Netanyahu Says Country's Coronavirus Infection Rate Among Highest in the World

Pandemic czar approves entry of 12,000 yeshiva students, mostly foreign ■ Three ministers quarantined after one tests positive ■ Death toll nears 550 ■ West Bank reverses trend, with more recoveries than infections

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Benjamin Netanyahu issues a statement at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, July 27, 2020.
Benjamin Netanyahu issues a statement at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, July 27, 2020.Credit: Tal Shahar/Pool via REUTERS
Haaretz

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

LISTEN: Seth Rogen’s post-Zionist pickle meets Bibi’s protest pandemic

74,903 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 546 people have died. 

In the West Bank, there are 7,824 active cases; 80 people have died. In the Gaza Strip, 72 people were diagnosed and one person has died. 

■ Coronavirus tracker: Live stats of cases and deaths

LIVE UPDATES

9:22 A.M. Over 800 new cases diagnosed since Monday night

The Health Ministry said 801 people have tested positive for the coronavirus since Monday night, bringing the tally of confirmed cases to 74,903. Israel currently has 24,598 active cases, out of which 101 people are on ventilators. The country's death toll remains at 546.

The ministry added that 22,157 coronavirus tests were conducted on Monday. (Haaretz)

MONDAY

11:44 P.M. Otherwise healthy woman in advanced pregnancy on ventilator with COVID-19

A woman in her 30s who is 29 weeks pregnant has been in a Tel Aviv hospital for around a week, sedated and on a ventilator due to COVID-19.

Officials at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital) say her condition has improved and she may be able to breathe on her own soon. A senior physician said tests indicate that her fetus is healthy. (Ido Efrati)

>> Click here to read the full report

8:00 P.M. Five more die, over 1,200 new cases Monday

The total number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen by 1,287 on Monday to reach 74,102, according to the Health Ministry, while the number of active cases stands at 26,005.

Five more people have died on Monday, bringing the death toll to 546. There are currently 334 patients in serious condition. The number of people on ventilators stands at 99. (Haaretz)

6:55 P.M. Police shut down 28 businesses for coronavirus violations

The police has ordered so far 28 businesses to close for violating coronavirus regulatios, police representative told a Knesset committee. 59 additional bussinesses were issued warnings. (Jonathan Lis)

2:10 P.M. Netanyahu cautiously welcomes plateau in infection rate, says September expected to be worse

The prime minister said the illness rate remained high in Israel compared to the rest of the world, and that this could lead to "a large number" of deaths. 

Speaking at the beginning of a meeting of the so-called coronavirus cabinet, he said that the number of new infections was rising, but slowly, which meant the health system was not currently at risk of being overwhelmed.

However, this is not a satisfactory situation, he said. "Our aim is to break the chain of infection, which is very difficult to do when you have thousands of new patients every day. We need both digital and human means to catch and trace the contagion chains," he added.

He warned against complacency, noting that the situation would likely become worse when the school year begins in September. (Noa Landau)

2:05 P.M. Knesset coronavirus committee heads slams government for failing to reopen cultural industry

Lawmaker Yifat Shasha-Biton, who heads the parliamentary committee overseeing the government's coronavirus response, criticized the executive's failure to either allow cultural events to resume, or at least draw up a roadmap to do so.

It's not the first time that Shasha-Biton, a representative of the Kulanu faction within Likud, comes head to head with the government

The main point of contention she raised, echoed by other actors in the industry, is the fact that attendance can generally be controlled in the kind of ticketed artistic events that characterizes the industry. 

Others in the committee were also critical of the double standards adopted by the government, after it decided to allow thousands of students to enter the country for religious studies. (Jonathan Lis

11:40 A.M. 20 new beds added to country’s hospitals since beginning of coronavirus outbreak

Twenty new hospital beds have been added to the country’s medical facilities since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak several months ago, according to a report by the Knesset’s research and information center. The report further said that the Health Ministry has figures on the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients, but not precise numbers on hospital bed occupancy for coronavirus patients in all hospitals. The Knesset center’s study of the issue found that bed occupancy was not higher in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, with some hospitals even showing lower occupancy. (Jonathan Lis)

11:00 A.M. Five more people die, cases rise by 416 since Sunday

The total number of people with the coronavirus has risen by 416 since Sunday to reach 73,231, according to the Health Ministry, while the number of active cases standing at 25,167.

