Netanyahu, Gantz Agree to Extend Israel's Coronavirus Lockdown Until Sunday

Government does not renew emergency regulations, lifting limitations on protests ■ Pandemic czar presents cabinet with list of localities considered 'bright red' to remain under lockdown ■ Second top Palestinian Authority official tests positive for coronavirus ■ Active cases in Israel keep declining as death toll passes 2,000

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A Muslim woman walking through Jerusalem's Old City, October 13, 2020
A Muslim woman walking through Jerusalem's Old City, October 13, 2020Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

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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 48,784 active cases; 2,055 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 5,093 active cases and 421 deaths, and in Gaza 1,610 active cases and 24 deaths.


11:35 P.M. Government confirms regulations remain in place, further discussion to take place on Thursday

A joint statement by the Prime Minister's office and the Health Ministry officially confirmed the lockdown would be in effect until Sunday, with further discussions to take place on Thursday.

The cabinet will meet to discuss the staggered exit plan, and decide specifically on whether to reopen small businesses that are not public-facing, preschools, as well as allow restaurants to operate for collection. The inter-ministerial commission will also discuss restrictions on air travel, which remain in effect until Thursday.

The cabinet has decided to add going to the wedding of a close relative as another exclusion to the rule currently limiting movements to 1,000 meters from home. Athletes playing in a senior sports league will also be allowed to resume training.

The Treasury also issued a statement saying workplace restrictions remain in effect until Sunday, October 18. (Noa Landau)

11:05 P.M. Israel sees drop in rate of COVID-positive test results

Haaretz Podcast: Could a Trump triumph be Netanyahu's get out of jail free card?Credit: Haaretz

An additional 2,184 Israelis were diagnosed with COVID-19 since Monday night, according to the Health Ministry, showing a 4.9 percentage of positive test results, compared to seven percent the previous day.

Nineteen more people died since Monday, raising Israel's COVID death toll to 2,040. Out of 50,778 active cases, 2,541 are on ventilators. A total of 47,301 tests were conducted on Monday, and 30,689 have been performed since. (Haaretz)

10:47 P.M. Gov't not renewing emergency regulations, lifting limitations on protests

According to Defense Minister Benny Gantz's office, the government's emergency regulations, which expire at midnight, will not be renewed, allowing Israelis to demonstratse farther than 1,000 meters from their home.

Two weeks ago, the Knesset amended the law to allow protesters to be barred from demonstrating more than a kilometer from their homes. As a result, the main anti-Netanyahu protest in front of his official residence in Jerusalem has been replaced with numerous smaller protests nationwide. (Noa Landau)

10:15 P.M. Minister attends wedding, violating lockdown

Religious Services Minister Yaakov Avitan attended a wedding in which dozens of people were present, violating lockdown restrictions.

The wedding was held at a private house in the presence of 60-50 people, and Avitan greeted the bride and groom at a canopy held outside, according to a Channel 13 report. The minister was even photographed inside the house signing the Jewish marriage contract in the presence of the groom and family members.

The government's lockdown restrictions prohibit gatherings of more than ten people in a closed space and 20 in an open space. Avitan confirmed the report and apologized, saying: "I am very sorry for my participation in the wedding tonight. I arrived at the wedding for a quarter of an hour, I made a mistake in my judgment and I express remorse." (Haaretz)

9:48 P.M. Netanyahu, Gantz agree to extend nationwide lockdown until Sunday

Haaretz Special Brief: How COVID-19 upended ultra-Orthodox life, from Jerusalem to Brooklyn

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz agreed during a coronavirus cabinet meeting on Tuesday to extend Israel's nationwide lockdown until Sunday evening. The decision was ratified by the other ministers in the cabinet. (Noa Landau)

7:40 P.M. COVID cabinet convenes but will not discuss easing lockdown until Thursday

Israel's Coronavirus cabinet has convened Tuesday night, however the cabinet will discuss easing the lockdown in light of the decrease in infection rate on Thursday.

Tuesday's meeting will discuss the rate of infection and the stages of a routine exit strategy.

