Israel, the West Bank and Gaza 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.
How COVID – and Israel’s Trump-brokered lovefest with Arab states – are affecting Palestinians
Israel currently has 22,723 active cases; 3,057 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 15,991 active cases and 970 deaths, and in Gaza 9,527 active cases and 237 deaths.
8:00 P.M. Netanyahu, health minister get vaccinated
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on live television, becoming the first person to be inoculated for coronavirus in Israel.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein also received the vaccine on live television. His office has launched an extensive public relations campaign to encourage the public to get vaccinated.
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“For nearly a year we’ve battled one of the most difficult pandemics humanity has faced in the last hundred years. By the end of the month, millions of vaccines will be here and thereafter millions more. I asked to be vaccinated first with Health Minsiter Edelstein in order to serve by example and encourage you to get vaccinated,” Netanyahu said. “I believe in this vaccine, tens of thousands took it successfully and top scientists approved it.”
An expert committee has set a priority list establishing the order in which different groups would be vaccinated. Healthcare workers will be inoculated first, followed by the elderly and their caregivers in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Israelis above the age of sixty and those with additional risk factors will also be vaccinated in the first stage. (Judy Maltz)
3:00 A.M. FDA approves emergency use of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
Moderna Inc's coronavirus vaccine on Friday became the second to receive emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The decision marks the first regulatory authorization in the world for Moderna's vaccine and validation of its messenger RNA technology, less than a year after the first COVID-19 case was identified in the United States.
In June, Israel signed a deal with Moderna, but an expanded deal was signed two weeks ago that would allow the country to receive three times more vaccines in 2021, from 2 million vaccines to 6 million - enough doses for 3 million Israeli citizens. Pfizer has committed to providing Israel with 4 million doses by the end of December.
At the time, the deal was perceived to be a risky move by Israel's government, yet now Israel is expected to be one of the first countries to inoculate its citizens with the Moderna vaccine. (Reuters)
10:44 P.M. Israel orders all incoming travelers to quarantine starting December 26
All passengers arriving in Israel will have to quarantine, regardless of the rate of infection in the country they came from, according to an order signed by Health Ministry Director General Chezy Levy set to go into effect on December 26.
The move, long debated by government officials, is meant to limit outbreaks caused by people returning from abroad with the coronavirus.
Currently, only people returning from "red" countries, where the rate of infection is relatively high, are ordered into quarantine for 14 days, whereas those returning from countries Israel has designated as "green" aren't required to do so.
Turkey and Greece topped the list of popular tourist destinations for Israelis in September and October, but have since been overtaken by the United Arab Emirates, which is designated a "green" country and has lower infection rates than Israel. However, the Health Ministry has pushed to change its classification due to the large numbers of Israelis going there, who often neglect social distancing measures. (Ido Efrati)
7:27 P.M. Israel set to start its vaccinations Sunday
Israel's nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign is set to begin next week. On Sunday, health care workers in health maintenance organizations and hospitals will be first to receive the vaccine, and the general public will be able to be inoculated through their HMOs on Monday.
Vaccinations in HMOs will be starting two days ahead of schedule, and will be given out in order of priority: The first to receive the shot will be members over age 60.
Israel now has an estimated 500,000–600,000 doses of vaccine, and additional batches are arriving every few days. At this point, the Health Ministry doesn't foresee any problems regarding the pacing of these deliveries. (Ido Efrati)
4:29 P.M. Israel sees nearly 3,000 new cases in a day
Israel has confirmed 2,933 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of active coronavirus cases in the country to 22,723. Wedensday and Thursday have seen the highest and second highest number, respectively, of new daily cases since October 12, when there were more than 5,500 new cases.
Last week, the government said it would impose more restrictions if the daily number of new cases surpasses 2,500, but no new measures are expected before Sunday, when the ministerial committee on Israel's coronavirus response is set to meet.
717 patients are currently hospitalized. 429 of them are in serious condition and 105 on life support. 3,057 COVID-19 patients have died so far. (Haaretz)
11:30 A.M. Arye Dery to receive COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday
Interior Minister and Shas Chairman Arye Dery will be among the first Israelis to be inoculated against coronavirus on Sunday.
