Coronavirus Live: Israel Approves Digital Surveillance for All Quarantined Arrivals

Israel reopens skies ahead of election, but COVID czar 'worried' it might lead to renewed outbreak ■ 60,000 COVAX vaccines en route to Palestinians ■ West Bank deaths top 2,000

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Ben-Gurion International Airport, yesterday
Ben-Gurion International Airport, yesterdayCredit: Hadas Parush

This live blog is no longer being updated. Click here for fresh updates on COVID in Israel.

Months into its mass coronavirus vaccination campaign, Israel sees a drop in COVID infections and in the number of serious cases. Israel has reopened commerce and culture for vaccinated people, but some restrictions remain on inbound and outbound flights. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 6,053 Israelis have died of the virus.

Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have received 30,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine donated by Israel, as well as a shipment of 60,000 vaccines via the COVAX scheme. A total of 2,018 people have died of COVID in the West Bank, while 572 have died in Gaza.

>> Israel vaccinated over 50,000 Palestinians with Israeli work permits against COVID

>> Israel's Education Ministry blocks school principals' access to COVID database

>> How many have already been vaccinated


10 P.M. Israel faces its next major challenge: Vaccinating 600,000 teens

In a few months, if everything goes as planned, Israel’s public health system is expected to enter a new phase in its vaccination campaign against the coronavirus and begin vaccinating about 600,000 young people ages 12 through 15.

Following the campaign to vaccinate those 16 and over, this time the challenge isn’t a logistical one and doesn’t involve any uncertainly regarding the availability of the vaccine. Instead, what’s ahead is a public relations effort to explain the importance of getting vaccinated to the recipients, or in this case, to their parents. (Ido Efrati)

>> Click here to read the full report

5:30 P.M. COVID czar slams High Court ruling on travel restrictions

Israel’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Nachman Ash, said that Wednesday’s High Court ruling striking down restrictions on entering the country is “worrisome,” as it may lead to a rise in infection rates and possibly bring into Israel “dangerous” COVID-19 strains.

“We’ve taken many steps to prevent it, and it’s a shame that now we’re putting at risk” the progress made in curbing infection rates, Ash said in a statement. “The High Court’s decision might bring Israel closer to a renewed outbreak.” (Ido Efrati)

2:20 P.M. Top court strikes down COVID restrictions on entry and departure from Israel

Israel's High Court ruled Wednesday that the 3,000 person quota for arrivals to Israel and limitations on leaving the country for those who have not yet been vaccinated for the coronavirus is unconstitutional.

A panel of judges led by Supreme Court President Esther Hayut ruled that Israel cannot extend the limitations after they expire on Sunday - two days before Israel's election.

In a damning verdict, the judges noted that "Israel is the only democratic country in the world where the right of citizens to enter their country has been so sweepingly restricted."

Why Bibi stayed silent on High Court's landmark decision on Reform conversions: LISTEN

On the figure of 3,000, the judges stated that this was set by the government before they had gathered data on the number of nationals who were stuck abroad, and ordered any future restrictions to be based on updated and comprehensive facts.

The judges also ruled that "a balance must be struck between the damage that may be caused by the infiltration of an unknown coronavirus strain, and the violation of the fundamental rights of the state's citizens and residents." (Netael Bandel)

>> Click here to read the full report

11:45 A.M. Israel approves digital surveillance of all arrivals during quarantine

The Israeli Knesset passed a bill Wednesday allowing digital surveillance of all arrivals to Israel who are mandated to enter coronavirus quarantine.

Arrivals to Israel who are sent to quarantine in their homes will be equipped with digital tracking bracelets or other digital tracking means, including through cell phones.

The law limits the use of the surveillance data to purposes of enforcement alone and the data can be saved for up to a month. Anyone who refuses the digital surveillance will be required to enter a state-run quarantine facility.

The law also stipulates that information will be destroyed in real-time, as long as no violations occur. In the case of a breach, the data will be passed on to the relevant authorities.

While the Health Ministry will be permitted to contact technological companies to produce additional means of digital surveillance, this will be limited to measures which do not "collect information beyond what is necessary."

Children under the age of 14 will be exempt, as well as those who receive special permission from the exemptions committee.

At a Constitution Committee meeting on Thursday, Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch estimated that 5,000 digital bracelets will be available for use from this week, and that the around 30,000 more will be acquired over the next three months. (Jonathan Lis)

11:30 A.M. Palestinians won't use AstraZeneca until further word from WHO, Health Minister says

The Palestinian Authority's Health Minister, Dr. Mai al-Kaila, said on Wednesday that they will await World Health Organization approval before using their incoming doses of AstraZeneca vaccines.

The health ministry, al-Kaila told Palestinian radio, will instead utilize the Pfizer vaccine and the Russian Sputnik V jabs to finish inoculating the medical staff. The ministry will then move onto those with chronic diseases.