The Thursday meeting will deal with issuing permits allowing for small businesses to open without a crowd, self-pickup of food from restaurants and the reopening of preschools starting next week.

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu presented the cabinet with a list of localities considered "bright red," which are expected to remain under full lockdown even after the country eases restrictions. at this stage there are 13 such localities, which were presented to the cabinet and which will not be divided by neighborhoods.

The so-called "bright red" cities are Modi'in Illit, Bnei Brak, Rechasim, Jerusalem, Beitar Illit, Elad, Beit Shemesh, Kiryat Malachi, Ofakim, Ramla, Netivot, Or Yehuda and Ashdod. (Noa Landau, Nir Hasson and Ido Efrati)

5:20 P.M. Civil Service Commissioner gets COVID, hides it from public, staff

Civil Service Commissioner Daniel Hershkowitz, 67, has recently been diagnosed with the coronavirus, but hid the fact from the public.

Members of the commission's management even treated his diagnoses as a secret that must not be leaked whatsoever. Even civil servants who work closely with the commission did not know Hershkowitz had contracted the virus.

Inside sources claim that Hershkowitz apparently contracted the virus from a driver that complained of symptoms (the comissioner lives in Haifa and works in Jerusalem). TheMarker's first appeal to the commission raised the naive answer that the commissioner was "healthy and intact and even in office these days." The fact that he returned to work after contracting the virus was not mentioned in his office's reply.

It was only when another question was asked that the answer came: "About two weeks ago the commissioner took a test that was positive for the coronavirus, but did not develop any symptoms. He self-isolated in his home and a week ago received a recovery permit as required. For the past week, he has been working full time in his office at the Commission in Jerusalem."

The statement continued: "The commissioner reported as required to the coronavirus commissioner in the Prime Minister's Office, to the corona commissioner in the commission and, of course, to the Health Ministry, which conducted a comprehensive epidemiological investigation."

It should be noted that Hershkowitz is not obligated to report his illness to the public, but as the person in charge of about 70,000 employees, he is expected to act transparently.

When asked why the issue was not reported to the media, no answer was received from the commission. (Tali Heruti-Sover)

3:30 P.M. Some ultra-Orthodox schools open doors despite lockdown

A number of Talmud Torah schools have opened their doors in the last two days despite the lockdown. These are mainly institutions of more extreme communities, with most of the ultra-Orthodox institutions obeying the rabbis' directive not to open for the time being until an agreement is reached with the Health Ministry regarding an orderly opening outline Torah schools and Yeshivas.

Haaretz has learned that a number of ultra-Orthodox schools and have opened their doors Monday and Tuesday in Bnei Brak, Beitar Illit, Elad and Modi'in Illit. Some of them were approached by the police, who stopped their studies and distributed fines. Additionally, two directors of schools in Beitar Illit were summoned for questioning by the police on suspicion of violating the ban on opening educational institutions. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

3:00 P.M. COVID cabinet meeting likely postponed to Thursday

The Coronavirus Cabinet meeting planned for today has been postponed, likely to Thursday, due to a lack of data regarding changes in the virus infection rate, sources within the cabinet told Haaretz.

COVID scar Ronni Gamzu said Tuesday that he intends to soon speak with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Defense Minister and alternate PM Benny Gantz, to discuss extending the nationwide lockdown until the cabinet meeting on Thursday. The lockdown is expected to expire overnight between Wednesday to Thursday.

Gamzu added: "The intention is to open at the beginning of the week, a final decision (will be made) on Thursday. If the intention is to hear final decisions, they would not come out today clearly." He added that "after three and a half weeks we are in close quarters with 3,000 (new) cases a day. Understand the complexity of the situation. This complexity is concentrated in a number of cities that are more difficult because of their conditions, because of the structure. We went down to over 30 'red' cities today But there is a real difficulty in lowering the infection rate. "

The Health Ministry is preparing to ease the lockdown this coming weekend, or at the latest at the beginning of the following week. According to the outline formulated by the ministry, the exit strategy will be done in eight stages, with each expected to last two weeks. Assuming that the decline in the infection rate continues, the ministry expects the exit to be completed in February. (Noa Landau and Nir Hasson)

