Coronavirus Israel Live: Ministers Approve Nightly Curfew for Hot Spots

Under pressure from ultra-Orthodox, Netanyahu delays lockdown decision for 'red' cities ■ No cases diagnosed at anti-Netanyahu protests, Health official says ■ Gaza renews lockdown as virus spreads

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An Israeli Police officer stands in front of the Bnei Brak municipality, designated a 'red' city, September 6, 2020.
An Israeli Police officer stands in front of the Bnei Brak municipality, designated a 'red' city, September 6, 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
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Haaretz

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Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are dealing with a renewed coronavirus outbreak, leading to proposals and measures intended to curb its spread and mitigate the economic ramifications of the crisis by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

Israel currently has 26,776 active cases; 1,019 people have died. 

In the West Bank, there are 9,792 active cases; 185 people have died. In the Gaza Strip, there are 713 active cases and seven people have died. 

■ Coronavirus tracker: Live stats of cases and deaths

LIVE UPDATES

8:30 A.M. Confirmed coronavirus cases rise to 131,641

The number of active coronavirus cases in Israel stands at 26,776, an increase of nearly 1,000 cases since the previous night, according to Israel's Health Ministry. This brings the total since the start of the pandemic to 131,641. To date, 1,019 people have died. 

There are currently 449 patients in serious condition, and another 136 are on ventilators. 

Nearly 20,000 tests were conducted on Monday, a decline compared to last week, when more than 30,000 tests were conducted daily. 

SUNDAY

10:00 P.M. Netanyahu announces nightly curfew on 40 cities, closure of schools 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday night that a nightly closure will be imposed on 40 "red" cities in Israel, after 10 more were added to the list, in addition to closing schools and limiting gatherings in those areas. 

"Professionals warn that given the high infection rate in Israel, the trend could be reversed at any moment with the dangerous addition of seriously ill and dying patients and the risk of the medical staff treating coronavirus patients in hospitals," a statement by the prime minister said. 

"In light of this data and recommendations, tonight's decision was well considered, responsible and committed to reality," added the statement. (Ido Efrati)

9:10 P.M. Israel approves imposing nightly curfew on 'red' cities 

The ministerial committee for determining restricted areas in Israel approved a nighttime curfew on "red" cities with a high coronavirus infection rate on Sunday night. 

The list of cities that will be affected by the curfew is expected to be approved on Sunday via teleconference. The curfew is expected to go into effect on Sunday night. (Ido Efrati)

9:00 P.M. Dozens protest in 'red' ultra-Orthodox city Bnei Brak

Around 50 people are protesting in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, designated a "red" city with a high coronavirus infection rate, against the government's proposed restrictions on the city. (Bar Peleg)

9:00 P.M. Netanyahu says synagogues to remain open on holidays

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ultra-Orthodox ministers, including Interior Minister Arye Dery and Yaakov Litzman on Sunday that synagogues will remain open during the upcoming Jewish holidays even if a lockdown is imposed. (Aaron Rabinovich)

8:40 P.M. Home Front Command chief visits Arab 'red' city Kafr Qasem

The Head of Israel's Home Front Command visited the Arab city of Kafr Qasem, designated a "red" city with a high coronavirus infection rate, on Sunday in preperation for a possible lockdown, and discussed the city's challenges and situation with its mayor and other local officials. (Haaretz)

8:20 P.M. Interior minister says synagogues to stay open on holidays even if lockdown is imposed 

Interior Minister Arye Dery, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said on Sunday that synagogues are expected to remain open during the Jewish high holidays even if the government imposes a lockdown. 

Dery had demanded during a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier on Sunday that instead of a targeted closure upon "red" cities, which include five ultra-Orthodox cities, that the entire country be locked down ahead of the Jewish New Year. (Haaretz)

Israel's coronavirus traffic light plan

7:45 P.M. Committee debating restrictions, nightly curfew on 'red' cities

The ministerial committee for determining restricted areas in Israel has convened Sunday to discuss restrictions on 'red' cities with a high coronavirus infection rate. 

The restrictions are expected to include, among other things, a nighttime curfew, without limiting entry and exit to the cities or limiting distance for leaving the home, as well as suspending schools for students above the fourth grade.

The committee has taken a full lockdown off the discussion table, which was the government's original proposed plan for these localities, after ultra-Orthodox leaders demanded softened restrictions instead from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Haaretz)

7:30 P.M. 1,221 more cases diagnosed, two more patients die

The number of coronavirus cases rose by 1,221 Sunday to reach 130,157, of which 26,683 are active cases, according to the latest Health Ministry figures. The total death toll rose by two to reach 1,012. 

There are 447 patients in serious condition and 127 on ventilators. (Haaretz)

7:00 P.M. Gantz visit Bnei Brak ahead of decision on restrictions

Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, one of Israel's coronavirus "red" cities, on Sunday and reassured its residents and leaders that the defense establishment will "do everything necessary" to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the city and maintain "command and control."

"There's no question of 'politics' here, there's a question of 'pandemics'," said Gantz. (Bar Peleg)

6:55 P.M. Netanyahu increases funding to food banks ahead of holidays 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he will increase the funding for organizations that distribute food to the needy by three times to 18 million shekels, after a meeting with the  representatives of these organizations, joined by the Finance Minister, ahead of the holidays. 

The prime minister also announced that he will allocate a budget of nine million shekels for Rosh Hashanah food packages, so that the additional budget allocated to food banks for 2020 will amount to 27 millions shekels. (Noa Landau)

6:40 P.M. Lawmakers slam Netanyahu's compliance with ultra-Orthodox calls to avoid lockdown 

Meretz Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg said Sunday that "surrender to the ultra-Orthodox is much more than political. The farce of the 'red' cities is further proof that a prime minister accused of bribery is incapable of fulfilling his role." Zandberg added that "Netanyahu needs this alliance [with the ultra-Orthodox parties] to gain immunity from justice, and we will all pay the price in health and life."

