Coronavirus Israel Live: Defense Ministry to Set Up Field Hospital

Two Israeli hospitals turn away virus patients due to full wards ■ Netanyahu aides violate post-D.C. trip coronavirus quarantine order ■ New guidelines allow protests in groups of 20 during lockdown

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The coronavirus ward at Rambam Medical CEnter in Haifa, September 16, 2020.
The coronavirus ward at Rambam Medical CEnter in Haifa, September 16, 2020. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Haaretz

This story is no longer being updated. Follow live updates here.

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.

Israel currently has 52,876 active cases; 1,273 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 11,425 active cases and 291 deaths, and in Gaza 1,825 active cases and 17 deaths.

Zoom with Haaretz: How Israel’s COVID failure led to a second national lockdown. The event will take place on Wednesday, September 23 at 7 P.M. Israel time, noon EDT. https://zoom.us/j/91630216874

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LIVE UPDATES

9:50 P.M. Supreme Court President Esther Hayut quarantined 

Israel's Supreme Court President Esther Hayut has been required to quarantine after her adviser tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday. (Netael Bandel)

9:30 P.M. Health official says students did not abide by 'capsule plan,' schools will no open after lockdown

Israel's Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish said that the high infection rate in the education system was due in part to the fact that the students did not maintain the outline of the "capsule plan," adding that schools will not reopen at the end of the lockdown. 

Kish admitted that the state erred while preparing for the opening of schools on September 1. "The outline failed," adding that "no matter how hard the teachers try to keep them, they didn't maintain the capsules." Kish was asked how the children could maintain the outline and replied: "In the education system in Sweden or Germany - it works, and in the State of Israel it has been proven to not work."

According to the so-called capsule plan – agreed upon with the Health Ministry – each group of students is isolated from the others, including in the dining halls and dormitories. (Haaretz)

8:15 P.M. Israel's diagnoses 2,135 more cases

The Health Ministry said that 2,135 more people tested positive for the coronavirus, raising the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 190,037, of which 52,263 are active and 169 are on ventilators.

According to the data, the toll reached 1,272 fatalities since the pandemic erupted in Israel.

So far, 136,502 people have recovered. The ministry added that 24,487 coronavirus tests were conducted on Sunday. (Haaretz)

7:20 P.M. Israeli delegation that returned from Washington all test negative, released from quarantine 

The Israeli delegation that accompanied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his trip to Washington, D.C. last week to attend the signing ceremony of the normalization deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain at the White House all tested negative for the coronavirus, and were thus released from mandatory quarantine. (Noa Landau)

4:40 P.M. Over 1 million Israelis quarantined since July 1

The Health Ministry About 1,166,255 Israelis were asked to enter mandatory quarantine since July 1, showed Health Ministry data, while during the past week alone, 254,532 Israelis were asked to quarantine. (Jonathan Lis)

4:15 P.M. Gantz asks army to begin working on new field hospital 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz held a situation assessment meeting in which it was decided that the army must immediately prepare for the establishment of a field hospital in accordance with the needs of the health system.

Gantz instructed the military to begin the staff work required to establish a field hospital that would contain about 200 beds on the basis of the allocation of doctors, nurses and paramedics from the IDF. (Yaniv Kubovich and Amos Harel)

4:00 P.M. First Israeli hospital to postpone non-urgent surgeries due to overcrowding

Due to overcrowding in coronavirus cases, the Western Galilee Hospital in the northern city of Nahariya announced that it would postpone elective surgeries that do not involve urgent medical emergencies - making it the first hospital in Israel to announce a reduction in elective activity during the second wave.

"We will have to use anesthetists as part of the team treating difficult and critical coronavirus patients, so we will have no choice but to postpone elective surgery," said the hospital's director.

In the three coronavirus wards of the hospital, 89 corona patients are currently hospitalized, of whom 33 are in serious condition, including 14 on ventilators. The hospital is expected to open a fourth COVID-19 ward tomorrow. (Ido Efrati)

3:30 P.M. Defense Ministry, army announce new epidemiological investigations unit  

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi recently approved the establishment of a new epidemiological investigations unit for tracking infection chains, carrying out inspections, operating isolation hotels, distributing food and providing information, announced an IDF statement on Monday. 

About 600 regular soldiers will be positioned in the new unit, in addition to dozens of reservists as well as the hundreds of researchers who will be added in the coming weeks in the local authorities. (Haaretz)

2:16 P.M. Two COVID wards at full capacity, hospitals to stop taking coronavirus patients

Two Israeli hospitals have stopped intake for coronavirus patients: Shaare Zedek Medical Center, in Jerusalem and Assuta Medical Center in Ashdod. 

The hospitals' coronavirus wards are at full capacity.