1:45 P.M. Death toll rises by 11

The country's coronavirus death toll has risen by 11 since Monday to reach 2,032. The number of total cases has risen to 295,625, including 51,564. Of these, there are 826 cases in serious condition and 254 on ventilators. (Haaretz)

1:30 P.M. Protest groups say they will return to Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem on Saturday

Protest groups have announced that they will resume demonstrations outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem on Saturday. Restrictions limiting protesters to remaining within a kilometer of their homes are set to expire at the end of Tuesday, two weeks after being put in place.

The Black Flags movement called on police to remove fencing around streets surrounding Netanyahu's residence and urged supporters to arrive in full force on Saturday. (Bar Peleg)

12:27 P.M. Government approves grant for people on disability

The government has approved a grant for disabled people. It is expected to receive Knesset approval, and the funds will likely be deposited within the month.

The amount of the grant, which will be paid in two installments, one in October and one in December, will be determined according to the type of benefits normally received, the percentage of disability and the number of months of eligibility of the disabled person during the year 2020, as coordinated with organizations for disabled people.

The move is expected to cost NIS 940 million. (Noa Landau)

11:55 A.M. Is a cure for COVID-19 already sold at a pharmacy near you? Some experts believe so

Around the world, evidence mounts that vitamin D can protect against infection by COVID-19 and ease the virus' symptoms, but the medical establishment isn't convinced. Is it time to think outside the box? Read the full report here

10:22 A.M. Israel High Court to rule on limiting protests under coronavirus restrictions

During the hearing on Tuesday morning, which is ongoing, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut outlined a plan to limit protests depending on the size of the demonstration site and requiring that participants adhere to social distancing rules between protestors.

The High Court is discussing rules for protesting safely in order to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, a day after the government told the court that it does not intend to extend the "special state of emergency" that allows it to limit protests, set to expire on Tuesday. Read the full report here (Netael Bandel)


11:11 P.M. Five more die from virus

The Health Ministry said that 478 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, raising the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 294,031.Out of these cases, 53,327 are currently active. Five more Israelis have died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 2,021.

As of Monday night, 822 cases are considered serious, out of which 237 are on ventilators. So far, 238,681 people have recovered.

The ministry added that 23,033 coronavirus tests were conducted on Sunday. (Haaretz)

7:29 P.M. Death toll passes 2,000

The death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 2,016 on Monday, according to Health Ministry statistics. Israel confirmed 3,060 new cases. The percentage of tests returning positive dropped to 6.5 percent. To date, Israel has confirmed 293,553 cases, and currently has 52,892 active cases. Of those, 827 people are in serious condition and 227 are on life support. (Haaretz)

5:45 P.M. Government tells High Court it will not renew restrictions on protests

The Israeli government told the High Court on Monday that it does not intend to extend the "special state of emergency" that allows it to limit protests, set to expire on Tuesday.

Earlier, the Health Ministry told the Justice Ministry they would also not recommend renewing the order restricting demonstrations, even if there is no immediate easing of the lockdown. The announcement was apparently made in coordination with the Prime Minister's office, Army Radio reported.

If the government wants to extend the regulations limiting protests, it must decide to extend the "state of special emergency" for another week and then extend the validity of the relevant regulations.

A source in the Health Ministry told Haaretz: "We will not extend the restrictions on the demonstrations, which expire tomorrow, in the hope that the demonstrators will be able to conduct gatherings according to coronavirus rules, for the health of us all."

The Black Flags movement, which is among the organizers of the anti-Netanyahu protests in recent months, said that they will "return to protest in front of the home of the defendent at Balfour this coming Saturday, as well as at some 1,200 locations nationwide. In addition we will hold protests on Thursday all across Israel." According to the organization, "Over the last month all of Israel realized that an indicted prime minister is a certain recipe for disaster."

