Coronavirus Israel Live: 70,000 Already Vaccinated as Cabinet Set to Debate Lockdown

Israel to bar foreigners, quarantine returning Israelis in COVID hotels ■ West Bank deaths top 1,000

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Resident of an assisted living facility in central Israel gestures after getting a coronavirus vaccine, December 22, 2020.
Resident of an assisted living facility in central Israel gestures after getting a coronavirus vaccine, December 22, 2020.Credit: Hadas Forush

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 27,551 active cases; 3,128 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 14,894 active cases and 1,033 deaths, and in Gaza 9,574 active cases and 283 deaths.

Bibi gets immunity – just not the kind he really wants. LISTEN to Haaretz Weekly podcastCredit: Haaretz


10:34 P.M. More than 70,000 already got vaccinated, health minister says

Health Ministry Yuli Edelstien said 71,876 people already got the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, three days into Israel's inoculation campaign.

"This is just the beginning," Edelstein said, urging more people to get the vaccine. At this stage, the campaign is limited to health workers and people considered at a greater risk, such as senior citizens. (Haaretz)

10:30 P.M. Ministers to debate lockdown on Wednesday

The cabinet is set to meet on Wednesday at 2:30 P.M., and ministers are expected to decide beteween tighter restrictions and a full lockdown, as the rate of infection across Israel keeps rising. (Judy Maltz)

2:04 P.M. Assisted living home staff to be vaccinated

Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv will inoculate the tenants and staff of assisted living facilities in Tel Aviv. This is a large campaign that will cover about 40 facilities in the city, covering about 8,000 people and a total of about 16,000 vaccines. Ichilov staff will deploy a large contingent of nursing staff to visit each facility at least four times during the campaign. (Bar Peleg)

1:33 P.M. Controversy erupts over how coronavirus patients will vote in potential election

During the reading of the Law to Dissolve the Knesset, a disagreement erupted regarding how coronavirus patients would cast their vote in an upcoming election, stemming from fears of passing on the virus, scaring off healthy voters or the spreading of fake news.

According to the bill, the central elections committee chairperson will determine how the vote would be carried out.

Israel’s Director of Public Health Dr. Sharon Elrai Price said that there’s no way coronavirus patients should leave their home to cast their ballot.

“You’re talking about tens of thousands of sick people that are going out to vote, and that’s a public health hazard,” Elrai Price said. (Jonathan Lis)

1:20 P.M. Israeli Health Minister says a lockdown is the only way to stop COVID-19 spread

Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Tuesday that there’s no other way to reduce coronavirus infections other than a lockdown.

Edelstein made these comments at the launch of the 'protecting our parents' vaccination campaign.

“We’ve wasted precious time. We missed the ‘tightened restrictions’ train,” Edelstein said. (Ido Efrati)

>> Click here to read the full report

11:30 A.M. Knesset approves mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals

The Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved the cabinet's mandated quarantine in COVID-19 hotels to all returning Israelis on Tuesday morning. The regulation will come into force on Wednesday at 10 P.M. and will be in place until January 1, 2021.

These decisions were made in an effort to block a new strain of the coronavirus that has appeared in the United Kingdom from entering Israel.

Those requiring hotel quarantine can shorten the period to 10 days if they take two coronavirus tests that come out negative – one upon entering Israel and the other after nine days. If space at the hotels fills up, there will be priorities set for who must stay there and who will be assigned home quarantine. These new regulations will be in place for 10 days. (Ido Efrati)

>> Click here to read the full report

9:05 A.M. Coronavirus czar says lockdown possible as cases rise

In an interview with Army Radio, coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said that action must be taken immediately to keep the number of new cases, which reached about 3,500 Monday, from rising further.

"I believe the decision will be made today, or tomorrow at the latest, we discuss it every day," Ash said. "There's uncertainty regarding which steps to take, whether to adopt our primary recommendation for tightened restrictions or to go for something more severe like a lockdown. A lockdown is definitely one of the options on the table, in light of the rise in numbers and in light of the delayed decisions. It could very much be the best move right now."