Over the holiday weekend, Israeli hospitals were instructed to open additional coronavirus wards, at the expense of internal medicine departments. (Ido Efrati)

2:06 P.M. Tens of thousands of Israelis registered for unemployment since lockdown began

From Thursday to Monday, Israel's employment office received 4,650 reports of unemployed people returning to work – and nine times more, or 41,924 people, filing for unemployment. The nation-wide lockdown, which shuttered stores that serve customers in-person and reduced restaurant service to delivery only, began Friday afternoon.

Of those, 38,288, or 91 percent, of the jobseekers who filed with the office, are on unpaid leave. There are currently 779,737 unemployed people in Israel, of whom 453,066 are on unpaid leave. (Sivan Klingbail)

2:00 P.M. Police issue nearly 7,000 lockdown-related citations during three days of Rosh Hashanah holiday

Police handed out 6,943 citations for lockdown violations between Friday and Sunday, the period of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, according to authorities. The most citations, 4,822, were given over leaving the one-kilometer radius around their homes without a valid reason.

There were also 1,798 citations for failure to wear a mask and 121 for violating quarantine requirements. The police statement noted a number of specific cases, such as a driver who drove through a roadblock and refused to stop, only doing so after officers took out their weapons. In another incident, a restaurant in Tel Aviv served 50 customers in violation of restrictions and was forced to close. Several businesses were also forced to close because they were open in violation of restrictions. A man from Petah Tikva was also fined for visiting a ritual bath despite having received a coronavirus diagnosis. (Bar Peleg)

1:34 P.M. Second Netanyahu aide violates post-Washington quarantine order

The policy adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Reuven Azar, violated Health Ministry quarantine orders to go grocery shopping on Friday morning, witnesses told Haaretz.  

Azar was seen shopping at a supermarket in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion at about 11:35 A.M. Friday. He accompanied Netanyahu on his trip to the White House last week, where Israel officially normalized ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. According to the ministry orders, delegation members were obligated to remain in quarantine until Monday, or until their coronavirus test results come back negative. 

 The Prime Minister's Office said that they are "clarifying" Azar's situation. "The Health Ministry's announcement about changing the lockdown regulations and quarantine arrived late Thursday night, and he was not updated and regrets it," the statement said. It added that Azar has been reprimanded so that "this situation does not happen again." (Noa Landau) Read the full story here.

12:00 P.M. Health Ministry examines possibility of tightening lockdown restrictions 

The Health Ministry and the team of experts led by Prof. Ronni Gamzu are holding discussions ahead of the Coronavirus Cabinet meeting set for Tuesday, in which they will discuss tightening restrictions during the lockdown, due to the rising infection rates. According to sources in the ministry, the main step being considered is to limit the activity of the economy in the public and private sectors. The government may completely suspend economic activity, except for essential businesses, similarly to the first lockdown. The move is expected to reduce infection, but also lead to significant economic damage.

Prof. Gamzu believes that too little time has passed to determine that the lockdown in its current format is unsatisfactory. The Health Ministry and the team of experts leading it do not state at this stage that there is a need for immediate tightening of the closure, but are preparing to present to the members of the cabinet more drastic measures, which will be brought for discussion and decision by the government. (Ido Efrati)

9:40 A.M. Lawmakers, Knesset staff told to self-isolate after member of Knesset tests positive

Lawmakers Moshe Ya'alon and Mickey Levy have been ordered to self-isolate at home until September 30 after the completion of contact tracing following the infection of lawmaker Moshe Arbel. Knesset Secretary Yardena Meller-Horowitz and a staff member in her office, as well as an employee of the Knesset's legal department, have also been instructed to self-isolate. (Jonathan Lis)

8:30 A.M. Netanyahu adviser under quarantine order filmed at protest

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's digital and new media adviser was filmed on Sunday at an anti-government protest near the premier's official residence in Jerusalem, despite Health Ministry directives requiring him to quarantine after returning from Washington.   

Netanyahu's Likud party said Luk was only present for a coronavirus test. However, the tests given to members of the delegation to Washington were conducted in a drive-through facility at the Prime Minister's Office, and did not require those being tested to leave their vehicles. Luk was filmed near the Prima Kings Hotel, which is roughly 2.5 kilometers (a mile and a half) away from the Prime Minister's Office. Protest activist Gonen Ben Itzkak has submitted a police complaint alleging that Luk had violated his quarantine requirement. (Nir Hasson and Noa Landau) Read full story here... 

SUNDAY

10:49 P.M. Israel's active cases pass 52,500

The Health Ministry said that 506 more people tested positive for the coronavirus, raising the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 187,902, of which 52,577 are active and 170 are on ventilators.

According to the data, 20 more people have died, bringing the toll to 1,256 fatalities since the pandemic erupted in Israel.