"The Israeli people came out in hordes in recent weeks from a deep desire to save Israel, and we call on them to continue and come to Balfour [in Jerusalem] to replace Netanyahu," the organization said.(Netael Bandel and Jonathan Lis)

4:48 P.M. Netanyahu implores ultra-Orthodox to observe lockdown restrictions

Speaking before the Knesset plenum, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "if we act hastily, if we succumb to pressure from any section [of Israeli society], we will very soon reach another lockdown. I call on all public leaders on the left and right – to act together on mutual guarantee. And together we will lower the level of infection and mortality. "

In his speech, Netanyahu directly addressed the heads of the ultra-Orthodox community, saying: "The world of Torah is dear to my heart... Our Torah is a doctrine of life, which sanctifies life. Please tell your communities – observe the guidelines, save lives." (Haaretz)

4:00 P.M. Netanyahu says cabinet will discuss exit strategy Tuesday

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Knesset's Coronavirus Cabinet will convene Tuesday to discuss a clear exit strategy from Israel's second nationwide lockdown.

Regarding vaccines, the prime minister says that "the queue [for vaccines] is determined by the size of the country, so we are not at the front of the queue," adding that he is trying to "use the special connections we have to try and advance in line."

"In the first lockdown we were united and cohesive, that was a huge advantage. We need to get back to this situation. It's not easy, we see the ramifications, but we have to make the right decisions." (Haaretz)

1:30 P.M. Tel Aviv hospital no longer accepting severe cases due to ward congestion

Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv informed the Health Ministry on Monday it will no longer accept coronavirus patients requiring full nursing care due to the overload created in wards that treat those infected with the virus.

According to the hospital, the congestion was created because no suitable frameworks were found to release 25 patients being treated by nurses who no longer need hospitalization, and so are still being treated in hospital. Nursing wards whose patients become infected in the virus do not always have the therapeutic capacity or medical means necessary to receive them for outpatient treatment upon discharge from the hospitals.

In Ichilov, where 110 coronavirus patients are currently hospitalized, 65 of whom are in serious condition, the hospital said that there is a systemic problem in regulating the patient load. According to them, in some of the other hospitals in the country the number of patients is much lower, and patients can be regulated.

Last month, the Health Ministry announced an operation in which hospitalized coronavirus patients were to be transferred from overcrowded hospitals to lower-occupancy hospitals. However, in recent weeks, officials in Magen David Adom and other sources in the health system have made allegations of real difficulties in implementing the move. (Ido Efrati)

1:00 P.M. 10 more virus deaths recorded

157 more Israelis have been diagnosed with the coronavirus Monday, according to statistics released by the Health Ministry, with 10 more deaths. 837 of those are in serious condition, and 243 are on ventilators. The total number of cases in Israel is 292,230, with a total of 1,993 deaths. 51,855 of those cases are active. (Haaretz)

11:45 A.M. Preschools to reopen on Sunday, Health Ministry confirms

Israel's Health Ministry CEO Prof. Itamar Grotto said that preschools would be allowed to reopen on Sunday, contradicting a previous statement by Public Health chief Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis.

"We intend to open preschools and kindergartens for ages 0 to 6 on Sunday, unless there is something unusual in the illness and we do not meet the numbers we set," Grotto told Army Radio.

Alroy-Price said on Sunday that the rate of infection did not reach its intended target of 0.8, down from what she assessed was 1 currently, and that she did not see how it would do so by the beginning of next week. "This is the principle: We reopen according to morbidity indices, and not according to dates," she argued. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

>> Click here to read the full report

11:05 A.M. Israeli Health Ministry to recommend not extending restrictions on protests

The Health Ministry officially told the Justice Ministry they would not recommend to renew the order restricting demonstrations, even if there is no immediate easing of the lockdown.

The announcement was apparently made in coordination with the Prime Minister's office, Army Radio reported.

Sources in both ministries told Haaretz that not allowing protests was an extreme step that could not be justified in light of the improvement in morbidity data. (Ido Efrati)

>> Click here to read the full report

10:01 A.M. 91 fines given in Tel Aviv for praying, but just one in Jerusalem

From the beginning of the lockdown, the Israel Police gave out one fine for prayer that was in violation of the coronavirus restrictions in the Jerusalem area, despite a series of violations of regulations documented in the city. According to police data, which was presented on Monday to the Knesset's Interior Committee, in the Tel Aviv district, which includes Bnei Brak, 91 fines were distributed within the same period.