How long the lockdown would last depends on how strict it would be, Ash said. "If we go with tightened restrictions, it'll take five weeks to significantly lower the number of diagnoses. A full lockdown would take less time – I estimate that a lockdown, as of today, would last about three weeks."

8:15 A.M. After a lull, Israel's ultra-Orthodox are hit with high infection rates

Despite having a higher rate of confirmed cases and deaths than the population at large throughout the first and second waves, Israel's ultra -Orthodox community was actually presenting the lowest rate of morbidity in the country for a six-week period.

Haredi cities remained “green” for long periods and some started to believe that the community, in addition to observing the social distancing rules, had reached some level of herd immunity.

But all that is changing, and rapidly. In the Haredi neighborhoods of Jerusalem where the average number of new daily cases was 20, there are now nearly 200 a day. The weekly ratio of positive tests in those neighborhoods, which three weeks ago was around 3 percent, has reached 12 percent. In Bnei Brak the ratio of positive tests two weeks ago was 3 percent; now it is 10 percent.

Moshe Morgenstern, who holds the health portfolio for the Bnei Brak municipality, told Haaretz that the city realizes that this new wave will probably be much worse than the previous two. “The infection coefficient (average number of people each carrier infects) here is two. We never had that during the two previous waves,” he said. “If this continues this way we will have an enormous number of sick people here in a few days.” (Aaron Rabinowitz)

>> Click here to read the full report


9:38 P.M. Israel to bar foreigners, quarantine returning Israelis in COVID hotels

Israel will bar entry to foreign nationals and mandate a quarantine in a designated COVID hotel for all Israelis returning from abroad. This policy will go into effect on Wednesday at 10:00 P.M..

Passengers returning from all countries will quarantine either for 14 days or for 10 days if they twice test negative for coronavirus.

"I've asked to convene the cabinet for one purpose, and that is to close the sky," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of the meeting. Netanyahu addressed the new strain of the coronavirus that was found in the U.K., saying that "The mutation is spreading rapidly in many countries, and it is clear to us that we are at the onset of a very fast outbreak." (Judy Maltz)

>> Click here to read the full report

8:18 P.M. In two-month high, 5.1 percent of tests return positive

5.1 percent of coronavirus tests conducted on Monday returned a positive result, in the highest figure since October 14. With some 3,500 new cases, the total number of active cases in Israel is at 26,275.

842 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized, with 463 of them in serious condition and 115 on life support. 3,111 patients have died so far. (Haaretz)

8:00 P.M. Thousands inoculated on first day of vaccine rollout

Some 11,000 Israelis were vaccinated against coronavirus on Monday, the first day that vaccines were available through the public healthcare system to people over 60. Over a quarter million people have been summoned for vaccinations, which are not mandatory in Israel. In addition, 15,000 health workers were vaccinated since Sunday. (Ido Efrati)

5:30 P.M. Gantz in isolation after lawmaker tests positive

Defense Minister Benny Gantz will self-isolate for the rest of the week because he met last Thursday with lawmaker Hila Shay Vazan, who announced she tested positive for COVID-19. Gantz's office said he tested for COVID-19 on Monday and will test again before the end of the quarantine period.

Two other Knesset lawmakers are currently infected: David Bitan from Likud and Yaakov Asher from United Torah Judaism. (Chaim Levinson)

11:30 A.M. Health Ministry: 10,000 medical staff received COVID-19 vaccine Sunday

Israel’s Health Ministry said on Monday that approximately 10,000 medical staff were inoculated against the coronavirus on Sunday, as the national rollout of the vaccine began.

In the coming days, the country’s health maintenance organizations are expected to increase the rate of vaccinations, with inoculations already underway for at-risk groups and those over 60. The ministry also announced that data on daily vaccinations will also be updated on their website.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein celebrated the start of the vaccination campaign, and noted that 200,000 more appointments have been made for the vaccination. “I call on everyone over the age of 60: go get vaccinated, this is the only way to fight coronavirus,” he added. (Ido Efrati)

9:30 A.M. Israel to discuss sending all arrivals into quarantine

The coronavirus cabinet will decide Monday whether Israelis returning from abroad will be required to quarantine for a fortnight in government facilities.