Avigdor Lieberman, Chairman of the  Yisrael Beiteinu party, said in a tweet that Israelis are "all hostages," adding "Due to the anger of the ultra-Orthodox parties, Netanyahu's alternative will still be a general closure" during the holidays. "Netanyahu is not afraid of God but of his representatives in the Knesset."

The Former chairman of the coronavirus committee and Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah called on the government to "take calculated action - and to take into account the special situation of a city of 200,000 people, and the behavioral characteristics of the ultra-Orthodox population," referring to Bnei Brak after a meeting with teh city's mayor. "The worst thing is the hesitation, indecision, and action out of political pressure that characterizes Netanyahu's default government in every matter, and in this matter as well."

Telem leader and former army chief MK Moshe Ya'alon also said on his Facebook page that "the fact that the citizens do not believe in the government and its policy in dealing with coronavirus, stems from mismanagement in general, and failure to tell the truth in particular." He added "in the first wave, political pressures influenced professional decisions, created a lack of confidence in the prime minister's professional judgment ... Government zigzagging, due to political pressures, is once again eroding confidence. The lack of trust also causes non-compliance with guidelines for the general public. Thus, there is no chance of defeating the virus." (Jonathan Lis)

6:30 P.M. Netanyahu to propose softened restrictions instead of lockdown after threats of ultra-Orthodox mayors 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will propose softened restrictions, including a nighttime curfew, closure of schools and businesses in "red" cities – those with particularly high rates of infections – instead of a lockdown.

The decision comes after Netanyahu delayed the meeting of the coronavirus committee that was expected to approve a total lockdown on "red" cities, five of which are ultra-Orthodox. Netanyahu instead met with Interior Minister Arye Dery, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, who demanded that the prime minister impose a general lockdown on the entire country instead of targeting hot spots. (Noa Landau)

5:45 P.M. Ultra-Orthodox call for nationwide lockdown

Interior Minister Arye Dery demanded during a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that instead of a targeted closure upon "red" cities, which include five ultra-Orthodox cities, that the entire country be locked down ahead of the Jewish New Year.

According to Dery, who represented the ultra-Orthodox mayors in the discussion, if the infection rate remains high, the cabinet should convene on Thursday, the day before the holiday is set to begin, and approve a closure over all of Israel.

Dery claimed that Professionals have agreed that a targeted closure is not the solution and will not reduce the infection rate significantly.

At the meeting with Netanyahu a nightly curfew and weekend closure were also discussed, but so far it seems this is unlikely. 

The Health Ministry has not provided an opinion on the matter so far as the lockdown on "red" cities is yet to be approved. (Aaron Rabinovich)

4:50 P.M. Israel's public medical lab workers end strike

Israel's lab workers' union announced Sunday the end of their strike that started last week over poor working conditions and low wages, after they settled on an agreement after negotiations with the Finance and Health Ministries. (Ido Efrati) 

4:45 P.M. Shin Bet tracking of patients extended for 10 more days

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee approved the extension of Shin Bet tracking services to locate patients and alert suspected patients of the coronavirus for another 10 days. (Jonathan Lis)

4:30 P.M. Netanyahu delays lockdown decision after threat from ultra-Orthodox mayors

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to postpone the ministerial meeting scheduled to discuss the proposed lockdown on a number of municipalities, neighborhoods and two settlements, after ultra-Orthodox mayors sent him a letter saying they plan to cease cooperation with government authorities in the fight against the coronavirus in light of the expected decision. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

3:30 P.M. Haredi mayors inform Netanyahu they plan to cease cooperation with gov't over proposed lockdown

The mayors of four predominantly ultra-Orthodox municipalities sent a letter Sunday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, informing him that they plan to cease cooperation with government authorities in the fight against the coronavirus in light of an expected decision to impose a lockdown on their cities.

The mayors of Bnei Brak, Elad, Betar Illit and the council head of Emanuel blamed Netanyahu in their letter of failing to hear them out, to examine alternatives they've proposed, or understand their plight, and charged that he has intentionally led Israel down a path that would lead to a lockdown of Haredi cities during the holidays.

The Mayors wrote that since the coronavirus began to spread, they have been "at the forefront of the battle and leading the fight" against the virus. "We have all faced difficult struggles, at home and abroad, to take various steps to get patients out of our cities, to perform as many tests as possible, to maintain social distance, to locate and close places with potential for infection. We were able to change the equation by a considerable percentage, with personal initiative and a delicate fabric of rebuilding trust, in the face of the national erosion of trust and the implementation of the guidelines," they wrote.

However, they claim that Netanyahu did not try to listen to the public and understand their plight. "You did not bother to ask, understand and learn what characterizes a significant section of the population in Israel ... Unfortunately, you did not send anyone on your behalf to hear directly our working methods, and the set of steps that will be taken and succeed in constant and respectful dialogue with the spiritual leadership of this public," they wrote. 

The Mayors concluded their letter by saying they would suspend cooperation with the government on everything related to the lockdown. Addressing Netanyahu, they wrote "we hereby inform you that the entire ultra-Orthodox public will not forget the injustice done to it. We will not forget who the man who signed with his hand, time and time again, on our becoming spreaders of diseases and enemies of the people, in the selective punishment of tens of thousands of families, members of the ultra-Orthodox sector."