Five more people have died, bringing the death toll to 541. There are currently 783 people who are hospitalized, 334 of them in serious condition. The number of people on ventilators has risen by two to 100. (Haaretz)

10:40 A.M. Coronavirus czar approves entry of 17,000 students in coming months

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu has approved the entry of 17,000 university and yeshiva students into the country, most of them foreign, in the coming  months. According to numbers presented in a Sunday meeting to discuss the issue, the thousands of students, mostly from the U.S., include some 12,000 yeshiva students.

The also include 5,000 participants in Masa programs, 2,000 university students, 1,500 students at private institutions, and 500 participants in a program to help foreign students receive an Israeli matriculation certificate. Gamzu said that students will only be allowed in institutions that commit to ensuring that incoming students quarantine in capsules of up to six people and are administered coronavirus tests during the period of isolation.

As most of the students are not Israeli, they faced the possibility of not being allowed to enter the country after the civil aviation authority told airlines that it was forbidden to allow non-residents to enter until September. Following enormous pressure on the government placed recently by ultra-Orthodox political party heads calling for allowing yeshiva students to arrive, Interior Minister Arye Dery and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein approved their arrival, which has now also been approved by Gamzu. (Ido Efrati)

SUNDAY

8:03 P.M. Five more die of coronavirus

According to figures from the Health ministry, 72,584 coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in Israel, of those 26,386 are active cases. This represents 366 diagnoses since yesterday. 

There are currently 342 Israelis in serious condition, 98 of those are on ventilators. Five more people have died of COVID-19, bringing the total death toll to 536.

Israel conducted 4,479 coronavirus tests since yesterday, the lowest number since May 30.

4:30 P.M. Coronavrius czar demands Health Ministry monitor foreign students' quarantine

Israel's coronavirus czar, Professor Ronni Gamzo has ordered the Health Ministry to recruit monitors to enforce coronavirus isolation rules among yeshiva students and students permitted to enter the country. Gamzo's request was presented at a discussion held on Sunday morning. The decision to allow students into Israel was made during a joint meeting of the health and interior ministers.

The permit is for foreign students at academic institutions, yeshivas and ulpanas, Masa programs, the Na'aleh program for Russian students and high school and preparatory students, whose number totals about 17,000.  Their entry to Israel is conditioned on being quarantined in small groups of up to six people and testing for the coronavirus during the quarantine period.

3:19 P.M. Gantz approves drafting thousands of reservists for new Coronavirus Command Center

In advance of the opening of Israel's new Coronavirus Command Center, Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved drafting up to 3,000 reservists, most of them from the Home Front Command, through mid-September. The draft will enable the command to establish an epidemiological investigation system, an administrative force, additional staff for quarantine and patient hotels, a public information system for local authorities and to bring in more Home Front Command officers to cities with moderate-to-high infection rates. (Yaniv Kubovich)  

12:15 P.M. Israel starts issuing one-time stipends as part of universal aid package

The National Insurance Institute began funneling one-time grants to all Israeli citizens, according to the universal aid package approved by the cabinet and the Knesset.

On Sunday, families with up to four children will receive 500 shekels ($147) and 300 shekels for every additional child. Married couples with three children and a joint bank account will receive on Sunday 1,500 shekels and additional 1,500 shekels at a later stage. (Avi Waxman)        

12:01 P.M. Health Ministry mulls reducing quarantine for confirmed patients

The Health Ministry is considering shortening the mandatory quarantine period for people who are ordered into isolation after having tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the proposed regulation, the quarantine period for coronavirus patients would officially start from the day they are tested for the virus and not from the day they receive their test results.