This would expand on the the cabinet’s decision on Sunday to send Israelis arriving from the U.K., South Africa, and Denmark into quarantine.

"I've asked to convene the cabinet for one purpose, and that is to close the sky," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of the meeting. Netanyahu addressed the new strain of the coronavirus that was found in the U.K., saying that "The mutation is spreading rapidly in many countries, and it is clear to us that we are at the onset of a very fast outbreak."

The coronavirus cabinet will also discuss barring all foreigners from entering the country. Israel's National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat suggested that all Israelis returning to Israel after Wednesday be mandated to quarantine for 14 days, or 10 if they agree to take two COVID tests: One upon landing, and another nine days after.

Since March, foreigners have not been allowed to enter the country, unless they meet certain criteria, but the cabinet is looking to apply the broader restrictions against non-citizens. At present, the list includes foreigners married to Israeli citizens or permanent residents, minors with Israelis parents or foreign parents of Israeli minors, diplomats, yeshiva students, cultural and sporting figures, some workers in key industries, and more. (Judy Maltz)

9:08 A.M. Israel's vaccination campaign begins

Israel's COVID-19 vaccination campaign has begun on Monday, with some 170,000 Israelis having already scheduled appointments to receive the coronavirus vaccine, while others tried but were unable to do so because the health maintenance organizations’ hotlines were too busy.

The vaccination campaign for the general public officially kicks off on Monday. On Sunday, thousands of medical staffers were vaccinated.

Prof. Ehud Davidson, CEO of the Clalit HMO, said Clalit vaccinated 1,300 people on Sunday and has scheduled appointments for around 90,000 people. Ran Saar, CEO of Maccabi, said his HMO has scheduled appointments for 50,000 people.

Meuhedet CEO Sigal Rosenberg said her HMO has scheduled 23,000 appointments. She said it will be able to vaccinate 4,000 people a day this week and 10,000 a day as of next week. Leumit CEO Haim Fernandes said his HMO vaccinated hundreds of people on Sunday, and that demand for appointments has exceeded supply.

The Health Ministry has promised there will be no shortage of vaccines. Ministry Director General Chezy Levy said the HMOs will be informed if that changes, but until then, they should schedule appointments freely. (Ido Efrati) Read the full report here.


9:21 P.M. Italy has patient with new strain of virus found in Britain

Italy has detected a patient infected with the new strain of the coronavirus also found in Britain, the health ministry said on Sunday.

The patient and his partner returned from the United Kingdom in the last few days with a flight that landed at Rome's Fiumicino airport and were now in isolation, the ministry said.

Britain's European neighbors began closing their doors to travelers from the United Kingdom on Sunday amid alarm about the rapidly spreading strain of coronavirus that has caused cases to soar there. (Reuters)

7:04 P.M. Foreign Minister Ashkenazi gets vaccinated

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi received the coronavirus vaccine at Meir Hospital, Kfar Sava on Sunday, and thanked medical staff while decrying disinformation surrounding the inoculation campaign.

"I am aware of disinformation on the subject of vaccines," he said, adding that he understands the fear that many have of the inoculation. "But I ask to emphasize that the doses of vaccine that are arriving in Israel received all of the necessary approvals - from the FDA, and from the Israeli Health Ministry."

He added, "I call on the public, specifically the older population and high-risk groups, to come get vaccinated. This is not just a matter of your personal health, but the health of all those around you."

5:42 P.M. Over 120,000 Israelis sign up for vaccines

Over 120,000 Israelis have made appointments to receive coronavirus vaccines, most of them since Sunday morning, on the first day of registration for the general public.

Israel's vaccination campaign has opened for health care workers and citizens aged 60 and over, the first general population group to receive the inoculation. They will start receiving the shot on Monday. (Ido Efrati)

5:03 P.M. Coronavirus cabinet fails to decide on new measures

The ministerial committee leading Israel's coronavirus response ended its meeting without agreeing on new measures, despite a continued rise in cases, as disagreements between various government ministries persist.