This comes amid a wide-scale public relations campaign from the Health Ministry to encourage different sectors of Israeli society to get vaccinated. (Chaim Levinson)
3:55 P.M. Israel will not impose new restrictions before Sunday
Ministers will convene Sunday to discuss increased restrictions in order to curb the spread of coronavirus. Last week, the government said it would impose more restrictions if the daily number of new cases surpasses 2,500 or if the R-number is larger then 1.32.
On Wednesday and Tuesday the daily number of new cases exceeded 2,800. The R-number currently stands at 1.28. (Judy Maltz)
2:15 P.M. WHO says plans to provide vaccines for 20 percent of Palestinians by mid-2021
The World Health Organization said it plans to provide the Palestinian authorities with financial support to acquire vaccines for up to 20 percent of its population through a global mechanism setup to support developing countries, which would be ready by early to mid-2021.
It added the Palestinian Health Ministry plans to procure vaccines for an additional 40 percent of its population through other mechanisms, providing coverage to all Palestinian adults, so a total of 60 percent of the population will be covered. (Jack Khoury)
12:50 P.M. New daily cases in Gaza break record
The number of new infections in the Gaza Strip exceeded the 1,000-mark for the first time. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 1,015 new cases have been recorded in the densely populated coastal strip on Wednesday, bringing the total number of active cases to 8,851. (DPA)
9:47 A.M. Deputy health minister: Israel 'would consider' helping the PA with vaccines
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish told Kan Bet public radio Israel “would definitely consider helping the [Palestinian] Authority,” if it sees it has more vaccine doses than it needs.
According to Kish, Israel will eventually get “more than 100 percent of the vaccines it needs, and once we see Israel’s needs are fulfilled and we have the ability to do so,” it may hand over some of the vaccines to Palestinian authorities in the West Bank. “Israeli citizens come first,” he said.
Earlier this week, Palestinian officials told Haaretz no agreements have been reached on supplying vaccines to the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, via Israel or otherwise. (Haaretz)
9:38 A.M. Two top Health Ministry officials in quarantine
Health Ministry Director General Chezy Levy has entered quarantine after being in contact with an employee who had tested positive for the coronavirus, the ministry said in a statement, adding that Levy is well and continues working from home.
The Health Ministry’s head of public health services, Sharon Alroy-Preis, has also entered quarantine. (Haaretz)
9:32 A.M. COVID czar: Israelis can stop wearing masks only when 60 percent are vaccinated
Israel’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Nachman Ash, said he estimates Israelis will be able to stop wearing face masks around May or June, “only when we get to 60 percent” of people vaccinated. According to the Israel Hayom daily, the country should be able to start reopening in March or April, as more people are vaccinated and “the weather gets warmer.” (Haaretz)
9:21 A.M. Rate of infection across Israel keep rising
Israel has confirmed more than 750 new cases since the last update on Wednesday evening, bringing the total number of active cases in the country to 21,544.
According to Health Ministry figures, the R number, which represents the average number of people a carrier would transmit the virus to, is currently at 1.28. Any R number bigger than 1 means the virus is spreading.
Israel has set an R number of 1.32 as a target for new restrictions. On Wednesday, Israel has surpassed the target for new daily cases it had set to reimpose some restrictions.
In the Arab community, the R number is lower than the general population, at 1.05, but among ultra-Orthodox Israelis, it is higher, at 1.58.
697 patients are currently hospitalized, with 397 of them in serious condition and 157 on life support. 3,034 COVID-19 patients have died so far. (Haaretz)
9:15 P.M. New restrictions anticipated in light of growing COVID-19 infection rate
The Health Ministry estimates that Israel's deteriorating coronavirus situation will demand tighter measures within five to seven days, including the closure of work places, stores and other settings welcoming customers.
Israel has seen 2,888 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, surpassing the 2,500 government threshold for enforcing new restrictions.
This comes after the coronavirus cabinet rejected the Health Ministry's recommendations to apply further restrictions, much to the frustration of senior health figures.
Israel's Head of Public Health Services, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, warned against complacency following the planned vaccination roll-out, stating that it "will have an effect on a national level in March at the absolute earliest." She added that the current rate of infection means that "without restrictions, we will be at the same numbers of the second wave peak within five weeks."
