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Israel is in the midst of an extensive vaccination campaign, and is beginning to see a drop in COVID infections and severe cases. Israel exited its third nationwide lockdown, but inbound and outbound flights remain suspended except for special cases. So far, 5,596 Israelis have died of the virus.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip received 1,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, though it may take at least a few more months for their campaigns to reach enough members of the population. 1,645 people have died so far in the West Bank, while 545 have died in Gaza.
10:16 P.M. Israel to open vaccination center at West Bank checkpoint
The Magen David Adom emergency medical organization said it will operate a vaccination center at East Jerusalem's Qalandiyah checkpoint, together with the Health Ministry, the Israeli army and the Jerusalem municipality.
Vaccinations will be offered to Palestinian residents of nearby villages who hold an Israeli citizenship. (Haaretz)
8:38 P.M. South African variant identified in 1 percent of positive tests
27 out of 3,000 positive coronavirus tests sampled since the start of January has been found to contain the South African variant of the virus, the Health Ministry said.
The ministry added in a statement that the rate of infection with this particular variant is believed to be higher in some parts of the country. (Haaretz)
8:32 P.M. Health Ministry doesn't back reopening more classes
The Health Ministry said in a statement that it does not support reopening in-person classes for grades 7 to 10, following reports of a potential agreement to bring back students in that age group. (Ido Efrati)
8:29 P.M. Health Ministry director-general pushes for Purim lockdown
Chezy Levy, director-general of the Health Ministry, said he "fears" mass gatherings and parties over the Purim holiday, which starts on Thursday, and told Channel 12 News that he supports an overnight curfew over the weekend to prevent a rise in infections.
The cabinet is set to debate proposals for Purim restrictions on Tuesday.
According to Levy, the curfew would go into effect on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 8 P.M. to 5 A.M. During that time, Israelis will be limited to a 1,000-meter (0.6 miles) radius of their homes. (Haaretz)
7:18 P.M. More than 3 million Israeli get both vaccine shots
3,034,906 Israelis have received both shots of the COVID-19 vaccine, Health Ministry figures show, representing 32.8 percent of the overall population. More than 35,000 people got their second dose on Monday.
There are nearly 1.4 million Israelis who got their first shot so far, and are awaiting the second one. Overall, 47.6 percent of Israelis got at least the first shot. (Haaretz)
4:52 P.M. Israeli cabinet meeting on holiday restriction delayed
The Israeli cabinet meeting on proposed restrictions over the Purim holiday, which beings on Thursday, will be held on Tuesday. The meeting was initially planned for Monday.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "We should do everything to go through the holiday with as little infection and as few deaths as possible," adding authorities "must prevent" parties and other gatherings. (Judy Maltz)
3:15 P.M. Knesset advances bill that will authorize transfer of details of unvaccinated Israelis to authorities
The Knesset approved Monday the first of three votes of a bill to authorize identification information and contact details of Israelis who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus to local authorities and the Education Ministry.
The controversial move is intended to make it easier to locate those who are eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine who have not yet done so. It is designed as a temporary order to last for three months.
Earlier, the Knesset committee, headed by Kahol Lavan lawmaker Eitan Ginzburg, approved the passage of the law in three readings in an expedited procedure, shortening the schedule required by ordinary legislation.
The bill is intended to solidify an arrangement that will allow the Health Ministry's director-general to pass on identification and contact information about those who have been fully or partially vaccinated, as well as those who have not yet been vaccinated.
If approved, the bill will also authorize the Health Ministry's director-general to demand from public bodies, including health maintenance organizations (HMOs), contact details of anyone who has not been vaccinated and has not been contacted regarding getting vaccinated, in order to try and locate them.
The bill was approved by 21 lawmakers and opposed by six, and will now be deliberated upon by the Knesset's Welfare and Health Committee. (Jonathan Lis)
1:00 P.M. Israel to further limit entry of Israelis returning from abroad
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Transportation Minister Miri Regev decided on Monday to limit the number of Israelis returning through Ben-Gurion International Airport from 2,000 down to 200 per day starting next week.
The decision was made in light of the authorities' difficulty in enforcing quarantine requirements from returning Israelis. Arrivals would be limited to "urgent humanitarian cases," until a solution that will allow enforcement of isolation is found.