It debated shutting down the retail sector for three weeks in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, after new daily cases exceeded 2,500, the target set by the government to impose tighter measures.

Coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash warned at the meeting that without any new restrictions, Israel would see between 1,340 and 1,900 seriously ill patients and between 3,085 and 3,700 deaths from COVID-19 in the coming three months. If a strict closure were imposed for five weeks, there would be 800 seriously ill patients and 1,250 additional deaths, and if a full lockdown were imposed for three weeks, there would be 700 seriously ill patients and 1,100 deaths.

Education Minister Yoav Galant demanded that schools be kept open in all areas, including towns with relatively high infection rates, except for schools in which there are more than five confirmed cases among the students. Four percent of 60,342 people were infected in schools during the relevant period, he said. “That’s why I’m asking to keep the educational system open and close schools only after there are five infections.”

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that the main difference between “tight restraint” and a lockdown relates to the school system. “Harm would be done to commerce, but that’s money and not equivalent to education, which is why I prefer to leave education open to the degree possible,” he said.

(Judy Maltz)

4:44 P.M. Group of Israelis refuse quarantine upon return from U.K.

Twenty-five Israelis refused to be taken into quarantine on Sunday upon their arrival from the United Kingdom. Thirteen of them decided instead to return to the country, but the remaining 12 eventually agreed to go into a state-run quarantine facility.

Arrivals from the United Kingdom are being sent to hotel quarantine facilities after a mutated strain of the coronavirus was discovered there.

A Population and Immigration Authority representative addressed an Easyjet flight carrying 126 travelers from Great Britain to Israel, which landed shortly after the coronavirus cabinet decided on the new quarantine measure.

After the passengers were told that they cannot go to their homes and must be sent to a quarantine hotel, the 25 Israeli citizens, who appear to live in the United Kingdom, refused, and decided to return on the next flight. British citizens who do not have Israeli citizenship were notified Saturday not to board the flight. (Hadar Kane)

1:28 P.M. Cabinet orders all U.K., South Africa and Denmark arrivals into quarantine

The coronavirus cabinet decided that all arrivals from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Denmark must enter a two-week self-isolation in designated coronavirus hotels. Arrivals from other countries are allowed to self-isolate at home.

The decision comes following the identification of a mutated COVID-19 strain found in those countries. In order to reduce the quarantine period to 10 days, arrivals from the U.K., South Africa and Denmark will need to undergo two negative coronavirus tests, one upon arrival and a second one after nine days.

A joint Prime Minister's Office and Health Ministry statement said that the new regulation does not include anyone who spent up to 12 hours in the airports of these countries on a layover.

The Health Ministry is also working to locate Israelis who already entered the country from these states over the past two weeks and invite them to undergo a coronavirus test.

Israel’s Health Ministry advised that the mutation likely leads the virus to spread faster, yet the vaccine likely does protect against the mutation. The ministry said they are conducting further testing to confirm or dispute this claim. (Ido Efrati and Judy Maltz)

12:52 P.M. Israeli store owners protest proposed COVID restrictions

Around 30 store owners burnt tires and trash on Yafo Street in Tel Aviv to protest the coronavirus committee's proposed restrictions that would see the closure of stores following a rise in infections. The protesters shouted "they have no shame" and "[the government is] detached," and hung mannequins from the building windows.

Oded Babai, a store owner and member of "I am Shulman," a group that represents small business owners, said authorities should stop travel Dubai and Turkey to protect local small businesses.

"How can they allow 300 people but we can't have five people in our stores? The pigs that sit in the government only look out for their pockets and their seat in parliament, they're not interested in helping us," Babai said. (Bar Peleg)

12:47 P.M. Israel mulls banning all entries from U.K., Denmark, South Africa

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein are spearheading a decision to close Israel's borders to arrivals from the United Kingdom, Denmark, and South Africa, with the possibility of adding new countries to the list.