So far, 134,069 people have recovered. The ministry added that 42,829 coronavirus tests were conducted on Saturday. (Haaretz)

9:59 P.M. Coronavirus czar warns of '600 deaths a month'

Israel’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, said the number of patients in serious condition might reach 800 by the end of this week, potentially hitting a level hospital directors and other health officials said would overburden Israel’s health system.

“My assessment isn’t optimistic,” he told Channel 12 News. “We see about a hundred new patients in serious condition every day. Some of them are eventually released, and about 20 of them unfortunately die.” He said “we’ll even get to about 600 deaths a month.” (Ido Efrati)

7:50 P.M. Continued rise in hospitalizations

Israel registered 3,794 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, raising the number of active cases to 52,262, and the total to date to 187,396. 

There are currently 170 patients on ventilators. There are another 643 patients hospitalized in serious condition. Ten people died on Sunday, raising the death toll to 1,236.

Some 42,000 tests were conducted on Sunday, the rate of positives is around 10 percent.  

12:28 P.M. Police hand out 2,802 citations for lockdown violations on Saturday

Police handed out 2,802 citations for people allegedly violating lockdown orders on Saturday. The majority, 2,044, were for people traveling further than one kilometer from their homes for a non-approved reason, while 629 citations were for failure to wear a mask. (Josh Breiner)

SATURDAY

9:55 P.M. Source in law enforcement admits police cannot enforce protest directives

A source in law enforcement has admitted that police cannot enforce government directives for holding protests, as these directives were not  official regulations but rather, in the words of the source, recommendations for protesters so that they don't risk infection. On Friday, Attorney General Achivai Mendelblit and the Health Ministry issued directives stating that demonstrators must be divided into separate groups of up to 20 people each and must wear face masks at all time. The space allocated for the protest against Netanyahu in Jerusalem will be expanded to allow protesters to maintain social distancing. (Josh Breiner)

7:15 P.M. Number of serious cases reaches record 604

The number of coronavirus patients in serious condition has risen to 604, the highest since the outbreak began. The number of people on ventilators has also reached a new high of 165. Since the previous Health Ministry update on Friday, 4,531 new cases have been diagnosed, and 31 people have died, raising the death toll to 1,126. The death toll on Friday was 27. According to the Health Ministry, 53,993 coronavirus tests were conducted on Friday, with 7.07% of them being found positive. (Haaretz)

2:00 P.M. Dozens protest lockdown at Tel Aviv beach

Dozens of demonstrators belonging to the anti-Netanyahu protest movement are demonstrating at Frishman beach in Tel Aviv against the COVID-19 lockdown.

Police forces were present and city inspectors told demonstrators they are not allowed to protest at the beach. One demonstrator arrived with a shofar, in order to challenge the government's issuing of travel permits for shofar blowers during the Rosh Hashsanah holiday.

Like others in the crowd, Diana Gelman from Giv'atayim had been regularly attending the anti-Netanyahu protests in Jerusalem. "They can't limit our freedom of protest," she said, adding that she is unemployed due to the crisis and is frustrated and believes the lockdown policy is robbing her of her future. 

Protesters who arrived from nearby Tel Aviv suburbs said they did not encounter police roadblocks on their way to Tel Aviv. "There is no sense in this lockdown where swimming in the sea is prohibited," said Keren Hachmon from Ra'anana, "The government has failed in managing in the crisis. There is no plan for winter, no plan for after the lockdown." (Bar Peleg)

FRIDAY

5:30 P.M. Israel diagnoses 2,138 new cases 

The Health Ministry said that 2,138 more Israelis had tested positive for the coronavirus, raising the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 179,071, out of which 47,851 are active and 158 are on ventilators.

So far, 1,196 people have died from the virus, and 130,024 have recovered.

The ministry said that 28,638 coronavirus tests were conducted on Friday so far. (Haaretz)

5:13 P.M. New directives allow protests in groups of 20 people

During Israel's nationwide lockdown, protests will be permitted only in outdoor spaces and with demonstrators divided into groups of up to 20 people, according to new directives issued by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and the Health Ministry.

The directives also state that protesters are required to wear face masks at all times.

Several anti-Netanyahu protest groups have said they would stop attending the weekly protests in Jerusalem during the lockdown due to health concerns. (Josh Breiner and Netael Bandel)

1:37 P.M. Israel to enter three-week lockdown at 2:00 P.M.

Israel will impose a three-week lockdown starting at 2:00 P.M, effective until October 11. In two weeks, the government will reconvene to deliberate on whether to extend the lockdown.

The regulations were approved by the government on Thursday morning and ratified in the evening by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. (Haaretz)

8:05 A.M. Israel's confirmed cases rise by 1,677 since Thursday night

The Health Ministry said that 1,677 more Israelis had tested positive for the coronavirus, raising the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 176,933, out of which 46,370 are active and 153 are on ventilators – an increase of 4 since Thursday night.

