Coronavirus in Israel: Shop Owners Say They Plan to Defy Weekend Restrictions

Israel rules against lifting weekend measures ■ Schools to reopen with hybrid distance learning ■ Death toll tops 500 ■ West Bank reverses trend, with more recoveries than infections

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Haaretz
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Venues of the Tel Aviv seafront promenade are seen shut over the coronavirus pandemic, May 2020.
Venues of the Tel Aviv seafront promenade are seen shut over the coronavirus pandemic, May 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
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Haaretz

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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 Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

70,970 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 512 people have died. 

In the West Bank, there are 7,824 active cases; 80 people have died. In the Gaza Strip, 72 people were diagnosed and one person has died. 

Israel's Locked-down, Let-down Youth Rattles Netanyahu's Cage. LISTEN

■ Coronavirus tracker: Live stats of cases and deaths

LIVE UPDATES

6:30 P.M Almost 1000 new virus cases detected

934 new cases of the coronavirus have been diagnosed since Thursday evening, according to data released by the Health Ministry. 320 of those people are is serious condition, with 98 of those on ventilators. Meanwhile, 512 people have died of the virus. 70, 970 Israelis have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, with 26,608 people who currently have the virus. (Haaretz)

5:03 P.M. Weekend restrictions go into effect; shop owners plan to disobey

Businesses deemed non-essential are required to close from Friday at 5 P.M. to Sunday at 5 A.M. after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided against lifting weekend restrictions in a meeting with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and coronavirus health czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu.

Non-essential retail stores as well as malls, markets, hair salons, zoos, museums and exhibition spaces, in addition to public swimming pools and tourist attractions, are ordered shut down for the weekend. The limitations don't apply to food stores, pharmacies, opticians and some other limited exceptions.

The authorities didn't impose any special restrictions on travel during the weekend.

A union of mall and retail store owners announced on Thursday they intend to flout the order and open their businesses anyway, arguing that "most cabinet ministers back opening malls," but a decision has not yet been made due to "pressure from the ultra-Orthodox parties." (Ido Efrati and Adi Dovrat-Meseritz)

2:20 P.M. Experts to propose new regulations to government

A panel of Health Ministry officials, led by coronavirus czar Prof. Ronnie Gamzu, will meet three times a week starting Sunday to devise new regulations for gatherings and operation of businesses and synagogues. According to the ministry statement, the government will vote on the panel's decisions on Monday. 

11:10 A.M. Nine more people die from COVID-19 in Israel

According to the Health Ministry, 546 new cases were registered since Thursday night, bringing the total to 70,582, of which 26,260 cases are still active.

There are 319 people in serious condition, and another 100 are ventilated. To date, 509 people have died. 

The number of tests has declined relatively over the last week, and on Thursday 20,850 tests were conducted.

THURSDAY

11:46 P.M. Death toll reaches 500, over 1,700 new cases since Wednesday

The coronavirus death toll in Israel has reached 500, according to updated Health Ministry numbers. There have been 1,737 new cases diagnosed and nine deaths since Wednesday. (Haaretz)

7:30 P.M. Netanyahu in deliberations over lifting weekend restrictions on public activities

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting at this time with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and coronavirus health czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu over possibly removing limitations put in place on public activity on weekends due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.

Last week new weekend limitations were imposed that don't limit travel from home but require the closure from Friday at 5 P.M. to Sunday at 5 A.M. of non-essential retail stores as well as malls, markets, hair salons, zoos, museums and exhibition spaces, in addition to public swimming pools and tourist attractions. The limitations don't apply to food stores, pharmacies, opticians and some other limited exceptions.

Sources say that Health Minister Edelstein and Gamzu support lifting the weekend limitations but a final decision requires additional work by staffers and Netanyahu's support prior to any formal vote on the matter by the cabinet. (Ido Efrati)

11:45 A.M. Israel registers 32,756 active cases

According to Health Ministry data, 1,063 new cases were registred, bringing the total to 68,769, of which 32,756 cases are still active. There are 336 patients in serious condition, and 99 on ventilators. Six patients have died of COVID-19 since the previous tally, bringing the death toll to 497. 

On Wednesday, Israel carried out 26,075 coronavirus tests. 

WEDNESDAY

7:35 P.M. Over 1,400 cases diagnosed since last night

According to Health Ministry data, 1,441 Israelis were diagnosed with the coronavirus since yesterday evening. This brings the national total to 67,734 cases since the outbreak began.

Of those, 34,521 are active cases. There are 328 patients in serious condition, and 99 on ventilators. One patient has died of COVID-19 since the previous tally. 