The decision will also include tests and self-isolation requriements for all Israelis returning from those countries, as well as reducing the number of flights leaving Israel. (Judy Maltz)

12:34 P.M. Health Ministry asks coronavirus committee to discuss regulations for Israelis returning from U.K., Denmark, South Africa

Israel's Health Ministry has suggested the coronavirus committee discuss regulations for citizens returning from the United Kingdom, Denmark and South Africa.

The Health Ministry is suggesting a 14 day self-isolation period in a hotel quarantine facility, or a reduced period of 10 days after two negative coronavirus tests.

The recommendation also includes closing the borders to foreigners entering from the aforementioned countries. (Ido Efrati)

12:30 P.M. President Rivlin receives vaccine

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin received a coronavirus vaccination on Sunday at Hadassah University Hospital at Ein Karem in Jerusalem. He praised the medical staff there for the work they are doing. (Haaretz)

12:10 P.M. Netanyahu says 'we have every reason to close off Israel's skies to foreigners'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a coronavirus cabinet meeting on Sunday that "there is every reason to close off [Israel's] skies to foreigners" as cases surge and in light of the newly discovered strain.

"We can prevent this virus's entry to the country," he said, adding that Israelis abroad should be returned. (Judy Maltz)

11:58 A.M. Netanyahu establishes team to examine implications of new COVID-19 mutation

At the opening of Sunday's coronavirus committee meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu established a special team to test the potential effects and implications of the new COVID-19 mutation identified in some parts of the world. The team will be headed by the National Security Council and the Health Ministry.

It is still not clear how this mutation will impact the coronavirus vaccine, and vice versa.

"We have no indication that the vaccine will protect against the new mutation," Netanyahu said.

"We are following all related developments very closely."

The ministers are expected to approve tightened restrictions after a significant rise in cases over the past few days. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and National Security Council chief Meir Ben Shabat are expected to present the proposed measures at the start of the committee meeting. (Judy Maltz)

11:40 A.M. Israel's coronavirus committee expected to announce new restrictions after meeting on Sunday

The coronavirus committee is expected to convene Sunday to discuss the next steps to stop the spread of the coronavirus, including potentially closing down retail sector. Sources say the new round of restrictions will last 3 weeks.

The Israeli government said it would enforce tighter restrictions if the daily number of new exceed 2,500, or the average rate of one sick person infecting others would surpass 1.32 (R=1.32).

The average of new coronavirus reached 2,442, and as of Thursday, the average rate of infection was 1.28.

Yesterday, the Health Ministry recorded 2,734 new coronavirus cases. (Ido Efrati, Judy Maltz)

10:52 A.M. Israel's chief rabbi calls on religious community to get vaccinated

Israel's Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef is calling on his community to "listen to the doctor's instructions and to get vaccinated without delay, in order to prevent danger to oneself and to others.

"I turn to you my brothers, holy brothers of Israel, to listen to the doctors. Such is written in the Torah: to heal and heal others." (Aaron Rabinowitz)

8:10 A.M. Israel bans entrance for U.K. arrivals after new strain identified

The Population and Immigration Authority on Saturday night notified all the airlines flying to Israel that with the exception of diplomats, non-Israelis will no longer be allowed to fly to Israel from Britain because of the new mutation of COVID-19 discovered there. The ban includes passengers on connection flights through Britain as well.

The authority also asked the airlines to notify Israeli passengers that they may be required to quarantine themselves in special "coronavirus hotels" upon landing in Israel.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz later instructed the Defense Ministry to reopen special ‘coronavirus hotels’ where citizens returning from countries where the mutated strain was identified will self-isolate.

The new policy orders the hotels to be opened 24 hours from the moment the coronavirus committee will approve it. The Israeli military’s Home Front Command will oversee the function of the coronavirus hotels. (Judy Maltz and Jonathan Lis)

8:00 A.M. Finance Minister Yisrael Katz gets vaccinated

Israel kicked off its vaccination campaign Sunday morning across the country, starting with inoculating healthcare professionals in hospitals and Health Maintainence Organization (HMO) clinics.