So far, 1,169 people have died from the virus, and 129,394 have recovered.

The ministry said that 56,986 coronavirus tests were conducted on Thursday. (Haaretz)

THURSDAY

11:03 P.M. Government votes to relax travel restrictions

Israel's government approved an amendment to lockdown measures, allowing people to travel up to 1,000 meters (0.62 miles) instead of 500 meters. 

A nationwide lockdown is set to go into effect on Friday at 2 P.M. (Noa Landau)

>> Click here for a full breakdown of lockdown directives

10:30 P.M. Israel registers 4,791 cases on Thursday

The number of active coronavirus cases in Israel rose to 47,758 on Thursday, after 4,791 people tested positive in 24 hours. To date, 175,256 people in Israel tested positive for COVID-19 -  nearly two percent of the general population.

Some 54,000 tests were taken on Thursday. The rate of positive tests averaged above nine percent this week. 

There are nearly 1,000 hospitalized patients in Israel, 149 of them on ventilators. The death toll stands at 1,169. 

9:30 P.M. Anti-lockdown protest in Tel Aviv

Some 200 people demonstrated at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, protesting against the lockdown that is to go into effect on Friday aafternoon. Some carried signs reading "A pandemic of test," referring to a presumed high number of confirmed cases due to an increase in diagnostic testing. (Bar Peleg)

9:05 P.M. Netanyahu: I won't hesitate to impose harsher restrictions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the public ahead of the lockdown, explaining that it is needed because hospitals have cautioned that they are approaching insufficiency. There is a "worrying rise in cases and patients who are in serious condition," he said, and he will not hesitate to impose harsher restrictions if these are required.

Finance Minister Yisrael Katz announced a financial assistance package to businesses that will refrain from furloughing employees.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein urged the public to obey the lockdown: " We can find ways to bypass restrictions, or we can watch out for one another." 

9:00 P.M. Coronavirus czar won’t participate in press briefing with Netanyahu

Israel’s coroanvirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu won’t join a press briefing alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz planned for Thursday evening, ahead of a nationwide lockdown that is set to go into effect Friday.

Gamzu, who is currently in quarantine, denied reports that he decided to shun the briefing over disagreements with Netanyahu, saying “technical issues” prevent him from joining it.

Netanyahu, who is also in quarantine, will deliver remarks from his official residence in Jerusalem, while both Edelstein and Katz will do so from their offices. (Ido Efrati and Noa Landau)

8:50 P.M. Knesset panel approves regulations amendment 

The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved an amendment to lockdown regulations which would allow people to be 1,000 meters away from their home during the lockdown instead of 500 meters. The change is still subject to government approval. (Jonathan Lis)

8:00 P.M. Coronavirus czar: Israel cases may be highest in the world

Israel's coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu addressed the public ahead of the holiday lockdown, explaining that the dramatic surge in new cases warrants the aggressive measure which he himself opposed when he first assumed the post.

"The number of new cases rose by hundreds of percent in four months. It may be the highest in the world. The R value increased. The rate of positive tests shows widespread infection. All of Israel is 'orange' and 'red' – the disease is spreading. The number of patients in serious condition is rising to more than a dozen each day, 400 each month, and is expected to continue going up," he said.

Gamzu also addressed public criticism that the government had failed at curbing the virus because it could not form a clear and consistent policy. "We exited the first lockdown at record speed, uncontrollably and irresponsibly. When the virus came back to strike, we ignored it and acted slowly and clumsily. We hadn't prepared a comprehensive strategy in advance. In the last two months, we witnesses mass gatherings and unchecked behavior. Major decisions were delayed or taken in an unorganized manner," he said. (Ido Efrati)

6:38 P.M. Knesset panel chairman says 500 meters restriction will be relaxed

The government will likely amend lockdown regulations to allow people to travel up to 1000 meters (0.6 miles) from their homes, said the Chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Ya'akov Asher. Currently, lockdown regulations restrict people to 500 meters from their homes, except for travel for essential purposes. The change is subject to government approval. (Jonathan Lis)

6:30 P.M. Police official hints enforcement may be lenient

The police enlisted 6,000 officers in addition to 1,000 soldiers to enforce the lockdown that will go into effect Friday at 2 P.M. Roadblocks will be erected at major intersections, but the police said it will focus on prevention of large gatherings.

"You can cheat the regulations, but you can't cheat the virus. If people want to get smart, they can do that," said a senior police official.

"I don't want to say that there are loopholes, but there are certainly mitigating factors," he said, adding that officers will be instructed on using their judgment "because we are at a time of holidays, not a time of war. We are not against the public."

