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, 6,122 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 2,123 people have died of COVID in the West Bank, while 585 have died in Gaza.
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2:48 P.M. Cyprus opens skies for vaccinated Israelis starting April 1
Cyprus has recognized Israel's 'green pass,' and will open the country to Israeli tourists on April 1.
Earlier on Wednesday, Greece lifted the cap on Israeli tourists, but reinstated COVID test requirement.
According to the announcement released by the Cypriot government, vaccinated Israelis can visit Cyprus without taking a coronavirus test or entering quarantine. Unvaccinated Israelis will need to present a negative coronavirus test, excluding children under 12 years of age.
"Ready the beaches, hotels and restaurants for Israelis that are waiting to visit Cyprus, your country's recognition of the green pass will allow the skies to open and will restore tourism very quickly," Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides.
The decision was made following Ashkenazi's meeting with Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades last month, as well as ongoing efforts by Israeli Embassy in Cyprus. (Judy Maltz)
1:10 P.M. Greece lifts cap on Israeli tourists, but reinstates COVID test requirement
Greece has canceled its cap on Israeli tourists, which had been set at 10,000 a week, but has reinstated coronavirus tests for incoming tourists, according to Israel's Foreign Ministry.
This update followed Monday's announcement that Israel and Greece had struck a tourism agreement allowing 10,000 Israeli tourists to enter the country weekly without having to present a negative PCR coronavirus test.
Following the update, Israelis will now need to present a negative PCR coronavirus test within 72 hours of flying in accordance with EU requirements, the Foreign Ministry said. (Judy Maltz)
10:15 A.M. Israel confirmed over 940 new cases on Monday
The Health Ministry reported that there were 942 new COVID cases on Monday and 59,605 tests conducted. There are currently 14,679 active cases including 499 in serious condition, 204 of whom are on ventilators.
Meanwhile, 55.8 percent of the population has received at least the first dose, and 49.5 percent have received both doses. (Haaretz)
10:11 P.M. Israeli Ambassador in Athens announces Greece to allow vaccinated Israelis to enter country
Greece's tourism minister has informed Israeli Ambassador to Greece Yossi Amrani that the Greek cabinet has approved Israeli tourists that have been vaccinated and hold a green passport to enter the country without a PCR coronavirus test or hotel quarantine.
The Greek government's decision is the outcome of a joint effort by Israeli Foreign, Health and Transportation Ministries, under the leadership of Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
The starting date is expected to begin on Tuesday March 23, and the agreement that will be signed shortly will allow 10,000 Israeli tourists to enter the country on a weekly basis. (Haaretz)
5:26 P.M. Israel, New Zealand OK sale of virus killing nasal spray
Israel and New Zealand have given interim approval for the sale of biotech firm SaNOtize Research and Development's Nitric Oxide Nasal Spray (NONS) which could help prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus, the company said on Monday.
Manufacturing of NONS, under the brand name Enovid, has begun in Israel with SaNOtize's partner Nextar Chempharma Solutions Ltd and it is expected to be on sale there this summer.
In New Zealand, SaNOtize has registered its nasal spray with the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority, which permits the company to distribute and sell NONS over the counter immediately, the Vancouver-based company said.
NONS protects users from viruses that enter the body through the upper nasal pathways.
Last week, SaNOtize and Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Surrey, UK announced results of clinical trials showing that NONS was an effective antiviral treatment that could prevent the transmission of COVID-19, shorten its course, and reduce the severity of symptoms and damage in those already infected.
Chris Miller, SaNOtize's chief science officer, said its formulation of Nitric Oxide for use in humans is designed to "kill viruses in the upper airways, preventing them from incubating and spreading to the lungs." (Reuters)
11:25 A.M. Universities to resume in-person classes
Major Israeli universities are set to resume in-person classes starting April 4, when higher education institutions return from Passover vacation. Some schools, like Bar-Ilan University and the Technion, have already resumed in-person classes for students who are either vaccinated or present a negative COVID test.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, University of Haifa and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev all said some courses can still be attended via video link, and some institutions said they will prioritize first-year students for in-person classes. (Or Kashti)
10:18 A.M. Only about 75,000 Israelis got their a first dose of the vaccine over the past week
Over the past week, 76,720 Israelis got their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, Health Ministry figures show, pointing to a continued stagnation in Israel's vaccination drive, which has so far reached more than 55 percent of the population.
Whereas under-16s can't get vaccinated at this point, the figures may show unwillingness by some adults to get vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry figures also show a downward trend in the rate of positive COVID-19 tests, with only 1.5 percent of all tests conducted on Sunday returning positive.
The R number, representing the infection coefficient, or how many people on average a confirmed coronavirus carrier infects, is now at 0.62. Any number lower than 1 means the spread of the virus is slowing down. (Haaretz)
10:35 P.M. How will rapid testing work, and what about kids?