Israeli Finance Minister Yisrael Katz received the coroanvirus vaccine this morning. Katz said he was asked to receive the coronavirus vaccine at the start of the campaign, and was very happy to oblige.

"For me, receiving this vaccine represents a moment of optimism on the road to overcoming the coroanvirus," Katz said in a statement to media.

In addition to Katz, public health officials also received the vaccine including Dr. Sharon Elrai Price, Head of Public Health, and the Director of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, Professor Roni Gamzu, who previously served as Israel’s coronavirus czar from July to December. (Ido Efrati)


8:00 P.M. Netanyahu, health minister get vaccinated

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on live television, becoming the first person to be inoculated for coronavirus in Israel.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein also received the vaccine on live television. His office has launched an extensive public relations campaign to encourage the public to get vaccinated.

“For nearly a year we’ve battled one of the most difficult pandemics humanity has faced in the last hundred years. By the end of the month, millions of vaccines will be here and thereafter millions more. I asked to be vaccinated first with Health Minsiter Edelstein in order to serve by example and encourage you to get vaccinated,” Netanyahu said. “I believe in this vaccine, tens of thousands took it successfully and top scientists approved it.”

An expert committee has set a priority list establishing the order in which different groups would be vaccinated. Healthcare workers will be inoculated first, followed by the elderly and their caregivers in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Israelis above the age of sixty and those with additional risk factors will also be vaccinated in the first stage. (Judy Maltz)


3:00 A.M. FDA approves emergency use of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Moderna Inc's coronavirus vaccine on Friday became the second to receive emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The decision marks the first regulatory authorization in the world for Moderna's vaccine and validation of its messenger RNA technology, less than a year after the first COVID-19 case was identified in the United States.

In June, Israel signed a deal with Moderna, but an expanded deal was signed two weeks ago that would allow the country to receive three times more vaccines in 2021, from 2 million vaccines to 6 million - enough doses for 3 million Israeli citizens. Pfizer has committed to providing Israel with 4 million doses by the end of December.

At the time, the deal was perceived to be a risky move by Israel's government, yet now Israel is expected to be one of the first countries to inoculate its citizens with the Moderna vaccine. (Reuters)

>> Click here to read the full report


10:44 P.M. Israel orders all incoming travelers to quarantine starting December 26

All passengers arriving in Israel will have to quarantine, regardless of the rate of infection in the country they came from, according to an order signed by Health Ministry Director General Chezy Levy set to go into effect on December 26.

The move, long debated by government officials, is meant to limit outbreaks caused by people returning from abroad with the coronavirus.

Currently, only people returning from "red" countries, where the rate of infection is relatively high, are ordered into quarantine for 14 days, whereas those returning from countries Israel has designated as "green" aren't required to do so.

Turkey and Greece topped the list of popular tourist destinations for Israelis in September and October, but have since been overtaken by the United Arab Emirates, which is designated a "green" country and has lower infection rates than Israel. However, the Health Ministry has pushed to change its classification due to the large numbers of Israelis going there, who often neglect social distancing measures. (Ido Efrati)

7:27 P.M. Israel set to start its vaccinations Sunday

Israel's nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign is set to begin next week. On Sunday, health care workers in health maintenance organizations and hospitals will be first to receive the vaccine, and the general public will be able to be inoculated through their HMOs on Monday.

Vaccinations in HMOs will be starting two days ahead of schedule, and will be given out in order of priority: The first to receive the shot will be members over age 60.

Israel now has an estimated 500,000–600,000 doses of vaccine, and additional batches are arriving every few days. At this point, the Health Ministry doesn't foresee any problems regarding the pacing of these deliveries. (Ido Efrati)

>> Click here to read the full report

4:29 P.M. Israel sees nearly 3,000 new cases in a day

Israel has confirmed 2,933 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of active coronavirus cases in the country to 22,723. Wedensday and Thursday have seen the highest and second highest number, respectively, of new daily cases since October 12, when there were more than 5,500 new cases.