On Friday night, the eve of Rosh Hashanah, cars will be stopped and asked to turn around if passengers are suspected of violating regulations, said the official. The police are considering allowing people who had left their house before the lockdown went into effect to return home without incurring fines. Regarding the restrictions on prayer at synagogues, he said that "if there is a blatant violation, the senior command will assess the situation and decide." (Josh Breiner)

5:50 P.M. Netanyahu, coronavirus czar discuss stricter regulations

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and coronvirus czar, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, are in consultations over possibly amending lockdown directives to make them stricter. Their meeting comes less than 24 hours before a nationwide lockdown is to go into effect on Friday at 2 P.M.

However, ministers have indicated that harsher restrictions are unlikely to be approved before the Rosh Hashanah holiday on Friday. 

Gamzu is expected to deliver remarks later on Thursday. (Noa Landau)

4:00 P.M. School closures only approved for one week, Knesset will reconsider closures for different grades

The Knesset Education Committee approved closing schools until Wednesday alone, and not for the entirety of the three-week lockdown. 

The committee is requesting that the government formulate new rules that differentiate between different grades, so committee members would be able to vote against closing schools for some of the age groups. The government is expected to present these new guidelines to the committee on Tuesday, and they will be discussed on Wednesday.

The Health Ministry's head of public health, Dr. Sharon Elrai Price, said in the discussion that "The education system brings us hundreds of children and staff members with confirmed coronavirus cases every day, and after that thousands who go into isolation each day. We have these high infection rates in the country, and we can't allow this for us." 

According to Elrai Price, "Every day, we add 100-400 students who are diagnosed, and 100-300 staff members. As it adds up, we arrived at 3,784 diagnosed students and 1,711 staff members in two weeks." She added, "We are now closing every place that may have infections spread there. There is no doubt that education establishments are among those places." (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)  

1:07 P.M. Israel reaches record 6,000+ diagnoses in one day

Yesterday, 6,063 Israelis tested positive for the coronavirus, the highest number since the pandemic began, Health Ministry figures show. The country carried out 52,597 tests Wednesday, and 11.53 percent of them came back positive – a 27 percent spike in two days.  

There are currently 44,984 active cases in the country, ministry figures show; 549 patients are in serious condition. (Ido Efrati)

12:46 P.M. Health minister: Preventing children from going to school is clearly justified

In a press conference, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told reporters that opening schools and yeshivas led to a dramatic rise in coronavirus infection.

"It's even enough to remember that even now, we have thousands of patients in the school system and kindergartens, tens of thousands of quarantined students and school staff throughout the country," he said. "There's clear medical and epidemiological justification to prevent children from going to school."

Knesset committees for education and law are currently discussing lockdown plans, he said.

He added that hospitals are opening more and more beds for coronavirus patients, which is negatively affecting their ability to treat patients with other diseases and problems.

Edelstein stressed that the public must maintain social distancing and good hygiene, and respect the lockdown rules. "Without the full participation of the public, there's no way [the lockdown] will succeed," he said.

He added that the public should not fixate on mistakes made in the way the pandemic was handled before the lockdown, but rather on fixing the issues. He also cautioned against blaming any one sector of Israeli society, while stressing that it is not just the religious population who benefits from Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services.

Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy stressed that the public needs to cooperate with the lockdown, which he acknowledged will be painful for many. He added that the health system "is not collapsing, it's raising a red flag to show how we're opening more wards and adding more staff in order to cope." (Haaretz)

10:40 A.M. Minister says Ukraine's borders shut to Israelis, calls on citizens to return home

Cabinet minister Ze’ev Elkin tweeted on Thursday that Ukraine has formally notified Israel it will not permit Israelis to enter the country. He also urged those waiting on the Belarus and Moldavan borders to get into Ukraine to return to Israel forthwith and follow quarantine instructions.

The move comes as religious Israelis, mostly ultra-Orthdox, embarked on a yearly pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, who revived the Hasidic movement and died in 1810.

Hundreds gathered on the border with Belarus attempting to enter Ukraine despite the country's travel restrictions over the coronavirus. Ukraine imposed a ban on the entry of foreigners on August 26 to September 28.

“Despite the many efforts that have been made to help the Israelis seeking to enter Ukraine via Belarus or Moldova this morning we received a final negative response from the Ukrainian authorities,” Elkin posted on Twitter.

“The Ukrainians have announced that they will not permit anyone to enter its borders, not even a smaller delegation. I call on our citizens to return to Israel and obey the quarantine instructions upon their return. Shana tova,” the post added. (Haaretz)

>> Click here to read the full report

8:00 A.M. Government approves lockdown to go into effect 2:00 P.M. Friday

The government approved Thursday the lockdown regulations that will go into effect on Friday at 2:00P.M. ahead of the the Jewish High Holidays. The lockdown is expected to last for three weeks, until October 11.