5:16 P.M. Netanyahu: Israelis to receive one-time coronavirus grant early next week

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the Israeli parliament had approved his grants program, with individual benefit payments to be paid into Israelis' bank accounts by next week. The plan calls for every person without children to receive a one-time payment of 750 shekels ($220), while families will receive between 2,000 and 3,000 shekels (between $590 and $880), depending on the amount of children.

"This is another step that will make it easier for you, and drive the economy forward," Netanyahu said.

"We have designed many steps like this one, amounting in the billions," he added. The one-time payment plan is expected to cost the Israeli state 6 billion shekels in all (around $1.7 billion). "There will be more steps so we can defeat coronavirus together." (Noa Landau)

3:10 P.M. Netanyahu at international coronavirus meeting: We must speed up testing, locating infections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined the leaders of Austria, Denmark, Greece and the Czech Republic over video conference Wednesday to discuss the second wave of the coronavirus and efforts to stimulate the economy while limiting infections.

"Our rate of testing is very high," Netanyahu said. "We're reaching 30,000 tests a day in a population of 9 million. I think that we will succeed in raising that number. We want an industrial-level mechanism that can carry out mass tests and a mechanism for very fast location and isolation" of coronavirus patients, he added.

Netanyahu also said that one of the lessons learned from the first wave is that gatherings in closed spaces must be limited to curtail mass infection. The leaders agreed that there is a need to continue limiting gatherings to avoid renewed outbreaks. (Noa Landau)  

12:59 P.M. Education minister releases plan for next school year

Education Minister Yoav Gallant officially released an outline for the next school year in the shadow of the coronavirus.

The outline, which was formulated in accordance with the Finance Ministry, will have a budget of 4.2 billion shekels and will be brought for government approval in the coming days.

According to the plan, grades one through second will learn in regular format, without splitting them into smaller groups. In grades third through fourth and in middle and high schools, classes will be held in a mix of home and at-school classes, with up to 18 students per class.

Splitting classes into small groups will requires a major increase in teaching staff. Gallant said this issue will be allocated 2.6 billion shekels out of the total budget. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

12:19 P.M. Health Ministry plans to reopen skies, waive quarantine for low-risk areas

The Health Ministry has developed a plan to open the skies, exempting arrivals from countries with low infection rates from entering 14-day quarantine and taking coronavirus tests.

Health Ministry Deputy Director General Itamar Grotto said that implementing the plan would require some preparation. “It can’t happen tomorrow morning, but we’ll do everything we can to promote it.” (Ido Efrati)

11:58 A.M Over a thousand new cases diagnosed, death toll rises by four

The Health Ministry said that the number of coronavirus confirmed cases has risen by 1,014, bringing toll to 66,805. Out of these, 33,618 cases are active and 32,697 have recovered.

The ministry said that 89 patients are currently on ventilators, adding that five more people have died from the virus, raising the death toll to 490.

In addition, 26,128 coronavirus tests were conducted on Tuesday. (Haaretz)

11:28 A.M. Arrivals from ‘low-risk areas’ may not need to enter quarantine, top health official says

Health Ministry Deputy Director General Itamar Grotto said that the ministry is expected to allow Israelis arriving from “low-risk areas,” where infection rates are low to enter the country without requiring them to enter 14-day quarantine.

As of March 8, all arrivals have been ordered into a two-weeks isolation.

Grotto added that “We would also like to launch a pilot of running coronavirus tests on arrivals from “red zones,” where infection rates have been high.” (Ido Efrati)

TUESDAY

9:00 P.M. Trend shows more Palestinians recovering than becoming infected, ministry says

The Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank reported Tuesday an increasing trend in the number of recovering people compared to the new infected with the virus.

According to the data from the last 24 hours, 481 new cases were diagnosed compared to 573 recovering patients. 

The number of active cases has dropped to 7,824 and the death toll in the West Bank has risen to 80. The number of patients in a serious condition stands at 14, 3 of which are on ventilators. (Jack Khoury)

7:50 P.M. Coronavirus czar says recovering public trust is crucial 

Israel's coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu unveiled his plan to counter the resurgence of COVID-19 infections in a televised brifing. He said a new contract is required between government and citizens to increase public trust, and that he will not allow for "restrictions that don't make sense."

Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz said the army will take over contact tracing efforts from the Health Ministry. Gamzu said he believes it will take a few weeks for the army to develop full capabilities to do so. (Ido Efrati)

7:20 P.M. Israel registers 1,806 new cases

Israel's Health Ministry said the total tally of coronavirus cases in Israel stands at 65,791 – of these, more than 33,000 are still active. This is a daily increase of 1,806.

