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, and lifted most restrictions on flights. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 6,279 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 shipments of over 160,000 vaccines via the COVAX scheme. A total of 2,373 people have died of COVID in the West Bank, while 642 have died in Gaza.
11:08 P.M. Cabinet lifts more restrictions on schools
The ministerial committee responsible for Israel's coronavirus response approved further easing of restrictions on schools on Thursday.
According to the regulations approved by the cabinet, students would no longer be obligated to present a health statement signed by their parents when if they wish to enter the school. In addition, fourth graders would no longer be divided into capsules.
In the meantime, grades 5-6 will continue to study in capsules until the next situation assessment in 10 days. If the data shows that canceling capsules for fourth graders did not lead to a rise in morbidity, the same decision will be applied for fifth and sixth graders. (Ido Efrati)
6:52 P.M. Cabinet loosens restrictions on gatherings and events
The cabinet approved on Wednesday loosening a number of coronavirus restrictions, as the number of new cases a day remains relatively low. The maximum number of people allowed to gather outdoors has been raised to 100, with the cap remaining at 20 people for indoor gatherings.
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Large outdoor stadiums will be allowed to host 10,000 people instead of 5,000, while indoor stadiums will be able to host crowds at 40 percent of their capacity, with a maximum of 4,000 people. The number of people allowed to participate at event that do not involve seating or food will be increased from 500 to 750, while mass participation sporting events like marathons will be able to include up to 1,000 participants. (Ido Efrati)
10:32 A.M. Daily infection rate back on downward trend
Israel confirmed 274 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, Health Ministry figures show, as the infection coefficient – also known as the R number, representing the average number of people a carrier infects – is back on a downward trend.
The R number currently stands at 0.76, down from 0.79.
Moreover, only about 0.5 percent of COVID tests conducted over the past two days in Israel returned a positive result. (Haaretz)
9:19 A.M. Ministers set to ease restrictions on education system
The ministerial committee responsible for Israel's coronavirus response is expected approve further easing of restrictions on schools in a meeting slated for later on Thursday.
According to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein's proposal, primary schools will gradually stop diving classes into smaller groups, as long as infection rates remain relatively low.
Edelstein also seeks to ease some limitations on junior high schools. "Education is of great importance," he said in a statement. (Ido Efrati)
11:58 P.M. Israel’s COVID recovery won't offset pandemic losses
Israel is proud of the pace of economic growth expected this year, which the International Monetary Fund estimates in its half-yearly forecast issued on Tuesday will reach 5%. That follows a 2.4% drop in 2020, a more modest decline than other developed economies suffered.
But the worldwide growth rate is forecast to be a higher 6% and that of the United States 6.4%. But even these numbers don’t tell the entire story because increases in gross domestic product don’t take into account population growth. Israel’s population grew quickly last year while several other large developed countries, the U.S. among them, experienced a sharp drop in population growth. Japan and South Korea even saw their populations shrink. (Dafna Maor)
8:15 P.M. Israel's COVID cabinet eases restrictions
Israel's coronavirus cabinet approved loosening restrictions on gatherings Wednesday.
Gatherings of up to 100 people will be permitted in the open air. However, limits on indoor gatherings remain unchanged, and are capped at 20 people. At events that include both an indoor and outdoor spaces, the number of attendants is still capped at 100 people.
Israel also approved special regulations for Memorial Day services, which will allow bereaved families to attend events, even if they do not possess a vaccine pass.
Seated events that do not include food – like concerts and sporting events – can include up to 10,000 people in the open air and 4,000 people indoors. Events that are not seated and include food can include up to 750 people in the open air.
Sport events, including races, marathons, walkathons and the like, can include up to 1,000 participants.
Israel also approved amended regulations regarding protests, by which they will no longer be considered "gatherings" or be subject to limitations on gatherings. Officers will be able to hand out fines to people who do not maintain the proper distance from one another, but only in areas where the infection rate is high. (Haaretz)
4:45 P.M. Gaza to enter full lockdown as COVID cases rise
Hamas announced that the Gaza Strip will enter a full lockdown starting tonight at 9:00 P.M until next Friday.
Only vital shops will remain open during the lockdown, such as pharmacies, bakeries and supermarkets.
Gaza's Interior Ministry said security forces will enforce the lockdown strictly, specifically preventing large gatherings from taking place.
The lockdown coincides with the Muslim holiday of Ramadan which starts next week. It's still unclear whether Hamas will allow prayers and gatherings which is customary during the holiday. (Haaretz)
12:20 P.M. Plan allowing vaccinated tourists into Israel to be approved next week, minister says
A plan that will permit vaccinated tourists back into Israel will be finalized within a week, Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen announced on Wednesday.
In a post on Twitter, she said her goal was to reach an agreement on the details with the relevant Health Ministry officials over the coming week. In the first phase, she said, Israel would allow in organized groups, and at a later phases, individual tourists.
“It is high time, considering that we are a vaccinated country, that we help rehabilitate Israel’s economy and tourism industry, rather than those of other countries,” she tweeted. (Judy Maltz)