducted on Saturday. (Haaretz)

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