"The decisions you have made, time and time again, have been made in the absence of logic and health expectation and are sharply and clearly directed against the ultra-Orthodox public. We see you as the sole culprit for these punitive measures, for humiliating the dignity of tradition and our dignity as legitimate citizens of this country." (Aaron Rabinowitz)

2:23 P.M. No cases diagnosed at anti-Netanyahu protests, Health Ministry official says

An expert in infectious diseases and public health at the Health Ministry, Dr. Arik Hess, said that as of August 26, not even a single coronavirus case was diagnosed at protests calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Hess provided the data at the request of Knesset coronavirus committee Chairwoman Yifat Shasha-Biton. The Health Ministry does not usually release data regarding COVID-19 infections, only publishing it once in July.    

Last week, coalition whip Miki Zohar of Likud claimed that the anti-government protests are solely responsible for the rise in new cases, but did not present any scientific proof backing his claim.

The concentration of the coronavirus in the air determines the chance of infection. It diminishes in the open air, the virus' concentration diminishes, which significantly lowers the chance to get infected.

To date, Israel's Health Ministry has not presented figures indicating outdoor infection. (Jonathan Lis)

12:33 P.M. Coronavirus czar to request full lockdowns on 'bright red' cities, towns, neighborhoods

Israel's coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu will request that the coronavirus cabinet place a lockdown on a number of municipalities, neighborhoods and two settlements. If the cabinet approves the measure, the lockdowns will begin Monday and continue throughout the week.

The lockdowns would be placed on the municipalities of Umm al-Fahm, Elad, Bnei Brak, Tira and Kafr Qasem. They would also be placed on the neighborhoods of Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef and Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimmel in Beit Shemesh and Isawiyah, al-Tur, Bab al-Zahara, Sheikh Jarrah and Wadi al-Joz in Jerusalem.

Beitar Ilit and Immanuel, both settlements, would be locked down by military command.

These places are considered "bright red" according to Gamzu's traffic-light plan, meaning that the coronavirus infection rates there are particularly high. At the end of the week's lockdown, the data will be analyzed and the locales' situation will be reconsidered.

This lockdown is expected to include movement restrictions up to 500 meters from the resident's home, limited public transportation and closing non-essential businesses, restaurants and schools, with the exception of preschools and special education centers.   

Apart from the ten localities facing a full lockdown, Gamzu will suggest partial closure for 27 additional communities and  neighborhoods, which are defined as red zones.

As part of the partial closure, residents will be restricted to 500 meters from home between 7 P.M. and 5 A.M. the next day. Education frameworks will remain closed.

The communities defined as red zones are as follows:

Abu Sanan, Ibelin, Buqata, Beit Jen, Beit Shemesh – excluding the neighborhoods of Ramat Beit Shemesh A and Ramat Beit Shemesh C – Jaljulia, Jat, Dalit al-Carmel, Zemer, the Kiryat Shmuel neighborhood in the city of Tiberias, and Taibeh.

More communities include the East Jerusalem neighborhood and refugee camp of Shuafat, the Anatot industrial zone and Jerusalem's Old City.

Also, on the list are Kasra in the Kasra-Samia local council, the Kaabiyah-Tabash-Hajajara municipal area, Kfar Bara, Kfar Kanna, Kibbutz Kfar Aza in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, and the Lakia local council, excluding two neighborhood 7 and 8.

Additional communities where infection rates are high are Mushirfa and Salem in the Ma'ale Iron local council, Nazareth, the municipal area of Ein Mahel, Asfiya, Arara, Puridis, Qalansuwa, Rechasim, and Sheikh Danon in the Asher Regional Council. (Haaretz)

11:28 A.M. New coronavirus command center to start work for Arab, Druze municipalities

Following coronavirus outbreaks in Arab and Druze locales, the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel has decided to establish a coronavirus command center specific to Arab municipalities, with the goal of lowering their infection rates and returning to routine.

The command center, which will begin work this week, will update local Arab authorities on coronavirus statistics in each municipality in order to monitor infection rates and produce the necessary conclusions, as well as to connect these municipalities with officials who can help them manage the number of infections. (Ido Efrati)

10:42 A.M. Israel extends state of emergency

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved extending Israel's coronavirus state of emergency by 60 days, to November 6.

According to Health Ministry figures, three more patients died of the coronavirus overnight, bringing the national death toll to 1,010. There have been 129,349 cases diagnosed in Israel, of which 26,232 are active. (Jonathan Lis

7:46 A.M. Tiberias parents protest school closure

The municipal parents' group from the city of Tiberias announced a protest against the government's mandate to close schools in the city, which is a red zone with a high coronavirus infection rate. 

The organization called on parents to not log their children into their online classes, flood social media pages of government officials in protest, take their children to school and daycare centers with protest signs and gather for a demonstration in the city's Rabin Square. 

The organization noted that these are just first steps in the protest against the school closure.  (Noa Shpigel

2:30 A.M. Israel registers 2,517 cases on Saturday

The number of cases in Israel has risen to a total of 128,936 cases, with 26,448 of them considered active, according to the Health Ministry.

SATURDAY

11:18 Dozens of Israeli physicians, scientists warn government against lockdown

Dozens of Israeli physicians and scientists have signed an open letter calling on the cabinet not to impose a new countrywide lockdown, despite a rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

The signatories recommend focusing on steps to protect the groups that are most vulnerable to infection – above all older adults – and to avoid broader, more collective measures. They called for adopting, with certain adjustments, the Swedish model for handling the pandemic. (Amos Harel)

>> Click here to read the full report

7:45 P.M. Israel's death toll passes 1,000 

The number of coronavirus fatalities in Israel now stands at 1,007. The number of new cases has risen to a total of 128,768 cases, with 26,283 of them considered active.

There are 439 patients in serious condition and 128 on ventilators. (Haaretz)

7:00 P.M. Gaza Strip death toll rises by two, cases by 110

The Palestinian Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip reported 110 new coronvairus cases and two deaths, bringing the total number of active cases in the coastal enclave to 713 and the death toll to seven.