New coronavirus infections continue to decrease in Israel, with the R number – how many people each coronavirus carrier infects – dropping to 0.62 on Sunday. The number of newly infected people fell to 285 and 1.7 percent of all COVID-19 tests came back positive. Considering the improvement of the situation, the Health Ministry released updated directives on Sunday for the fourth phase of opening up the economy: how rapid coronavirus testing will work, what activities children can attend and where only people with the so-called green passport are permitted. (Ido Efrati)
4:46 P.M. Leading Israeli organizations call to obligate workers to get vaccinated or present COVID test
The heads of the leading organizations in Israel said that the precedent-setting court ruling earlier on Sunday obligating a teaching assistant to get vaccinated or present a coronavirus test to enter the workplace should apply to all workers.
The presidents of the Manufacturers Association, the Chamber of commerce, the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Israel and the Israel Farmers Association said that the court ruling "should be adopted in all workplaces. The employer should have the right to bar an unvaccinated employee from the workplace." (Netael Bandel)
2:56 P.M. Ultra-Orthodox man says young Israeli attacked him for 'spreading COVID'
An ultra-Orthodox man was assaulted on a bus in central Israel on Sunday after another passenger blamed his community for spreading COVID-19 in Israel.
According to the passenger, who was travelling to his workplace in Bnei Brak, a young man approached him on the bus and yelled, "you're the reason we suffered from COVID," and then punched the Haredi man in the abdomen and face. The victim was consequently forced to seek medical treatment.
"This is a result of the antisemitic hate speech that is being sounded against the ultra-Orthodox community," the ultra-Orthodox Kol Chai radio station, the passenger's workplace, said in a statement. (Bar Peleg and Aaron Rabinowitz)
10:50 A.M. Israel lifts travel restrictions, reopens Egypt crossing
Restrictions on Israelis travelling in and out of the country expired on Sunday and will not be renewed, following the Supreme Court decision last week ruling that the regulations were unconstitutional.
The limit of 3,000 entries into Israel per day has therefore been scrapped, while the activity of the Exceptions Committee, which determined which unvaccinated people could leave the country, has also ceased.
The court also authorized on Saturday the reopening of the Taba crossing with Egypt, in accordance with the regulations at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Kahol Lavan ministers Benny Gantz and Orit Farkash-Hacohen reached an agreement with other ministers to facilitate the reopening in the coming days, allowing tourists to cross into the Sinai. (Ido Efrati)
9:50 A.M. In first, court backs barring teaching assistant who refused vaccine or COVID test from school
In a precedent-setting ruling, a labor court in Tel Aviv struck down a petition Sunday filed by a teaching assistant to overturn a local council decision to bar her from working without a vaccine or a coronavirus test.
The judge wrote in the verdict that the court did not believe that her rights not to receive the vaccine or get tested “outweigh the right and duty to take care of the well-being of her students, the teaching staff and the parents of the students.”
The petition was filed by the teaching assistant after the head of a local council in central Israel announced that all teaching staff would either need to present a vaccination certificate or a negative COVID-19 test every seven days in order to be granted entry into the school.
The teaching assistant refused and consequently submitted the petition to the court.
Although the court ruling stated that making inoculations compulsory would infringe on individual rights, the local council did not oblige the teaching assistant to receive the vaccine against her will. (Bar Peleg)
10:00 P.M. Palestinian Authority to start vaccination campaign
The Palestinian Authority will begin its vaccination campaign on Sunday. The first groups to be inoculated will be medical staff, cancer patients, patients suffering renal failure and people over the age of 75.
On Saturday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas released a picture of him being vaccinated. Palestinian pundits are questioning whether the photo was in fact taken on that day or three weeks earlier, and if the president's office just decided to release it now to coincide with the vaccine drive.
The Palestinian Authority has confirmed that it got the vaccine doses from Israel, and that among those to be inoculated are Fatah's Central Committee members above the age of 65. (Jack Khoury)
Fifteen labor law experts signed a position paper in which they say that along with the advantages of vaccination, weight must be given to the great importance of employment for people who have not been vaccinated. In addition to ensuring a safe workplace, they refer to people with disabilities who cannot get vaccinated, as well as to the strong correlation between vaccination rates and socioeconomic status. They say that a policy limiting the right to employment will mainly harm weaker segments of the labor force. (Haaretz)
11:46 A.M. Cases continue to decline with almost half of Israelis fully vaccinated
According to the latest figures from Thursday, Israel has inoculated over 5.15 million people (55.4 percent of the population), with more than 73,000 people receiving a jab on Thursday. Of the overall figure, nearly 4.5 million people (48.2 percent of the population) have received the second dose of the vaccine.
As of Thursday there 21,143 active COVID cases with 558 in serious condition. There were 655 new cases yesterday, which is a significant drop from the day before which saw 1836 new cases. (Haaretz)