Under the lockdown regulations, Israelis are restricted to a 500-meter radius of their homes, with limited exceptions. Public spaces, such as parks and playgrounds will be open. Exercise, solitary or with another person living in the same household, is permitted at any distance from the home. 

Spending time in the home of another person, even if it is within 500-meters of your own home, is not permitted.

Schools will be closed from Thursday, with the exception of special education and at-risk-youth programs.

Work places in the public sector will work in a limited fashion, and private workplaces can continue as usual – though they cannot receive visitors or clients at their place of work, with the exception of essential services. Essential businesses, including supermarkets, pharmacies and delivery services will continue to function.

Public transportation will function in a limited fashion. gatherings will be limited to ten people in an enclosed space and 20 people in an open space.

A maximum of 3 people can be driven in a car, unless more live in the same house, with one additional passenger allowed for each extra row of seats.

Essential services like postal services and banks will be operating. 

Holiday prayer services will be held in small groups, wose side will be determined by the rate of infection in each town. (Ido Efrati and Jonathan Lis)

12:10 A.M. Updated Health Ministry figures bring active cases to 46,081

Updated figures released by the Health Ministry have brought the number of active cases to 46,081 and the number of total cases to 170,465, marking an increase of 6,063 new cases on Wednesday. The death toll rose to 1,165 an increase of 18 since Tuesday. (Haaretz)

WEDNESDAY

9:35 P.M. Ministries, police meet to discuss limiting protests during lockdown

The Justice Ministry, the Health Ministry and the police are drafting an outline for limiting attendance at protests during the lockdown, particularly for the weekly demonstrations outside the prime minister's residence, while maintaining social distancing between protesters.

It has not yet been determined how many protesters will be allowed to congregate, and whether Israelis will be able to demonstrate beyond a distance of 500 meters from their homes during lockdown.

Senior Justice Ministry officials have been holding discussions over the past few days on the issue with Health Ministry and Israel Police representatives, the latter of whom have expressed support for limiting the number of protesters. However, it is still unclear how the police will be able to prevent more protesters from participating in demonstrations beyond the quota that will be set.

"We also have a hard time explaining why a demonstration is allowed but another outdoor gathering is forbidden," a senior police officer said. "The demonstrations should be regulated and freedom of expression should be allowed, but at the very least, while keeping a distance between the demonstrators."

The Health Ministry proposed an outline similar to that of performances, which are held in capsules. However, police officials opposed the proposal, as enforcing those capsules during demonstrations would prove difficult. The Justice Ministry also points to the challenge of treating demonstrations similarly to prayer services, due to the differences in frequency and the number of participants across the country. (Netael Bandel and Jonathan Lis)

9:13 P.M. Netanyahu flouts Health Ministry guidelines, meets with unmasked supporters

According to Health Ministry guidelines, every member of the Israeli delegation to Washington was supposed to go directly to their homes after disembarking and remain in quarantine until they could undergo contact tracing and a coronavirus test.

Despite this, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with supporters, some of whom were not wearing masks, immediately after disembarking the airplane. (Noa Landau)

8:30 P.M. President apologizes for leadership shortcomings ahead of lockdown

In his speech ahead of the nationwide lockdown on Friday, President Reuven Rivlin said that Israel's leadership disappointed its citizens in its handling of the coronavirus crisis, and asked for their forgiveness.

"I understand the feelings of confusion and uncertainty, the anxiety that many people are feeling. I understand and, first and foremost, want to apologize for that," Rivlin said, adding that he asks the public for forgiveness for his violation of the Passover lockdown, when he hosted family members.

"We did not do enough as leaders to deserve your attention. You trusted us, and we disappointed you," he said. 

"You, the citizens of Israel, deserve a safety net that the country gives you. Decision-makers, government ministries, policy implementers must work for you and only for you. To save lives, to reduce infection, to rescue the economy," he added. "I understand the feeling that none of these were done satisfactorily. And now, today, my fellow Israelis, we are forced to pay the price again." 

He said, "And from here, I want to say to the government of Israel – its leaders, ministers and advisors: the trust of the people is beyond value. We must do everything to restore personal, medical and economic confidence to our fellow citizens," he added.

"This is a second chance and we must take it because we will not, I fear, get a third one." (Jonathan Lis)

7:34 P.M. Israel sees highest number of new daily cases, patients in serious condition

According to the Health Ministry, 16 people have died since Tuesday, raising the the country's death toll from the coronavirus to 1,163.

The number of patients in serious condition also rose to the highest number since the pandemic began, reaching 551 on Wednesday, as did the number of daily cases, after a total of 4,950 new cases were diagnosed on Wednesday. There are currently 137 patients on ventilators.