According to the data, similarly to in the first virus wave, the number of fines distributed for violating regulations in the northern area of Israel is significantly higher than in other areas. About 15,000 fines have been given in the north of the country since the beginning of the lockdown, followed by the Jerusalem district, with 13,407 fines. In the Tel Aviv District, 10,550 fines were given.

According to the data, most of the fines in the north and Tel Aviv districts were distributed for being in public. In addition, 460 fines were given in the Tel Aviv district for staying in a prohibited place, apparently due to recipients being at the beach. Meanwhile 401 fines were given for crowds that refused to disperse, which were mainly given during the protests in the city. In the Jerusalem district, 293 fines were also given for this offense, while in the other districts the number is only a few dozen. (Josh Breiner)

9:33 A.M. Active cases in Israel continue to decline

The Health Ministry confirmed 1,335 new cases, bringing the total number of cases in Israel to 291,828, with 51,698 of them considered active – down more than 8,000 from the latest update on Sunday.

1,553 patients are currently hospitalized, with 823 of them in serious condition and 224 on life support. 1,983 COVID patients died since the outbreak began.

According to the Health Ministry, 22,777 coronavirus tests were conducted on Sunday, about half the daily average over the past week. (Haaretz)

2:35 A.M. Netanyahu excludes justice minister from talks on lifting lockdown; vote postponed

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was holding preliminary talks on Sunday about possible measures to loosen the lockdown, which will be brought before the cabinet and the coronavirus cabinet for approval on Monday and Tuesday.

The talks are expected to include Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and coronavirus chief Ronni Gamzu.

The Prime Minister’s Office canceled the participation of Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn at the last minute. According to Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party, Nissenkorn was disinvited based on his vehement opposition to limiting public protest. However, Netanyahu’s Likud party has denied the allegation. (Noa Landau, Jonathan Lis and Jack Khoury)

>> Click here to read the full report


11:30 P.M. Leaders of the Lithuanian-Haredi community order religious schools not to reopen

The leaders of the Lithuanian-Haredi community, Rabbis Chaim Kanievsky and Gershon Edelstein, ordered the directors of Haredi religious schools (Talmud Torah) not to open the institutions on Monday, contrary to Kanievsky's initial position earlier on Sunday that institutions be opened, but secretly so as not to wag a finger in the public eye in the midst of a national lockdown.

An official statement released on behalf of, and “by order of” the two rabbis stated that “studies in Torah studies will not begin for the time being until an agreement is reached with the authorities."

Shas chairman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri persuaded Kanievsky's associates to allow negotiations with the Health Ministry to reach an agreed outline for opening the institutions, on the assumption that many will not be able to open because the police will not allow it, and that it is preferable to reach understandings that would permit all of the institutions to open. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

11 P.M. Relatively low daily number of new coronavirus infections

The Health Ministry confirmed 618 new coronavirus cases and 39 deaths since Saturday night, bringing the total number of active cases to 59,854 and the total number of COVID-19 deaths since the start of the outbreak to 1,980.

The daily number of new infections is exceptionally low and likely reflects the relatively low number of tests performed since midnight – only 8,619. By comparison, 13,409 tests were performed on Saturday, and on Friday, 37,308. The positive result rate stands at 6.5%, reflecting a downward trend that began about two weeks ago. By comparison, on September 29, the positive result rate reached a peak of 15.1%.

The number of patients said to be in serious condition is 824, reflecting a decrease of 14 from last night. The number of patients on life support also decreased and stands at 230, reflecting a decrease of seven from last night. Of the 59,854 active patients, 1,576 are hospitalized. (Ido Efrati)

8:45 P.M. Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi contracts COVID-19

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the PLO announced on Sunday night.