The new regulations might mean thousands of Israelis currently abroad may not be able to vote in Israel's March 23 election. Apart from diplomatic staff, Israel doesn't let citizens vote abroad. (Judy Maltz)
12:38 P.M. Teacher's Union head rejects local bids for early return to class
The head of the teacher’s union, Ran Erez, came out in opposition on Monday to the decision of local councils to restart classes for children from the seventh to the 10th grades, in defiance of coronavirus regulations.
On Sunday, Forum 15, The Israeli Forum of Self-Government Cities, which represents Israel's 15 biggest cities, announced it would reopen classes for the age groups starting February 24, and not on March 9 as was decided by the government.
Thus far, 17 municipalities have announced that they will resume seven through 10th grade classes: Ashdod, Givatayim, Be'er Sheva, Herzliya, Hadera, Holon, Kfar Sava, Petah Tikva, Ra'anana, Tel Aviv, Rishon Letzion, Rehovot, Haifa, Netanya, Ramat Gan, Ramat Hasharon and the Gezer Regional Council. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
7:50 A.M. Cabinet to discuss Purim COVID restrictions
The cabinet will discuss imposing restrictions during the Purim holiday amid "worrying" reports of planned activity over the holiday, Israel's Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Monday morning.
In an interview with Kan Bet public radio, Edelstein said that the cabinet received updates on a spike in alcohol sales and event invitations on social media to celebrate the festival on Thursday evening.
"To my great regret, I think there's no escaping restrictions," he said. In weighing up the options, Edelstein said that "a night curfew" was in the cards, in order to allow people to hear the reading of the megillah while preventing parties afterward. (Haaretz)
7:32 A.M. Three million fully vaccinated in Israel
Israel's vaccination drive has now seen 3 million people fully vaccinated, around 32 percent of the population.
The figures from the Health Ministry released on Monday reveal that 4,377,000 Isralies have been vaccinated against coronavirus, amounting in 47.2 percent of the population.
The Health Ministry reported that an additional 157,000 people received their coronavirus inoculation on Sunday, 80,000 of whom were vaccinated with their first dose. (Haaretz)
9:58 P.M. Israel to receive last shipment of Pfizer COVID vaccines in next two weeks
Israel is expected to receive its final shipments of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine in the coming two weeks.
The government and the pharmaceutical giant had signed a deal for ten million doses – enough to fully inoculate about five million Israelis – and these last 1.5 million doses will complete it.
According to sources in the health maintenance organizations, the timetable for the shipments is not likely to affect the timing of the vaccination campaign or appointments.
Health care officials said that around 500,000 doses from the new shipments will be used to give second doses to people who have already received their first shot. Normally, the HMOs reserve second doses for everyone who has already gotten the first, but due to a recent temporary shortage of vaccines, some of those reserves were used to provide additional first doses, with the knowledge that new shipments would be arriving soon. (Ido Efrati)
7:45 P.M. Quarantine at state-run facilities not enforced, may have led to outbreaks of variants, health official says
A senior Health Ministry official said Sunday that the law demanding that travelers returning to Israel from abroad quarantine in designated state-run facilities is not being enforced, and therefore "does not represent an optimal solution to the fear of the spread of coronavirus variants.
Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the head of the public health services at the ministry, presented the opinion to the Knesset, whose Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved extending by 24 hours the mandate for returning travelers to quarantine in designated hotels. The committee asked that the Health Ministry present them with an alternative plan for supervising returning travelers.
According to the opinion submitted by Alroy-Preis, since the decision that all unvaccinated returnees quarantine in a facility went into effect earlier this month, most returning travelers "Were not asked to quarantine in a hotel, and therefore may have spread the coronavirus variants."
According to Health Ministry data presented by Alroy-Preis, between February 2-13, only about a third of people who needed to be quarantined and entered the country were sent to these hotels. Among those who were sent to facilities, there is no guaranty that they remained there. (Jonathan Lis)
7:15 P.M. Israel's 15 biggest cities decide to reopen grades 7-10 on Wednesday
Forum 15, The Israeli Forum of Self-Government Cities, which represents Israel's 15 biggest cities decided to reopen classes for seventh through 10th grades starting February 24, and not on March 9 as was decided by the government.
The students will attend classes in smaller groups twice or three times a week, the forum said in a statement. Students will continue remote learning or studying in small groups outdoors for the rest of the week, which has already been approved by the government.
The forum explained that the decision was based on "pedagogical, social, and mental hardships" faced by students, and reiterated that the decision to reopen the classes sits with the school principals.