On Tuesday, Israel conducted 57,251 tests, also the highest since COVID-19 reached the country. (Haaretz)

7:20 P.M. Jerusalem hospital says lack of funds is the problem, not overburdened facilities

Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem said that it is not experiencing insufficiency, and it is certainly not collapsing, despite a Health Ministry statement that recommended evacuating patients from it due to the burden of coronavirus patients.

"This long period is certainly making its mark among the staff, and raising tensions and exhaustion on particular days," a statement from the medical center said. "If needed, when the time comes, perhaps we will use the Health Ministry's offer to transfer patients to other hospitals, but that's not a problem at the moment!"

The central issue, the hospital said, is a lack of funds earmarked for operating the wards and allocating staff positions for them, which it needs immediately.

"We did not receive the funds we were supposed to from the government, and we did not benefit from a share of the additional funds for the health system that the prime minister recently announced," the statement said.

"We are eking out from month to month out of an inability to pay salaries and payments to suppliers. We can enlarge our coronavirus ward and treat every person in need, but we must be funded for that." (Ido Efrati)       

7:15 P.M. Government has not yet presented lockdown regulations for Knesset approval

The government has not yet given its lockdown guidelines to the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee for their approval. The committee will meet Thursday at 9:30 A.M. to discuss the lockdown, which goes into effect Friday afternoon, a statement from the Knesset spokesperson said.

In accordance with the law, the regulations will be presented by the ministerial cabinet to the Knesset committee, which has 24 hours to approve all or some of them, none at all, or to change the timeframe for which they are valid.

If the committee does not make a decision on the regulations within those 24 hours, the rules will be published and automatically go into effect. The committee will then have seven days to discuss and approve the regulations regarding private and public spaces, and 14 days for those pertaining to businesses. (Jonathan Lis)

6:15 P.M. Israeli delegates returning form Washington will travel in capsules

Ahead of the return of the Israeli delegation to the Israel-Bahrain-UAE agreements signing in Washington, a strict "capsule" plan is being used to safeguard the health of its members while traveling, the Health Ministry said.

The plan is the same as those used by traveling athletes and businesspeople, in order to minimize the risk of infection.

The returning delegates will enter a shortened five-day quarantine upon returning, and their contacts will be traced in the coming days. Those who do not abide by the capsule plan will have to complete the full 14-day quarantine. (Ido Efrati)

6:10 P.M. Hospital opening emergency underground coronavirus treatment complex

The Defense Ministry and Beilinson Hospital in central Israel released a joint statement saying that the medical center will be opening its emergency underground hospitalization complex tomorrow morning.

The complex can fit 206 hospital beds, which are in short supply as Israel's hospitals bear the burden of an increased flow of COVID-19 patients. Forty patients are expected to be hospitalized there tomorrow, all from the north, where hospitals are reaching maximum capacity and beginning to send patients to hospitals in the center and south. 

The complex includes four intensive care units for coronavirus patients in serious condition and those on ventilators, built by the Defense Ministry's engineering and construction department. (Bar Peleg)

3:41 P.M. 500 more soldiers to be sent to enforce lockdown

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has ordered that 500 more IDF soldiers join policing efforts during the lockdown beginning Friday, in accordance with requests made by the Israel Police. 

With this order, the number of soldiers allocated to the operation stands at 1,000, in addition to the thusands of Home Front Command soldiers who will be sent to various cities, as part of the effort to break the chain of infection, handing out food and supplying information. (Yaniv Kubovich)

2:57 P.M. COVID-19 patients in hospitals in north, Jerusalem, to be transferred amid overcrowding

Due to overcrowding in hospitals in the country's north and in Jerusalem, patients from the region will be transported via ambulances to hospitals in the south and center, the Health Ministry said. 

"In light of the increase in the number of confirmed patients and hot spots in these areas, there is a forecast for continued crowding in the north and in Jerusalem," the Health Ministry document, addressed to the heads of hospitals, says. 

"At this point, the possibilities of adding additional beds in northern Israel have been exhausted," it reads. 

The patient transfers have begun this morning, and will continue through Friday morning. Most of the patients transferred will be in moderate condition, patients who will need to be hospitalized for over 72 hours. (Haaretz)   

2:22 P.M. Netanyahu's White House delegation pushed for quarantine exemption, and got a reduction

The delegation that accompanied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the signing ceremony in Washington has received a major reduction in the amount of time they will have to quarantine upon their return on Wednesday – only five days instead of the 14 required for those returning to Israel from the United States.

The delegation was also required to take COVID-19 tests before their trip and upon their arrival in Israel.

The organizers of the delegation tried to receive a full exemption from any medical isolation upon their return, prompting a clash with Health Ministry officials, who insisted delegation members spend at least five days in isolation, ministry officials said.