The second data point set to trip the new restriction is an R number of 1.32, representing the average number of people that each carrier of the virus infects. According to the National Data and Information Center for the War on COVID-19, the R number currently stands at 1.2. At that rate, the number of confirmed cases doubles every two and a half weeks. (Ido Efrati)
8:10 P.M. Shin Bet tracking to be scaled back in late January
The Shin Bet Ministerial Committee decided Wednesday that Shin Bet tracking of Israelis to curbing the spread of the coronavirus will be scaled back beginning January 20.
The Shin Bet will only be permitted to use digital tracking tools to find contacts of confirmed coronavirus patients who refuse to take part in epidemiological investigations or during times when the infection rate is running high. The Shin Bet recommended that digital tracking tools only be used when the daily infection rate rises above 3,000 new cases per day, but an official threshold has not yet been set. (Judy Maltz)
6:40 P.M. Netanyahu to be first Israeli to receive coronavirus vaccine
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday he would be the first Israeli to be vaccinated against the coronavirus on Saturday evening.
Netanyahu, in protective quarantine until Friday after someone in his office tested positive for the virus, said he wished "to serve as an example and persuade you that it's possible to inoculate and worth it to do so."
An expert committee has set a priority list establishing the order in which different groups would be vaccinated. Healthcare workers will be innoculated first, followed by the elderly and their caregivers in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Israelis above the age of sixty and those with additional risk factors will be vaccinated in the next group, followed by the general population. (Haaretz)
4:44 P.M. Ultra-orthodox see renewed spike in COVID cases
Israel's ultra-Orthodox community is again seeing a sharp increase in COVID cases, particularly in Jerusalem, according to data obtained by Haaretz.
This comes after a relative lull in the spread of the coronavirus among the country's Haredim.
According to the figures, 40 percent of Jerusalem's 589 new coronavirus cases over the past day have surfaced in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. Over the past ten days, the percentage of positive tests in the city's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods has surged from 5 percent to 9.6 percent.
In one ultra-Orthodox yeshiva in Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, about 30 cases have been diagnosed in the past two days, bringing to total number of cases at the yeshiva to 40.
In the ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, the positivity rate has jumped sharply to 6.8 percent of the tests, and in a sign of a new surge in the number of cases there, 240 of the 310 active cases in Bnei Brak have been identified in the last week alone.
Among the 737 school students around the country who are currently infected, 46 percent are from ultra-Orthodox schools, mostly from secondary schools. Another 34 percent of infected students are from the Arab community and 20 percent from state-secular schools. (Aaron Rabinowitz)
10:18 A.M. Most Israelis who died of COVID-19 suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure
An analysis of the Health Ministry data regarding coronavirus mortality in Israel shows that those who died of COVID-19 suffered mostly from high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
The data showed, the most common profile of those who died of COVID-19 was a combination of age and a chronic condition common to people aged 65 or older. The average age of those who died was 79, while the median age was 81.
According to the Health Ministry data, 34 percent of those who died (1,019 people) had high blood pressure. In 25 percent of the deaths (750), the primary underlying illness was diabetes. Twenty-one percent (246) had a cardiovascular disease, eight percent (99 people) had a chronic lung disease, three percent reported a suppressed immune system (which could be the result of having had a transplant or being treated for cancer) and one percent (31 people) reported a chronic liver condition. In some instances, the patients suffered from more than one illness. (Ido Efrati)
8:24 A.M. Number of daily cases passes government threshold for new restrictions
Israel has seen 2,862 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, surpassing the 2,500 government threshold for enforcing new restrictions.
There are 19,877 active coronavirus cases in Israel, 381 patients in critical condition, and 138 patients are on ventilators. The number of deaths stands at 3,022.
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch told Army Radio this morning that widespread inoculation against coronavirus is very important to stop the spread. If not, Israel faces "tough restrictions that bring dire economic consequences."
The Health Ministry is expected to weigh a slew of new tightened restrictions, including closing stores and prohibiting gatherings.
The threshold set for the government for imposing further restrictions is 2,500 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours, or if the R number, representing the average number of people a carrier of the virus infects, reaches 1.32. (Haaretz)