Gaza authorities have imposed a lockdown across the Strip since late August, in a bid to curb the spread of the virus in the densely populated Strip. (Jack Khoury)

3:10 P.M. Coronavirus czar: Dozens of Israeli Arabs could die within month

Prof. Ronni Gamzu, the official managing the country's coronavirus response, said Saturday that dozens of Arab citizens could die of the illness within a month. Gamzu added that around 750 Israeli Arabs are diagnosed every day, and that the number will rise to 800 a day. "According to statistics, half a percent to a percent could die within three to four weeks," he said. (Ido Efrati)

FRIDAY

7:20 P.M. Virus hot spot Bnei Brak considering cutting off Health Ministry over proposed lockdown

The Bnei Brak Municipality is weighing cutting contact and ending all cooperation with the Health Ministry and the IDF's Home Front Command if a lockdown is placed on the city next week, Haaretz has learned.

According to the recommendation within the municipality, if the lockdown is put in place, the city will close its coronavirus war room and "leave the keys" to the government. Mayor Avraham Rubinstein has not yet made a decision on the matter, and is expected to do so next week. Rubinstein has already notified a number of sources that the municipality will not accept the perspective lockdown with indifference, as it did during the first wave of the coronavirus.

A source involved in the matter told Haaretz that Rabbi Gershon Edelstein will need to give his opinion on the subject. Edelstein, a leader in the ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian sect differs from his partner in leadership Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in that he takes a more hardline stance in fighting the virus.    

Members of the Bnei Brak Municipality say that the Health Ministry is not listening to them, and that a lockdown in completely unnecessary.  The municipality believes that although the city is designated as red, with a high incidence of infection, its surrounding cities are not affected by it or designated as red themselves, therefore making a lockdown unnecessary.  Even though Bnei Brak is a red city, neighboring Petah Tikva is designated as yellow, as is Tel Aviv, and nearby Givat Shmuel is orange.

"Bnei Brak has zero effect on the surrounding cities," a municipality source said. "The lockdown will only destroy the economy and education system, but not stop the infection rate, which will continue within households."

Sources in the city said the major outbreaks of the virus in the city were caused by events and large weddings held there, some of which were hosted by rabbis and decision-makers. The municipality cannot, and sometimes does not want to, deal with these events, they said. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

11:55 A.M. Death toll rises by six

The number of coronavirus fatalities in Israel has risen by six since Thursday and now stands at 991. The number of new cases since Thursday has risen by 1,300 for a total of 125,755 cases, including 25,277 active cases. There are 416 patients in serious condition and 123 on ventilators. (Haaretz)

11:50 A.M. Hundreds of soldiers expected to assist police in enforcing upcoming lockdowns in communities with high infection rate

The military is expected to deploy hundreds of soldiers to help police with enforcement ahead of a lockdown on communities with a high rate of infection. It is not yet clear exactly which towns and areas will be locked down. The government is set to announce which locations will be locked down on Sunday. Enforcement of mask wearing requirements and restrictions on gatherings will be stepped up in those locations during the lockdown, while checkpoints will be placed inside towns and exit routes. (Josh Breiner)   

11:00 A.M. Dozens of soldiers quarantined after cases diagnosed in officer training school

The military has sent dozens of soldiers to quarantine after two cases were diagnosed in an officer training school. An army statement said 30 soldiers subsequently tested positive, none of them with serious symptoms. (Haaretz)

7:45 A.M. Coronavirus cases in Israel rise by 805 

The number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen by 805 since Thursday, while no new deaths have been recorded, keeping the death toll at 985, according to updated Health Ministry numbers. The number of patients in serious condition has risen by one to reach 418, with 112 people on ventilators, down from 117. The number of active cases now stands at 24,797. (Haaretz)

THURSDAY

11:15 P.M. Israel diagnoses 2,991 new cases Thursday

The Health Ministry registered 2,991 new cases on Thursday, raising the number of active cases to 24,825 and the total since February to 124,455.

There are currently 417 patients in serious condition and 117 patients on ventilators. The death toll stands at 985, after 16 people died on Thursday.

Nearly 35,000 tests were conducted on Thursday. (Haaretz)

9:33 P.M. Netanyahu's son, coalition whip make baseless claims linking protests and pandemic

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son, Yair, claimed in a tweet that the Shin Bet security service and the Health Ministry are keeping data on coronavirus infections at anti-government protests a secret, even though there is no factual basis for this claim.

Earlier on Thursday, coalition whip Miki Zohar said the protests against Netanyahu were increasing the incidence of the coronavirus, providing no evidence to support this claim.

So far, all the evidence shows a low risk of infection when people are outside, especially if they a wear mask and maintain social distancing.

“We’ll wear masks, maintain distancing, avoid gatherings of more than 20 people and have our children study in capsules ... but none of it will help,” Zohar wrote on Twitter. “As long as these insane demonstrations with thousands of excited people shouting and sweating continue, incidence of the virus here will rise to heights we never dreamed of.”

“There’s a price to the hatred and ‘high-mindedness’ of all the people supporting these demonstrations,” he added.

The Black Flag protest group, one of the protests’ organizers, responded in a statement, “We’re witnessing a new campaign by the defendant and his toadies – that the demonstrations are to blame for the coronavirus. Israel leads the world in the number of coronavirus infections, but instead of trying to solve the problem, the defendant is doing what he always does – blaming others for his failures.” (Josh Breiner, Jonathan Lis and Bar Peleg)

9:22 P.M. Confirmed Mideast death toll tops 50,000

The confirmed death toll from the coronavirus passed 50,000 in the Middle East on Thursday, according to a count from The Associated Press based on official numbers provided by health authorities.