She is the second senior Palestinian official to have contracted COVID-19 in the past week, following the announcement Thursday night on Twitter by the Secretariat of the PLO Executive Committee that Dr. Saeb Erekat, its secretary general, had also been infected. (Jack Khoury)

8:30 P.M. COVID reinfection documented for first time in Israel

For the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, a case of reinfection has been documented in Israel.

Earlier this month, National Health Fund doctors published the case of a 20-year-old woman from Bnei Brak who first fell ill in April, recovered and then tested positive again in August. Doctors reported this in the scientific journal IDCASES, which focuses on case studies of infectious diseases.

The case joins about ten cases of reinfection that have been identified around the world. More than 37 million people world-wide have already been infected with the virus, and the common assumption in the medical community was that such cases are possible.

However, understanding the causes of reinfection can affect important questions, such as whether someone who has recovered is actually immune to the virus, whether relatively extensive COVID morbidity will allow herd immunity to develop and whether the vaccines developed today can offer a long-term solution to the virus. (Asaf Ronel)

8:15 P.M. Netanyahu to ministers behind closed doors: If restrictions are lifted, Balfour protests can resume

In conversations held with ministers behind closed doors on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not mind if protests in front of his home resume, so long as the emergency regulations –including those restricting protests – are lifted. (Noa Landau)

7:50 P.M. Decline in infections among Arab population accompanied by warnings against complacency

While the numbers point to an apparent decline in infections among the country's Arab population, experts on the Arab national health committee are warning against complacency that could lead to a new rise in cases if guidelines aren't followed. According to official figures, 40 residents of Arab-majority communities died of the coronavirus last week, compared to a total of 10 deaths during the outbreak's first wave in the spring – and these numbers do not include cities with mostly mixed populations, meaning the number of recent deaths in the Arab population is likely higher. (Jack Khoury)

5:27 P.M. Second top official resigns, sending shockwaves through Finance Ministry

The Finance Ministry's director general, Keren Turner Eyal, resigned on Sunday after less than six months in the position. Her departure follows the resignation of the treasury's budget chief, Shaul Meridor, sending more shockwaves through Israel's Finance Ministry at a time when the country still does not have a budget for 2020 and is in the midst of a second, nationwide COVID lockdown.

The budget has been a major point of contention in a coalition fraught with tensions, and could lead to the dissolution of the government if not passed by the end of December. (Jonathan Lis)

5:14 P.M. Netanyahu to discuss possible measures to loosen lockdown with top officials in coming hours

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold in the coming hours preliminary talks about possible measures to loosen the lockdown, which will be brought before the cabinet and the coronavirus cabinet for approval on Monday and Tuesday. The talks are expected to include Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu.

The Prime Minister's Office canceled the participation of Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn at the last minute. According to Gantz's Kahol Lavan party, Nissenkorn was disinvited based on his vehement opposition to limiting public protest. However, Netanyahu's Likud party has denied the allegation. (Noa Landau)

5:11 P.M. Opposition members walk out of Knesset panel after vote on COVID restrictions postponed

Despite the protestations of opposition lawmakers, the constitutional committee’s chairman, United Torah Judaism lawmaker Yaakov Asher, decided to postpone the vote on the government’s one-week extension of the current coronavirus restrictions, saying that some of the committee’s members had requested that the vote be held on Monday.

Several opposition lawmakers left the debate in protest over the decision.

Ofer Cassif of the Joint List said, “You are turning the committee into a circus and a tool in the hands of the government. We are not statistics.”

Knesset member Eli Avidar of Yisrael Beiteinu similarly derided the decision, saying that “The conduct here in the committee and the fact that you are not bringing this to a vote here today is solid evidence of why we have to go to the High Court.”

Avidar added “The Israeli economy shouldn’t stopped, throwing hundreds of thousands of people thrown into unemployment, just so that someone would not demonstrate in Balfour.” (Jonathan Lis)

4:17 P.M. Knesset panel convenes to approve or strike down extension of emergency COVID restrictions

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee convened on Sunday to decide whether to approve or reject the one-week extension of the current lockdown restrictions, which the government approved last Thursday.