Twelve people died since Monday, bringing the death toll to 486. More than 310 patients are in serious condition, and an additional 97 are ventilated.

On Monday, 28,224 tests were conducted. The rate of positives was 8.8 percent. (Haaretz) 

7:00 P.M. Head of Knesset coronavirus committee dismissed

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party dismissed MK Yifat Shasha-Biton from her position as head of the Knesset coronavirus committee over her refusal to approve the cabinet’s decision to close gyms and pools last week. Coalition whip Miki Zohar said he was disatisfied with her performance. (Chaim Levinson)

6:30 P.M. World Bank approves grant for Palestinians 

The World Bank approved on Monday a $30 million grant for short term cash aid and the creation of employment opportunities for vulnerable Palestinians in the West Bank who have been impacted by the coronavirus crisis.

The West Bank Emergency Social Protection COVID-19 Response Project will focus on those who have lost their income as a result of the pandemic, as well as families who lived in poverty before the crisis began, and who are now in a worse situation. (Jack Khoury)

>> Click here to read the full report

6:30 P.M. Israel's coronavirus czar to launch 'traffic light plan'

Prof. Ronni Gamzu, who was appointed head of Israel’s coronavirus response last week, is expected to present a new plan to combat the spread of the coronavirus on Tuesday. The document, which is comprised of 10 sections, reportedly includes a so-called ‘traffic light plan’ which would map the spread of the coronavirus in Israel by assigning different colors to localities based on COVID-19 infection rates. Based on the colors – red, yellow and green – and an assessment by a team of experts, the localities would be subject to different coronavirus restrictions. (Ido Efrati)

2:47 P.M. Health Ministry plans to open two private coronavirus testing centers to meet demand

The Health Minstry is planning to issue a tender within a week for the establishment of two large private coronavirus testing laboratories, one in the south and one in the north of the country, TheMarker has learned. In addition, the ministry intends to increase the total number of tests performed by the My Heritage laboratory, which is capable of performing about 10,000 tests per day.

The ministry aims to increase the number of tests that are conducted per day to 60,000 until the winter. The reason for the planned increase in that in winter, the demand for coronavirus tests is expected to increase significantly due to a doubling in the coronavirus infection rate. Further, winter illnesses present very similar symptoms to the virus, so many more people are expected to suspect that they have the coronavirus and be sent to get tested.(Ronny Linder)

>> Click here to read the full report

12:25 P.M. Israel appoints new Health Ministry public health director

The deputy director of Carmel Medical Center in Haifa, Dr. Sharon Elrai, has been appointed acting director of the Health Ministry’s public health services division, replacing Siegal Sadetzki, who announced her resignation early this month. (Haaretz)

11:31 A.M. Israel registers 664 new virus cases since Monday night, with 6 new deaths

664 new cases of the coronavirus were diagnosed since Monday evening, according to data released by the Health Ministry. The number of active cases of the virus is 32,052, of which 321 people are in serious condition, with 97 of whom on ventilators. So far, 480 people have died from the virus. The total number of infections is 64,649. (Haaretz)

9:09 A.M. Event hall owners threaten to reopen on August 5, even without government approval

The union of owners of event halls and gardens sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday, stating that they intend to return to business as usual on August 5 - even if the government does not approve it. The letter was sent in light of the planned vote Knesset Finance Committee on Tuesday on the plan for financial compensation for the economic damage caused by the coronavirus crisis.

In the letter, the union wrote: "We have a few hours before the government and the Knesset decide our fate and eliminate Israel's area of joy. We depend on you, Mr. Prime Minister, and need your immediate help." (Bar Peleg)

TUESDAY

11:25 P.M. Over 2,000 new cases diagnosed since Sunday night

The Health Ministry said that 2,029 new coronavirus cases have been diagnosed since Sunday night, raising the toll of active cases to 36,378. Out of these, 739 are hospitalized, out of which 311 are in serious condition and 95 are on ventilators.

The ministry added that 21,409 coronavirus tests have been conducted on Monday.

Since the start of the pandemic, 63,985 Israelis have tested positive and 27,133 have recovered from the virus. (Haaretz)

10:50 P.M. High Court rules against sick pay for quarantined Israelis

The High Court of Justice told the Health Ministry Monday it could no longer automatically deem workers who have been ordered into quarantine as deserving sick pay, a decision that will free employers from a sizable cost.

Citing its understanding of the wording of the Sick Pay Law, the court said the ministry’s public health division was not authorized to issue illness certificates to salaried workers quarantined due to the coronavirus. (Sivan Klingbail)

>> Click here to read the full report

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