Those numbers still may be an undercount, though, as testing in war-torn nations like Libya and Yemen remains extremely limited.

The top UN official for Libya on Wednesday warned the coronavirus pandemic in the war-ravaged country appears to be “spiraling out of control.” Yemen's Houthi rebels, who control the capital, Sanaa, and much of the north, have refused to release virus statistics.

The hardest-hit nation remains Iran, which saw the region's first major outbreak. Over 21,900 people have died there from the virus, with over 380,000 confirmed cases and 328,000 recoveries. (The Associated Press)

7:28 P.M. Arab lawmaker slams coronavirus czar

Joint List lawmaker Mtanes Shehadeh accused top health official Ronni Gamzu of failing to take responisbility and "blaming Arab citizens for the rise in infections." After Gamzu publicly called on the Arab community to stop flouting regulations, Shehadeh wrote: "We proposed a proper plan for curbing large gathering - and nothing was done. There is no dialogue, no plan, and he's looking for excuses." (Jonathan Lis)

7:21 P.M. Haredi party pens letter condeming coronavirus czar

Members of United Torah Judaism sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slamming top health official Ronni Gamzu for "making populist headlines and saying and doing things that harm the ultra-Orthodox communities in Israel." This, after Gamzu said yeshiva students are contributing to the outbreak and threatened a closure during the Jewish holidays. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

7:20 P.M. Israel registers 2,439 cases in one day 

The Health Ministry registered 2,439 new cases on Thursday, raising the number of active cases to 24,281 and the total since February to 123,903.

There are currently 417 patients in serious condition and 118 patients on ventilators. The death toll stands at 985, after 16 people died on Thursday.

Nearly 35,000 tests were conducted on Thursday. 

6:15 P.M. Coronavirus czar says nationwide lockdown possible

Infection rates rose significantly over the past 10 days, said top official responsible for the coronavirus pandemic Ronni Gamzu, adding that ultra-Orthodox communities saw a greater rise than the general population, probably because yeshivas resumed studied in mid-August.

A total lockdown or a nighttime lockdown will be imposed on red cities and towns starting Monday, he said, adding that a nationwide lockdown is a likely possibility as well. 

6:05 P.M. Ultra-Orthodox minister slams lockdown decision

Minister Yaakov Litzman, leader of the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism, said the government’s decision to impose lockdowns in cities rather than specific neighborhoods is ineffective and amounts to unjust, collective punishment. 

Litzman called the decision “part of an organized plan to bring a lockdown over the High Holidays and close synagogues on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, which we’ll never allow.” He urged health officials to increase transparency in decision-making. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

5:45 P.M. Netanyahu asks public to cooperate with lockdown

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the decision was taken "to make an immediate effort to curb the rise in infections. We decided to impose lockdowns on red cities - where infections are taking place and going out to the rest of the population in Israel." 

He asked all citizens to cooperate, and said the decision was taken following the steep rise in cases that was registered Wednesday. (Noa Landau)

4:30 P.M. Lockdown to be imposed in hotspots starting Monday, list still TBD

Israel's coronavirus cabinet decided to lock down "red" cities, towns and villages starting Monday, amid a large second wave of infections that saw nearly 3,000 people test positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. 

The Health Ministry will decide by Sunday which cities will be locked down. The list will be drafted in coordination with the Ministry of Public Security and Israel Police, based on their capacity to enforce the lockdown. 

These are the cities, towns and villages the government currently defines as red: Abu Sanan, Umm al-Fahm, El’ad, Ibelin, Buqata, Beit Jan, Beitar Illit, Bnei Brak, Jaljulya, Jatt, Daliat el-Carmel, Zemer, Tiberias, Taibeh, Tira, Kasra-Samia, Kaabiyah-Tabash-Hajjajra, Kfar Bara, Kfar Kanna, Kfar Qassem, Lakia, Ma'ale Iron, Nazareth, Ein Mahil, Isfiya, Arara, Fureidis, Qalansawe, Rekhasim, Kfar Aza. 

Twelve neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are also defined as red. (Ido Efrati)

3:20 P.M. Coronavirus cabinet deliberates lockdown on hot-spots

Israel’s coronavirus cabinet is deliberating whether to impose harsher restrictions on cities with major outbreaks.       

The list of "red," high-risk areas includes the following cities and localities: Abu Sanan, Umm al-Fahm, El’ad, Ibelin, Buqata, Beit Jen, Bnei Brak, Jaljulya, Jatt, Daliat el-Carmel, Zemer, Tiberias, Taibeh, Tira, Kasra-Samia, Kaabiyah-Tabash-Hajjajra, Kfar Bara, Kfar Kanna, Kfar Qassem, Lakia, Mate Asher, Ma'ale Iron, Nazareth, Ein Mahil, Isfiya,  Arara, Fureidis, Qalansawe, Rekhasim, Kfar Aza. 

Twelve neighborhoods in Jerusalem are also included, all of which are Arab except for the Jewish Quarter in the Old City: At-Tur, a-Shayyah, al-Sawana, Anatot Industrial Zone, Bab a-Zahara, the Muslim Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Christian Quarter, Wadi Al Joz, Shoafat, Shoafat refugee camp and Issawiya.

The list of "orange" areas includes 34 localities: Ofakim, Or Akiva, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beit Shemesh, Bat Yam, Haifa, Kiryat Malakhi, Netivot, Nahalal Sorek-Yad Binyamin, Kiryat Ye'arim, Acre, Rahat, Nesher, Ramle , Kfar Manda, Givat Shmuel, Majd al-Krum, Baqa al-Gharbiya, Deir Hanna, Tur'an, Yafia, Sakhnin, Sajur, Maghar, Julis, Jadeidi-Makr, al-Batuf-Uzeir. Eleven neighborhoods in Jerusalem are also included. (Ido Efrati)

3:00 P.M. COVID-19 czar's policy advisors resign 

Two members of the panel advising Israel’s coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu charged in a resignation letter on Thursday that decisions are made without transparency and resigned.