Several countries are deliberating whether to press ahead with using the AstraZeneca shot, or whether to suspend their inoculations based on reports of dangerous blood clots in a few recipients. A European regulator said on Tuesday there was “no indication” the shot was responsible for the phenomenon.

As coronavirus continues to ravage the West Bank, the health minister also noted that hospital occupancy is at 115 percent in Ramallah, Al-Bireh and Jericho, while 44 percent of patients in intensive care units are on ventilators.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority reported 1,891 new cases and 20 deaths in the West Bank, after a partial lockdown was announced earlier in the week. (Hagar Shezaf and Jack Khoury)

>> Click here to read the full report

10:22 A.M. 60,000 COVAX vaccines en route to Palestinians

60,000 vaccines from the World Health Organization's COVAX initiative, earmarked for the Palestinian Authority, arrived in Ben-Gurion International Airport on Wednesday morning.

The Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs are en route to the Beitunia crossing in the West Bank, facilitated by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

Around 20,000 of the shipment will be transferred to Gaza later on Wednesday.

The World Health Organization set up COVAX along with the GAVI vaccine alliance to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccinations globally. (Jack Khoury)

Click here to read the full report.

9:35 A.M. With nearly half of population fully vaxxed, cases plummet

Data released by the Israeli Army on Wednesday showed daily COVID-19 cases, infection rate and rate of positive tests continuing to decline, as the number of fully vaccinated Israelis approaches half the population.

According to the data, the R-number, which reflects the average number of people each coronavirus patient infects and therefore how fast the virus is spreading, dropped to 0.7.

The data also revealed that only 2.1 percent of coronavirus tests returned positive in the past day, the lowest figure in months.

The data also revealed a drop in the number of actively ill Israelis, the number of Israelis in serious condition and the number of patients that required hospitalization.

On Tuesday, half of all new cases represented those aged 19 and under, although very few people from the age bracket became seriously ill.

As of Wednesday morning, 47 percent of Israelis have received both doses of the vaccine, with 55 percent receiving at least one dose.(Haaretz)

Click here to read the full report.


12:51 P.M. Israel has paid over $787 million to secure vaccines, data shows

Israel has so far spent $787,766,720 (2.6 billion shekels) in the deals it reached with various pharmaceuticals to purchase vaccines against the coronavirus, according to data revealed on Tuesday in a Knesset's Finance Committee meeting.

This amount was used to buy vaccines from U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca, though Israel is not administering the latter's vaccines at the moment.

It remains unknown whether Israel bought Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.

Health Ministry official Matan Mor estimated that Israel would invest an additional amount of 2.5 billion shekels to buy more vaccines. (Hagai Amit)

>> Click here to read the full report

8:00 A.M. Israel reopens skies ahead of election

Israel has reopened its skies to flights from all locations and to all destinations beginning on Tuesday, following a decision by the government cabinet on Sunday night to remove some restrictions on incoming flights that would allow Israelis stuck abroad to return to the country ahead of the election next Tuesday.

Ministers, however, decided to keep the 3,000-person cap on daily arrivals. In its decision, the cabinet emphasized that the Health Ministry has the authority to cancel flights that could potentially endanger public health. (Judy Maltz and Ido Efrati)

>> Read the full report here


8:09 P.M. Legislation mandating workers get vaccinated stalls

The passing of a bill that would allow obligating employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo an occasional COVID test has stalled for two weeks due to opposition from the education and finance ministries.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced a month ago that he plans to enshrine this into law, but after the ministries expressed their opposition and legal challenges raised by the attorney general, there were no further attempts to advance the bill.

The bill would obligate employers, including the state, to condition the arrival of an employee to the workplace on receiving a vaccine or presenting a negative test for the coronavirus. The bill would also apply to the Education Ministry and therefore to teaching staffs as well. (Netael Bandel)

4:50 P.M. 1,886 Israelis remain stuck abroad, state tells high court

Israel told the High Court Monday that 1,886 citizens are still stuck abroad due to COVID restrictions, after the High Court ordered that they perform a survey to determine how many people were still unable to return to Israel.

The numbers were broken down by country, with the largest number of citizens stuck abroad in Russia, Germany, Italy and the U.S. respectively.

Israel announced earlier on Sunday that it will reopen its skies to flights from all locations and to all destinations, removing some restriction on incoming flights.

Ministers, however, decided to keep the 3,000-cap on daily arrivals. The amended regulations will come into effect on Tuesday.

In response, the head of the legal department for the Movement for Quality Government, Adv. Tomer Naor, called for the quotas to be scrapped altogether.

“We are only a week before the election. It is imperative to allow Israelis who want to return home the opportunity to do so, and to exercise their most basic democratic right,” he said. (Netael Bandel)

For previous updates click here

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