The Teacher's Union, of which some of the middle school teachers are members, said that "There is one employer for teaching staff in Israel, and it's the Education Ministry, and only they have been given the authority to decide on opening or closing schools."
The Center for Local Government also criticized the decision, saying that these authorities must act "only in accordance with the law and in cooperation with the government," adding that the center asked the prime minister Sunday morning to reopen grades seven through 10 as soon as possible.
Education Minister Yoav Gallant responded to the forum's decision in a Channel 13 interview: "Let's remember that in Israel, when the government makes a decision and releases guidelines from the Knesset, it is law," he said, adding that the government pays teachers' salaries. "Mayors are serious people. They won't take it upon themselves to break Israeli law. We're not playing here."
Thus far, 17 municipalities have announced that they will resume seven through 10th grade classes: Ashdod, Givatayim, Be'er Sheva, Herzliya, Hadera, Holon, Kfar Sava, Petah Tikva, Ra'anana, Tel Aviv, Rishon Letzion, Rehovot, Haifa, Netanya, Ramat Gan, Ramat Hasharon and the Gezer Regional Council.
Last Thursday, the Health Ministry denied a request from the Education Ministry Yoav Gallant to advance the decision to open middle schools. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
6:07 P.M. City to reopen schools for grades seven through 10
Herzliya mayor Moshe Fadlon announced Sunday evening, together with the local parents' association, that in-school classes will be resuming for seventh through 10th graders starting Wednesday.
Classes will be held partially in small capsules in classrooms, partially in outdoor areas and partially through remote learning. (Bar Peleg)
5:00 P.M. UAE Transfers 20,000 Doses of Russia's Sputnik V COVID Vaccine to Gaza
The United Arab Emirates transferred Sunday 20,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines to the Gaza Strip.
The shipment entered through the Rafah Border Crossing on the Strip's border with Egypt, without Israeli involvement.
Last week, about a thousand coronavirus vaccine doses were sent to Gaza by the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah, with Israeli approval. (Jack Khoury)
4:30 P.M. One case of Ugandan COVID strain found in Israel, pandemic czar says
Coronavirus Czar Prof. Nachman Ash said that one case of the Ugandan variant has been detected in Israel, adding that the clinical significance of this is still unknown.
Speaking at a briefing for Health Ministry staff Sunday, Ash added that about 90 percent of the new daily COVID-19 infections in Israel are the result of the virus' British variant.
"The number of daily diagnoses is still very high, even if there's a downward trend, Ash said. "We're following the other emerging variants on a daily basis."
Ash also warned that if Infection rates spike, it would force Israel "to take measures of closing again the economy and the education system," adding that it might even lead to another "lockdown."
He added that the South African variant has been found in about one percent of cases in Israel, and the variant first identified in California in seven cases as well. (Haaretz)
11:45 A.M. Number of seriously hospitalized patients continues to decline
According to data released by the Health Ministry on Sunday morning, the number of hospitalized patients in serious condition is continuing to decline, with 858 people currently hospitalized in serious condition, 276 of whom are on venitlators.
To date, 5,563 people have died from the virus since the pandemic broke out in Israel. (Haaretz)
11:00 A.M. 32-year-old pregnant woman dies after contracting COVID-19
A 32-year-old mother of four who was 30 weeks pregnant died on Sunday morning at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, after having contracted COVID.
Despite tremendous efforts made by a multidisciplinary team of senior specialists, which included prolonged resuscitation efforts and even a caesarean section, doctors were unable to save the mother and her fetus, the hospital said.
The woman from Givat Ze'ev was admitted to the hospital's intensive care unit last Tuesday in critical condition, on account of respiratory distress. On Saturday night, her medical condition deteriorated rapidly to the point of multi-system failure. (Ido Efrati)
8:15 A.M. Israel reopens malls, street shops, more schools
The cabinet approved on Friday a plan to reopen some schools, street shops, malls and open-air markets starting Sunday, as part of a series of measures to relax coronavirus restrictions that have been in effect during Israel's third nationwide lockdown.
The plan includes separate regulations for places that will open to the general public, including shops, museums and libraries, and those that will operate under the so-called Green Pass regulations, opening their doors only to people who have recovered from COVID or received both vaccine doses against it.
Green Pass venues include houses of worship, cultural events, gyms, hotels and swimming pools. To enter, those eligible to do so will be required to present valid ID and a so-called Green Pass, vaccination certificate, or official document stating they had the virus and recovered, as relevant. (Haaretz)