The advisers are Arik Adler, who runs Bnei Brak's coronavirus control room, and United Torah Judaism election council member Avraham Yustman.

The two also claim that Gamzu's traffic light plan includes criteria that will cause unjustifiable harm to broad segments of the population. (Bar Peleg)

12:30 P.M. Arab, ultra-Orthodox cities lead increase in cases in past week

Since last Thursday, Israel added 13,500 new coronavirus cases in 279 cities and towns. More than a third, 4,550 or 34 percent, were recorded in Arab locales, while another 23 percent were diagnosed in the ultra-Orthodox population.

The Arab cities of Tira and Kafr Qasem have the highest rate of infection among large cities, 194 and 170 per 10,000 residents respectively. The rate of active infection stands at 23.5 patients per 10,000 people in the country as a whole. 

12:00 P.M. Health minister to call for full lockdowns on 8 high-risk cities

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein intends to call for placing strict guidelines on locales designated as "red," or those with high rates of coronavirus infection, and particularly on eight cities with the highest incidence of the virus.

The minister is calling for lockdowns for the cities, including barring the entrance and exit to and from the city, limiting residents' movement to 500 meters from their homes and limiting public activities. He is also calling for the closure of non-essential businesses, restaurants and schools, save for special education institutions and preschools.     

Edelstein is expected to call for nighttime curfews on other red cities, as well as closing restaurants, schools and non-essential businesses. (Ido Efrati)

10:31 A.M. Gaza renews lockdown as officials warn of virus spreading across strip

Ninety-eight new cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed over the last 24 hours in Gaza, the health ministry in the Strip said, raising the toll to 500 active cases.

Ministry officials warned that the continued rise in infections marks a great danger of the virus spreading across the Strip, and said the lockdown would continue in light of this. (Jack Khoury)

9:00 A.M. Health Ministry requests court end lab workers' strike

The Health Ministry requested an injunction against workers in state laboratories, who have been on strike since Sunday demanding a pay raise and better working conditions.  The court will rule on the request today.

The ministry released a statement saying that it made its request after the two sides failed to reach an understanding in multiple talks with the lab workers' union and the Labor and Welfare Ministry. This was even after workers were offered a pay raise, more positions added in labs and compensation based on the number of coronavirus tests carried out, the ministry said.

The ministry added that in parallel to these talks, they have staffed dozens of new positions in laboratories. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said "It is unacceptable to wage a war to save lives from a pandemic during a strike. I hope that the event will end quickly for the best of the war against the virus."

Professor Chezy Levy, Health Ministry director general, added that "With no solution and out of concern for patients, hospitals and clinics, we are forced to issue injunctions against a continued strike. Lab workers cannot be allowed to strike at this time." (Haaretz)    

8:05 A.M. Over 200 more cases diagnosed overnight; Czar threatens full lockdown

There are currently 23,698 active coronavirus cases in Israel, bringing the national total to 122,539 since the virus began, Health Ministry figures show. This represents an increase of over 200 cases since last night, when a record-breaking tally of about 3,000 diagnosed cases in 24 hours was announced.  

There are currently 418 patients in serious condition, of whom 118 are on ventilators. The death toll stands at 969.

WEDNESDAY

11:40 P.M. Education Minister Gallant on tape : High-infection 'red cities' are a fiction and closing schools there is baseless

Education Minister Yoav Gallant, who was unsuccessful in his bid to have the school year open on Tuesday throughout the country, including so-called "red zones" with the highest incidence of the coronavirus, was recorded on Wednesday as calling the concept of red zones a fiction.

In a tape of remarks on a visit to the ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak that was broadcast Wednesday on Kan public television's Channel 11, Gallant attacked the coronavirus cabinet's decision to keep the schools closed in those areas, calling it "fundamentally mistaken."

"I'm not a member of the coronavirus cabinet and therefore my vote wasn't counted, but I was opposed and I am opposed, as a matter of principle, to closing so-called red cities, which is also a fiction. It's a name and an invention that creates something that in reality doesn't exist.

Prof. Ronni Gamzu, the director of government coronavirus policy, established a plan setting varying policies in local communities based on the incidence of COVID-19 cases and the rate of infection in each one. He has categorized the towns based on a range of four colors. Red communities are those with the highest rates. The plan was approved this week by the coronavirus cabinet.

Gallant was critical of the approach, saying that the virus does not follow municipal boundaries and that the situation should be evaluated on a school-by school basis. (Haaretz)

10:50 P.M. Israel breaks daily record with 2,926 new cases

In second evening update, the Health Ministry said the number of active cases in Israel stands at 23,464. On Wednesday, 2,926 people tested positive for coronavirus, a record new cases in one day. 

8:20 P.M. Israel registers 2,486 cases in one day 

The Health Ministry registered 2,486 new cases on Wednesday, raising the number of active cases to 22,836 and the total since February to 121,023.

There are currently 422 patients in serious condition and 127 patients on ventilators. The death toll stands at 969, after 13 people died on Wednesday.

The number of tests continues to be high, and 27,914 tests were conducted on Wednesday. The rate of positives in the last week has ranged between 6 and 9 percent. 

6:30 P.M. Hundreds test positive after reopening of yeshivas

Some 500 students tested positive for the coronavirus since the reopening of the school year in ultra-Orthodox yeshivas less than two weeks ago. The outbreak took place in several yeshivas that did not comply with the capsules model. However, in most of these yeshivas students do not leave the facility and are effectively quarantined there until the end of the Jewish holiday season in October.

Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, considered a leading authority in the Haredi community, has authorized some yeshivas to not conduct COVID-19 testing as quarantining interferes with Torah study. The directive further deepened tensions between government health officials and religious leaders in the ultra-Orthodox community. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

5:30 P.M. Coronavirus czar warns without a drop in infections, lockdown may be inevitable

Top health official responsible for the coronavirus pandemic Ronni Gamzu said "without a dramatic change in the scope of outbreaks in red cities, a full closure may be inevitable."

During a visit to the ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, one of 26 local councils with major outbreaks, Gamzu slammed residents and law enforcement officials for blatant violations of rules - such as the unlawful opening of schools - and called on the town to cooperate.

Gamzu said 22 percent of active coronavirus cases are in the ultra-Orthodox community and 28 percent are in the Arab community. (Ido Efrati)

11:13 A.M. Doctors' unions back coronavirus czar, urges politicians to stop interfering

The chairs of five labor unions representing Israeli physicians released a joint statement backing coronavirus Czar Ronni Gamzu and calling on politicians to “let him do his job.” In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, the union leaders decried “attempts by the political system to foil his plan” to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Israel.

“Prof. Gamzu represents science and medicine, and should be listened to,” they added, criticizing policy-makers for “ignoring professional recommendations.” (Ido Efrati)

9:58 A.M. Coalition whip accuses coronavirus czar of stoking antisemitism with coronavirus travel ban

Coalition whip Miki Zohar argued that “antisemitic incidents have been growing” following a letter sent by Israel’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, to the Ukranian president. According to Zohar, the letter “effectively said that coronavirus-stricken Israelis pose a risk to Ukrainians.”

In his August letter, Gamzu asked President Volodymyr Zelensky to stop the Jewish pilgrimage to Uman, citing fears it would lead to a renewed outbreak of the pandemic among the tens of thousands of pilgrims.

Zohar has been vocal in opposing Gamzu’s stance on the public health ramifications of the Uman pilgrimage, and accused him in a tweet of “risking many Jews.” He also shared a video said to be showing a religious Jewish man attacked in Ukraine. (Haaretz)

>> Click here to read the full report

Israel has confirmed 1,143 new cases, bringing the total in the country to 119,265 since the outbreak began, with 21,654 of them considered active.

According to the Health Ministry, 859 patients are hospitalized and 416 are in serious condition. Of those, 109 are on life support, down from 117 in the ministry's last update on Tuesday evening.

96,654 patients have so far recovered, and 957 died.

TUESDAY

8:00 P.M. Over 1,500 people test positive in one day

To date, 118,122 people in Israel tested positive for coronavirus. On Tuesday, the Health Ministry registered a daily increase of 1,526 cases. Nearly 21,000 cases are still active. There are 475 patients in serious condition and another 117 on ventilators. After 17 people died on Tuesday, the death toll stands at 956. 

6:00 P.M. Lab workers protest underfunding

Some 200 technicians in labs belonging to the public health system protested outside the home of Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem. They demanded better work conditions and slammed the government for generously funding private labs while public labs were collapsing under the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ido Efrati)

2:10 P.M. Schools in ultra-orthodox hot spot opens, violating gov't orders

Ultra-Orthodox girls' schools in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, which has a high infection rate, opened on September 1, flouting government orders.

On the night between Monday and Tuesday, Israel's coronavirus cabinet has decided to keep schools in designated "red zones," which have high infection rates, closed. 

Beitar Illit's education system is operated by private NGOs, but follows orders given by the local council.

The Beitar Illit Municipality said that schools remained closed on Tuesday, but parents of students told Haaretz that the education system in the city has begun operating.

A message sent to the parents by the principle of one of the largest schools in the town read: "Dear parents and students, the municipality has decided that schools will open today at 9 A.M." (Aaron Rabinowitz)

2:30 A.M. Coronavirus cabinet decides to keep schools in red areas closed

Israel's coronavirus cabinet has decided to keep schools in designated "red zones" closed, hours ahead of the beginning of the new school year on Tuesday morning. These red areas have the highest incidence of coronavirus cases in Israel.

The beginning of the school year has been a source of disagreement between Education Minister Yoav Gallant and the coronavirus czar, Ronni Gamzu. Although Gamzu supported a more prudent approach, Gallant insisted on a full reopening, including schools in red zones. 

The cabinet's decision not to open schools in red areas does not include schools for special needs and at-risk students. (Noa Shpigel)

MONDAY

8:43 P.M. Cases jump by over 2,500, death toll by 20

The death toll from the coronavirus has risen by 20 since Sunday to a total of 939. The number of cases has risen by 2,576 since Sunday, increasing the total number of cases to 116,596 and bringing the number of active cases to 20,648. The number of people in serious condition stands at 437, with 125 people on ventilators. (Haaretz)

8:30 P.M. Education minister says all schools to reopen Tuesday

Education Minister Yoav Gallant has said that all schools will be reopening on Tuesday, but that the ministry would consider arguments by the so-called coronavirus cabinet. Gallant has insisted that schools in coronavirus hot spots also be opened, in contrast with Ronni Gamzu, the country's coronavirus czar. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

7:15 P.M. Health Ministry releases list of hot spots

The Health Ministry has released a list of regional councils that have been defined as so-called red areas, where the infection rate is relatively high. The areas designated as hot spots were Daliat al-Carmel, Tira, Kafr Qasem, Ein Mahil, Immanuel,  Kafr Kana, Isfiya, Sha'ar Hanegev, Rechasim, Zemer, Al-Batuf, Lakiya, Beit Jann, I'billin, Ma'ale Iron, Kafr Bara, Jaljulya,  Nahal Shorek, Ka'abiyye-Tabbash-Hajajre, Jadeidi-Makr, Umm al-Fahm, Tiberias, and Betar Ilit.