Although the extension of the special state of emergency and its regulations – most notably, the one kilometer distance limit on protests – went into effect immediately upon its approval by the government last week, it was and remains subject to approval or repeal by the constitutional committee.

During the hearing, Yamina lawmaker Ayelet Shaked demanded that weddings, limited to up to 20 participants, be allowed to be held without regard to the one kilometer distance regulations, and that someone needed to "grow a pair" and stop enforcing the regulations in these cases.

"Stop ignoring reality, the regulations are stupid, the shitty coalition is yours, fix the regulations," she said.

The Deputy Attorney General agreed with Shaked characterizing the restrictions as illogical: "A situation in which a gathering of 20 people is allowed, but in practice is forbidden due to the kilometer restriction, does not make sense. On the other hand, the current language of the law does not allow it. It needs to be corrected. It is crooked and illogical, but as to how to change it – whether by law, regulations or non-enforcement – we will examine today." (Jonathan Lis)

3:30 P.M. IDF to join forces with hospital department to tackle COVID-19

After extensive preparation, IDF 'Keter' units will join the Sammy Ofer Fortified Underground Hospital in Rambam to treat coronavirus patients on Sunday, Rambam Health Care Campus announced.

The IDF coronavirus departments will be operated by about 100 members of the military medical staff, which includes doctors, nurses, and medics from the regular military medical system of the Medical Corps.

During the past week, the members of the military medical staff underwent professional training by the staff of the medical campus at Rambam, which was adapted to the guidelines of the Ministry of Health. (Noa Spiegel)

11:45 A.M. Defying lockdown, retail chains plan to reopen as soon as next week

Israel's fashion, food and retail chains announced they would reopen their stores at the beginning of next week, even in closed malls, violating lockdown measures which only permit opening essential businesses.

A government meeting chaired by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to take place later Sunday to discuss the plan to lift the lockdown. However, according to the current plan, the opening of non-essential shops and malls will not happen before November 15, and the opening of restaurants and cafes will not take place before November 29.

According to an announcement issued Sunday morning by an association, which unites 400 retail chains that operate about 18,000 stores, a Zoom conference call with all the chains will be held on Wednesday on preparations for the immediate opening of the stores, with representatives of the mall managements. (Adi Dovrat-Meseritz)

9:00 A.M. Israeli experts plan to ease lockdown within week save for 14 ‘red’ towns

The Health Ministry is preparing to lift the nationwide lockdown this Thursday or the following Sunday, October 18, at the latest. The restrictions on movement will end, preschools will reopen, and the private sector will be able to resume operations – with the exception of businesses serving the public in person.

But the following towns with excessively high coronavirus infection rates will remain under lockdown – Bnei Brak, Rechasim, Modi’in Ilit, Elad, Betar Ilit, Ramle, Netivot, Ashdod, Rehovot, Lod and Hadera – and a few neighborhoods in Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem and Netanya.

>> Read full report here


8:30 P.M. Senior Likud lawmaker resigns from Knesset panel over lockdown restrictions

Knesset member Gideon Sa’ar of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud announced his resignation from the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Saturday evening in protest over the claim that the panel was acting as a rubber stamp for government decisions.

Sa’ar sought to reopen businesses with less than ten employees, a proposal which garnered wide support in the committee, but was ultimately rejected for fear that it would lead to lifting restrictions on protests.

In his resignation letter, Sa’ar wrote, “I warned that the coronavirus law would severely damage the principle of parliamentary oversight of the government.” Sa’ar added that “according to the existing law the committee cannot introduce changes in the regulations, it can only approve or reject them. Given that… the committee is barred from introducing changes, even with full consensus among committee members - coalition and opposition as one. I could not support the shuttering of small businesses with up to ten workers at a time when gatherings of up to ten people are allowed. And I won’t be able to support it in the future. As such, I can’t see the point in remaining on the committee.”

The committee is expected to convene Sunday and decide on whether to approve or reject the current lockdown restrictions, which the government approved last Thursday. (Jonathan Lis)


9:16 P.M. WHO reports new daily high in global COVID-19 cases

The World Health Organization has announced a record in new daily coronavirus cases confirmed worldwide, with more than 350, 000 reported to the UN health agency on Friday.

