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Despite an extensive vaccination campaign, coronavirus cases in Israel remain high and show little sign of decreasing. Israel is exiting its third nationwide lockdown, and has halted inbound and outbound flights. 5,351 Israelis have died so far of the virus.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip await vaccines, though it may take at least a few more months for their campaigns to reach enough members of the population. 1,577 people have died so far in the West Bank, while 533 have died in Gaza.
11 P.M. Cabinet approves reopening kindergartens, lower grades where infection rates are low
The coronavirus cabinet approved on Sunday night that localities where infection rates have dropped over the weekend will be able to open kindergartens and first through fourth grades as early as Monday morning.
Some authorities have already decided to open schools on Monday, but others will wait until Tuesday to do so.
The Tel Aviv municipality plans to open kindergartens on Monday in neighborhoods that have changed from orange to yellow, according to Israel's so-called "traffic light plan," but elementary schools in these areas will only open on Tuesday.
Jerusalem has announced that it will open kindergartens through the fourth grade beginning on Tuesday in the Talpiot neighborhoods of Mizrahi East-Armon Hanatziv, Gonenim, Rasko, Givat Horadim, Baka, Talpiot, Arnona and Makor Chayim - in addition to the neighborhoods where schools reopened last week. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
8:20 P.M. Plan to reopen additional schools delayed as cabinet disperses
The plan to reopen schools in areas in which infection rates lowered over the weekend, originally intended to go into effect on Monday, was postponed to at least Tuesday after the coronavirus cabinet failed to approve the measure.
The Education Ministry expects the coronavirus cabinet to approve the plan on Monday to reopen the schools on Tuesday, after it was presented with infection rate data by town.
If the measure is approved, towns and cities that are now designated as "green" or "yellow" under the traffic light plan for measuring infection rates will be able to reopen preschool through fourth grade classes on Tuesday. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
7:45 P.M. 94 percent drop in symptomatic COVID cases seen among vaccinated, biggest Israeli study shows
The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine has produced a 94 percent drop in symptomatic coronavirus cases, a study published Sunday by the Clalit health maintenance organization's research institute says.
The study analyzed 1.2 million Clalit members, including 600,000 who had received the Pfizer vaccine and 600,000 who had not. The inoculated group produced 94 percent fewer symptomatic COVID-19 cases, and 92 percent fewer cases of serious illness. (Ido Efrati)
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7:19 P.M. Netanyahu pushes for legislation to give authorities identities of non-vaccinated Israelis
The coronavirus cabinet approved advancing legislation – proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – that would allow municipalities to receive the names of residents who have not been vaccinated for government approval.
The health and justice ministries will send their amendments to the legislation to the ministerial committee for legislation, who will bring it for approval in a vote in the Knesset plenum. The ministers approved that the proposal will address how the information for unvaccinated residents is saved, and prevent it from being passed into the hands of people not authorized to view it.
The cabinet also approved a proposal to allow up to 2,000 people to enter the country daily through Ben-Gurion Airport. Otherwise, the meeting ended without any decisions on resuming commerce and other steps toward exiting the lockdown. The deliberations will resume Monday morning.(Judy Maltz)
2:45 P.M. Two Israelis contract South African variant after recovery
The Health Ministry said Sunday that the the South African strain of the virus has been detected in a COVID patient who had previously recovered from the virus. This is the second case of the variant being detected in someone who had already recovered from the illness.
According to the health ministry, since the start of the month there have been 14 cases of the South African variant detected, and 44 detected in total. The Health Ministry added that the patients came into contact with at least 124 people in a chain of 36.
"We are continuing to carry out an extensive national survey compiling data on the different COVID variants in Israel including through utilizing genetic sequencing," the health ministry said today. "We are making efforts to test the increasingly large quantity of data." (Ido Efrati)
2:15 P.M. Ultra-Orthodox schools open in Red cities, flouting COVID restrictions
Most yeshivas in ultra-Orthodox cities opened Sunday morning, all of which are designated as red cities, flouting COVID restrictions.
This morning alone dozens of schools belonging to the "Lithuanian" non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox and Sephardi-Haredi communities which had been closed reopened.
The schools say that they are abiding by restrictions, including holding classes in small groups and outside in groups no more than ten students per group.
Police have entered several institutions but ultimately did not order them to close. (Aaron Rabinowitz)
11:15 A.M. Cultural venues to reopen next week in green areas
The Culture and Sports Ministry has struck an agreement with the Health Ministry to reopen cultural venues next week in areas of Israel with a low infection rate.
According to Health Minister Chili Tropper, performances, museums and public libraries will resume operation on 23 February.
The lifting of restrictions will apply to green areas in Israel’s “traffic light” plan, classifying cities according to COVID-19 infection rates.
The full timetable and conditions for the first step in the reopening will be published in the coming days, and will be subject to cabinet approval. (Haaretz)
9:19 P.M. 75 percent of new COVID cases under 39
Seventy-five percent of new COVID cases in Israel are among people under the age of 39, a new report by Israel's Coronavirus Information Center published on Sunday shows. (Haaretz)
7:45 A.M. 2.5 million Israelis receive second vaccine dose
Israel's vaccination drive continues apace, with 3.83 million people receiving coronavirus inoculation, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein reported on Sunday morning.
From this figure, 2.5 million people have received their second jab. (Ido Efrati)
9:50 P.M. Cyprus and Israel expected to announce mutual tourism exemption for vaccinated citizens
Cyprus and Israel are expected to announce their intention to sign an agreement of mutual recognition of vaccination certificates, with the intention of renewing tourism between the two nations.
The announcement will be made during a visit of a Cypriot delegation headed by President Nicos Anastasiades.
Cyprus is also expected to announce that Israeli tourists will be exempted from quarantine beginning March 1, assuming that flights between the two countries have resumed and Israel is not classified as a 'red' country.
Last week, Israel and Greece announced their intention to sign a similar agreement during the visit of Greek President Kriakos Mitsotakis. Israel is negotiating similar agreements with Estonia and the Seychelles. (Judy Maltz)
8:00 P.M. Cabinet to discuss next stages of lockdown exit plan
Lawmakers have still not reached a consensus on when to start the next stage of reopenings as Israel exits its third coronavirus lockdown.
Tomorrow afternoon, the coronavirus cabinet is expected to convene and discuss further lockdown relaxations, such as reopening street shops, shopping centers, gyms, hotels and cultural and sporting events. The Kahol Lavan party is demanding to start the next stage this week, for those who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus or recovered from it, but Likud and health system leaders want to wait at least another 10 days.
The cabinet was supposed to meet on Thursday, but the meeting was pushed off, sources in the Prime Minister's Office say, due to disagreements regarding the lockdown exit plan. (Judy Maltz)
5:15 P.M. Visitors inoculated in pop-up vaccination site in forest
Visitors to Shokeda Forest in southern Israel were met with a portable vaccination station on Saturday, after Magen David Adom set up the pop-up site for to encourage the general public to get inoculated against coronavirus.
Shokeda Forest, known for its anemones, attracted visitors from across the country following the end of Israel's third full lockdown.
The initiative, according to MDA Director General Eli Bin, allowed the public to get vaccinated while "enjoying wonderful weather and spectacular blooms."
He also called on the public to get vaccinated "whenever and wherever possible" (Haaretz)