Ronni Gamzu, the country's director of its coronavirus policy, said earlier Monday that it was unreasonable to reopen schools in hot spots, a day before the new school year begins. (Noa Shpigel)

7:00 P.M. Negotiations between Finance Ministry and lab workers at standstill

Negotiations between the Finance Ministry and medical lab workers made no progress at staving off a strike over poor working conditions.

Esther Admon, Chair of the Israel Association of Biochemists, Microbiologists and Laboratory Workers, said that "They brought us to a meeting at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem. We sat for maybe half an hour with the people in charge of wages at the Ministry of Finance, to hear that there was nothing new and there was no thinking [on the matter] … and we left."

Israel's public lab workers have threatened to strike, which will halt their work on diagnosing coronavirus cases, starting Sunday. (Noa Shpigel)

5:45 P.M. Coronavirus czar: It’s not reasonable to open schools Tuesday in towns with high coronavirus levels

With the first day of school in Israel on Tuesday, the country's director of coronavirus policy, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, challenged Education Minister Yoav Gallant's stance that schools should open all over the country, including locations with a particularly high incidence of the virus.

It is not reasonable to open schools in such places, he said, because it is impossible to avoid new cases in the process. Acknowledging his disagreement with Gallant, Gamzu, who is a former director general of the Health Ministry and a doctor by profession, said it doesn't look good for him to say one thing and for the education minister to say something else.

"It could be that I am also wrong, but why take a gamble?" he said. As things are now headed, towns with the highest incidence of COVID-19 will have to be put under lockdown from time to time, he added.

"We have a lot of experts who say I'm crazy for allowing the education system to open with 2,000 [new] cases a day. I do so with a heavy heart. I'm not gambling, but when it comes to the red cities [with the highest infection rates], there's no question," he said. The schools must not open.

"We manage risks," he said, in response to a question from Haaretz. "It's not a proper risk to take." (Noa Shpigel)

5:35 P.M. Interior minister holds discussion on opening border crossing to Egypt's Sinai

Interior Minister Arye Dery has held a discussion with other officials regarding the possibility of letting Israelis visit Egypt's Sinai peninsula, as long as they quarantine upon their return. Dery requested the opinions of Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu, the police, and the military's Home Front Command regarding the country's ability to ensure that Israelis returning from the Sinai area adhere to their quarantine. He also asked the National Security Council to be in charge of security and health coordination with Egypt. Dery said he would make a decision after receiving answers from these officials and bodies. (Noa Shpigel)

5:30 P.M. Teachers reach agreement government to avert strike

The national teachers' union has reached an agreement with the Finance and Education Ministries, averting a strike a day before the new school year begins. The teachers had been set to strike over the lack of a plan for high-risk teachers. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia) 

12:40 P.M. Health Ministry recommends opening border crossing into Egypt's Sinai to Israelis, subject to restrictions

The Israeli Health Ministry has recommended opening the Taba border crossing into Egypt near Eilat, allowing Israelis to visit Egypt's Sinai peninsula if they quarantine for 14 days upon their return to Israel.

In a letter to Interior Minister Arye Dery, the director of public health at the Health Ministry, Sharon Alroy-Preis, noted that Egyptian authorities have declared southern Sinai, where beaches and others attractions popular with Israelis are located, "free of the coronavirus" although there are cases of the virus there. "The reported cases there are few and geographically dispersed," Elrae-Preis wrote, but she added that Egypt's reporting regarding cases of the virus may be deficient.

"It is clear that the [Egyptian] administration is interested maintaining these sites free of the coronavirus because they are an important source of revenue," she noted.

In response to the letter, Dery has said that the issue will be considered on Tuesday at a meeting with senior officials from the Population and Immigration Authority and that he would be provided with all of the relevant professional opinions before a decision is made. (Noa Shpigel)

12:20 P.M. Human rights organizations petition for Israel to allow fuel passage into Gaza 

Five human rights organizations petitioned Israel's High Court, seeking to overturn the state's decision to cut fuel supply to the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing. The petition also seeks to lift all restrictions imposed on the movement of goods via the crossing amid the rise in coronavirus cases in the enclave. (Jack Khoury)

12:15 P.M. Gazans diagnose 69 new cases, one death in 24 hours

Sixty-nine more Palestinians in Gaza tested positive for the coronavirus and one more patient has died over the past 24 hours, the Gaza Health Ministry said. The number of active cases in the Strip rose to 280, while the death toll climbed to four. (Jack Khoury)

11:30 A.M. Israel diagnoses over 1,000 new cases 

The Health Ministry said that 1,037 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus, raising the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 115,057, out of which 20,334 cases are currently active and 123 are on ventilators.

Three more people have died of the virus, bringing the number of coronavirus deaths to 922. So far, 93,801 people have recovered from the virus.

The ministry added that 13,320 coronavirus tests were conducted on Sunday. (Haaretz)

10:00 A.M. Public lab workers strike deescalates at request of Health Ministry director general 

Israeli public health lab staffers will "return to the negotiating table" on Monday after "the personal request of the Health Ministry Director General, Prof. Hezi Levi, who called from the airport, before leaving with a delegation to Abu Dhabi, not to aggravate the strike today," Said Esther Admon, chairwoman of the Laboratory Workers' Union, on Monday. 

Levi "pledged that the Health Ministry would mediate and assist more actively and significantly in negotiations" with the Finance Ministry, in order to bring about a change in "their attitude towards us laboratory workers," continued Admon. 

Thus, the open-ended strike that started Sunday over poor working conditions and low wages, will not be exacerbated, and deciphering positive coronavirus tests will continue. (Noa Shpigel

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