"There was a bit of shouting, but everyone is going to sit at home until Monday,” said one of the officials. (Ido Efrati and Amos Harel)

>> Click here to read the full report

1:15 P.M. Al-Aqsa Mosque to close for three weeks due to virus fears

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City will be shut for three weeks starting Friday due to coronavirus regulations, the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust responsible for it, announced.

A Waqf official said the decision was made due to the continuing increase in the number of cases in general and in the Jerusalem area in particular, including among worshipers.

According to data presented by the committee combating the virus in East Jerusalem, the number of active cases there is approaching 2,000, with 207 new cases recorded Tuesday while the number of deaths since the beginning of the crisis reached 43. (Jack Khoury)

1:00 P.M. Infection rate in Arab community higher among women than men

The coronavirus infection rate among Arab women in Israel during the second wave of the coronavirus crisis is much higher than that of men in the community, and has reached 60 percent – and in certain areas is as high as 85 percent, showed a new Health Ministry report. 

Based on an analysis of the timing of the increase in infection and the details of those infected, the authors of the report consider the source of the differences in the rate of infection based on gender in the Arab community as related to the “wedding season,” which began with the end of the month of Ramadan in May. The researchers estimate that this is because women spend more time at the weddings in closed spaces, and so are infected more at the weddings.

As a result, the report recommends a campaign directed at the women of the Arab community to encourage social distancing at weddings and other events, as well as increased enforcement and testing. The number of tests conducted for Arab men and women is similar, and the rate of tests with positive results is about 8 percent for women and 6 percent for men, while the rates are quite similar among both men and women for the rest of Israeli society. (Ido Efrati)

12:50 P.M. Weekend buses in Tel Aviv area to stop during lockdown

Weekend bus lines in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area will stop operating as of Friday, when a nationwide lockdown goes into effect, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality said. Deputy Mayor Meital Lehavi stressed the suspension of the service, operated by local authorities, is only temporary and it would resume after the three-week lockdown ends.

Other public transport services are expected to continue operating during the lockdown but with some restrictions. (Bar Peleg)

10:40 A.M. Deputy Health Minister says not to expect significant decrease in cases after lockdown 

Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish told Kan Bet public radio “you can’t expect a significant decrease in infection rates” following Israel’s three-week coronavirus lockdown, set to go into effect on Friday. “I’m starting to worry,” he said, adding that this lockdown “won’t be like the lockdown we know,” but instead would limit commerce, entertainment and leisure activities.

According to Kish, those who want to defy lockdown orders “will find an excuse” to do so, and the main goal of it is to prevent a renewed surge during the Jewish High Holy Days. (Haaretz)

10:30 A.M. Half of Israelis now live in 'red' areas with highest coronavirus infection rates

A week after restrictions were imposed on 40 neighborhoods and communities with high coronavirus infection rates, in accordance with the Health Ministry’s traffic-light-themed plan, Israel is on its way to being fully “red.” On Tuesday, 83 locales with a total of 4 million residents – nearly half the country’s population – merited this classification, together with the harshest restrictions that it brings.

An additional 51 communities, with 2.5 million inhabitants, were coded orange, just one step down from red in the five-color scheme.

Sources in the Health Ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Haaretz there are virtually no “green” cities left in Israel, and that 97 percent of populated areas are coded yellow or higher. During a meeting of the coronavirus cabinet Monday, the head of the ministry’s public health services, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, said: ”Infection rates are doubling in 97 percent of populated areas, that is to say within just two days, turning them from green to red. (Ido Efrati)

>> Read full report here

9:00 A.M. Israel to close all schools starting Thursday, day before lockdown 

The Israeli government announced Tuesday morning that they have approved the Health Ministry's recommendation and will close all schools, excluding special education, starting Thursday, a day before the country is set to begin a three-week nationwide lockdown. (Ido Efrati)

8:00 A.M. Israel registers over 2,000 new cases 

The Health Ministry said that 2,572 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday morning, raising the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 166,794, out of which 42,862 are active and 138 are on ventilators.

The nationwide death toll stands at 1,147, while 122,785 have recovered so far.

The ministry added that 57,165 COVID-19 tests were conducted on Tuesday. (Haaretz) 

2:00 A.M. The Israeli army fails to break coronavirus chains of infection

During the latest meetings of the coronavirus cabinet, on the eve of his trip to the United States, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly asked about the system of epidemiological investigations, which is now being run by the Home Front Command. Netanyahu is not pleased with the timetable presented by the Israel Defense Forces, according to which the system will begin to operate fully only on November 1.

But it was the government that he headed that unnecessarily caused the months-long delay in transferring the task to the IDF. And although it looks as though the army will be ready on schedule this time, the increase in the number of identified carriers will make it difficult to conduct effective tests. The ability to break chains of infection will be very limited if the rate of illness continues to be about 5,000 or more cases a day. (Amos Harel)

>> Read full report here

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