Last week, the government said it would impose more restrictions if the daily number of new cases surpasses 2,500, but no new measures are expected before Sunday, when the ministerial committee on Israel's coronavirus response is set to meet.

717 patients are currently hospitalized. 429 of them are in serious condition and 105 on life support. 3,057 COVID-19 patients have died so far. (Haaretz)

11:30 A.M. Arye Dery to receive COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday

Interior Minister and Shas Chairman Arye Dery will be among the first Israelis to be inoculated against coronavirus on Sunday.

This comes amid a wide-scale public relations campaign from the Health Ministry to encourage different sectors of Israeli society to get vaccinated. (Chaim Levinson)


3:55 P.M. Israel will not impose new restrictions before Sunday

Ministers will convene Sunday to discuss increased restrictions in order to curb the spread of coronavirus. Last week, the government said it would impose more restrictions if the daily number of new cases surpasses 2,500 or if the R-number is larger then 1.32.

On Wednesday and Tuesday the daily number of new cases exceeded 2,800. The R-number currently stands at 1.28. (Judy Maltz)

2:15 P.M. WHO says plans to provide vaccines for 20 percent of Palestinians by mid-2021

The World Health Organization said it plans to provide the Palestinian authorities with financial support to acquire vaccines for up to 20 percent of its population through a global mechanism setup to support developing countries, which would be ready by early to mid-2021.

It added the Palestinian Health Ministry plans to procure vaccines for an additional 40 percent of its population through other mechanisms, providing coverage to all Palestinian adults, so a total of 60 percent of the population will be covered. (Jack Khoury)

12:50 P.M. New daily cases in Gaza break record

The number of new infections in the Gaza Strip exceeded the 1,000-mark for the first time. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 1,015 new cases have been recorded in the densely populated coastal strip on Wednesday, bringing the total number of active cases to 8,851. (DPA)

9:47 A.M. Deputy health minister: Israel 'would consider' helping the PA with vaccines

Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish told Kan Bet public radio Israel “would definitely consider helping the [Palestinian] Authority,” if it sees it has more vaccine doses than it needs.

According to Kish, Israel will eventually get “more than 100 percent of the vaccines it needs, and once we see Israel’s needs are fulfilled and we have the ability to do so,” it may hand over some of the vaccines to Palestinian authorities in the West Bank. “Israeli citizens come first,” he said.

Earlier this week, Palestinian officials told Haaretz no agreements have been reached on supplying vaccines to the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, via Israel or otherwise. (Haaretz)

9:38 A.M. Two top Health Ministry officials in quarantine

Health Ministry Director General Chezy Levy has entered quarantine after being in contact with an employee who had tested positive for the coronavirus, the ministry said in a statement, adding that Levy is well and continues working from home.

The Health Ministry’s head of public health services, Sharon Alroy-Preis, has also entered quarantine. (Haaretz)

9:32 A.M. COVID czar: Israelis can stop wearing masks only when 60 percent are vaccinated

Israel’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Nachman Ash, said he estimates Israelis will be able to stop wearing face masks around May or June, “only when we get to 60 percent” of people vaccinated. According to the Israel Hayom daily, the country should be able to start reopening in March or April, as more people are vaccinated and “the weather gets warmer.” (Haaretz)

9:21 A.M. Rate of infection across Israel keep rising

Israel has confirmed more than 750 new cases since the last update on Wednesday evening, bringing the total number of active cases in the country to 21,544.

According to Health Ministry figures, the R number, which represents the average number of people a carrier would transmit the virus to, is currently at 1.28. Any R number bigger than 1 means the virus is spreading.

Israel has set an R number of 1.32 as a target for new restrictions. On Wednesday, Israel has surpassed the target for new daily cases it had set to reimpose some restrictions.

In the Arab community, the R number is lower than the general population, at 1.05, but among ultra-Orthodox Israelis, it is higher, at 1.58.

697 patients are currently hospitalized, with 397 of them in serious condition and 157 on life support. 3,034 COVID-19 patients have died so far. (Haaretz)

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