The new daily high surpasses a record set earlier this week by nearly 12,000 infections. In a press briefing, WHO’s emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan acknowledged that even as COVID-19 continues to surge across the world, “there are no new answers.”

He said that although the agency wants countries to avoid the punishing lockdowns that have devastated economies, governments must ensure the most vulnerable people are protected and that numerous measures must be taken. (The Associated Press)


5:31 P.M. Five journalists attacked in a week reporting from ultra-Orthodox areas

Journalists from several Israeli networks have reported being attacked in ultra-Orthodox towns and neighborhoods on at least five different occasions in the past week, as tensions in religious communities aggravate over the enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions over the period of Jewish High Holy Days.

The incidents occurred in Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim and Kiryat Belz neighborhoods and in the cities of Bnei Brak and Beit Shemesh. The journalists said they were beaten, chased and cursed. To date, police have arrested a suspect in only one incident, but have said they are investigating other cases. Read the full report here.

5:02 P.M. Police commander says in leaked recording police won't fine synagogue-goers in West Bank settlement

A police commander in an ultra-Orthodox settlement was recorded saying he did not intend to enforce coronavirus restrictions on synagogues and that he was requesting that the appearance of following guidelines be maintained in return, the news site Charedim 10 reported on Wednesday.

The commander of the police station in Modi’in Ilit was recorded telling a member of the Jerusalemite faction of the Haredi community in the city that he did not intend on enforcing the regulations against gatherings inside synagogues, and in return, Superintendent Tzahi Halfon asked for a show of keeping to the rules for the sake of appearances. (Aaron Rabinowitz) Read the full report here.

4:16 P.M. Active cases in Israel keep declining

The Health Ministry confirmed 2,522 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total in Israel to 287,858, with 60,722 of them considered active, down more than 700 from Thursday's tally.

1,524 patients are currently hospitalized. 860 are said to be in serious condition, with 241 of them on life support.

The total number of COVID-19 deaths since the start of the outbreak stands at 1,886. (Haaretz)

11:30 A.M. Vitamin D said to protect from COVID-19, ameliorate symptoms

Increasing scientific evidence from around the world indicates that vitamin D can protect against infection by COVID-19, and that it’s possible that for those suffering from the virus, the symptoms might be lessened and the death verdict annulled simply by taking vitamin D. It’s inexpensive and readily available.

The first studies in the world appeared last April. One of them, which examined a large database, was conducted by the research institute of Israel’s Leumit health maintenance organization in association with Bar-Ilan University, and it came up with impressive results.

Since then, similar articles have been published in a host of countries: the United States, Germany, France, Italy, China, Iran, South Korea, India, Britain, Switzerland and Israel. Time and again, a significant connection was found between the level of vitamin D in the blood and a susceptibility to infection by the coronavirus. Individuals with a vitamin D deficiency are more disposed to be infected by the virus, and in case of infection a low level of vitamin D increases the likelihood of developing complications. The opposite is also true: Patients with high levels of vitamin D tend to suffer less from serious symptoms and to be less likely to die. In general, it can be said that there is a linear connection: The seriousness of the disease correlates completely with one’s level of vitamin D. (Smadar Reisfeld)

Read the full report here.

10:30 A.M. Rate of positive test results drops, daily deaths among highest in world

The Health Ministry said that 4.6 percent of coronavirus tests since Thursday evening have turned out positive. Even though the rate of positive results is expected to rise over the course of the day, the relative rate of positive tests seems to be declining.

At the beginning of the week, the rate was 11.7 percent, while Thursday’s positive tests stood at 8 percent. On the eve of the Jewish New Year, the date that the second lockdown began, the rate of positive tests was 10 percent.

According to the daily report released Friday morning by the Health Ministry’s COVID-19 department, the decline in the rate of positive test results is “one of the most prominent signs of apparent containment.”

However, the report also noted that "Israel continues to be among the world leaders in the number of deaths per day from COVID-19, and in the weekly average of the number of new infections per day." (Ido Efrati)

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