The move is expected to be approved, and is supported by newly appointed coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu. (Ido Efrati)

11:33 P.M. Three more ministers, aides enter quarantine

Following epidemiologic investigations carried out by the Health Ministry, Higher Education Minister Zeev Elkin, Community Development Minister Orli Levi-Abekasis and Religious Services Minister Yaakov Avitan, as well as their aides, have entered quarantine.

Health Ministry representatives informed the ministers they have to go into isolation after coming into contact with Jerusalem Affairs Minister Rafi Peretz, who announced on Saturday he had contracted the coronavirus.  

The ministers and their aides will remain in quarantine until August 9. (Jonathan Lis)

11:17 A.M. Israel's death toll rises by eight since Saturday evening

The Health Ministry said 152 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 72,315.

In addition, the number of deaths from the virus has climbed to 531, an increase of eight since Saturday night. Ninety-six patients are currently on ventilators, and 45,631 people have recovered so far.

The ministry added that 7,739 tests to detect the virus were conducted on Saturday. (Haaretz)

SATURDAY

12:30 A.M. Minister Zeev Elkin also enters quarantine after contact with infected colleague

Likud minister Zeev Elkin, who currently holds the portfolio for higher education and water resources, announced he would need to enter quarantine after coming into close contact with Jerusalem Affairs Minister Rafi Peretz.

"I received a message from the Ministry of Health that I must enter quarantine for a week as I was... like several other ministers, in the same room as him Sunday during the cabinet meeting," Elkin said on Twitter.

"I wish him and all Israeli patients a swift recovery!" Elkin concluded. 

The fact that Elkin enters quarantine means it is likely other elected officials will follow suit, although it is unknown who else exactly was present at the meeting. (Noa Landau)

SATURDAY

11:00 P.M. Jerusalem police chief asked to enter quarantine while at protest  

Jerusalem Police Chief Doron Yedid left the protest in front of the Prime Minister's residence Saturday night after he was informed he must quarantine following news that Jerusalem Affairs Minister Rafi Peretz, whom he met with this week, tested positive for the coronavirus. (Nir Hasson and Josh Breiner)

10:00 P.M. Director General of Jerusalem Affairs Ministry tests positive

The Director General of the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry Avi Cohen has tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday, after minister Rafi Peretz announced he had also tested positive. (Jonathan Lis)

9:34 P.M. Jerusalem Affairs Minister Rafi Peretz tests positive for coronavirus

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Rafi Peretz has tested positive for the coronavirus. Peretz posted on his Twitter account, "With the end of Shabbat, it has become clear that the coronavirus test that I took on Friday has returned positive. I currently feel well and wish a full recovery to all those who are ill in Israel."

The epidemiological investigation has yet to be completed and it awaits to be seen if other members of the government will be required to quarantine. The minister last visited the Knesset on Wednesday July 29. (Jonathan Lis)

9:30 P.M. Police fine confirmed patient staying at Eilat hotel

Israel Police located a confirmed coronavirus patient at a hotel in Eilat and fined him 5,000 shekels ($ 1,468) for violating isolation orders. The patient and his family were evacuated from Eilat after they spent three days at the hotel on vacation. (Almog Ben Zikri)

9:00 P.M. Likud MKs quarantined after contact with confirmed patient

Likud MKs Osnat Mark, Eli Cohen and Avi Dichter, along with three of their advisors, were instructed to quarantine after coming in contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient at the Knesset, said the Health Ministry on Saturday. (Bar Peleg)

8:15 P.M. Israel diagnoses over 1,000 more cases, six new deaths 

According to the Health Ministry, 1,193 new cases were registered on Saturday, bringing the total to 72,163, of which 26,542 cases are still active.

There are currently 328 people in serious condition, and another 95 are ventilated. Six more patients have died, bringing the total to 523 so far. 

22,890 coronavirus tests were conducted on Friday. (Haaretz)

1:45 P.M. Israel Police refrain from shuttering businesses despite weekend restrictions

Shop owners in center and southern Israel opened their businesses on Saturday despite Health Ministry guidelines, but police officers who arrived at the scene decided not to shut down the stores.

The officers arrived after receiving calls from citizens reporting that the shops had been opened, violating government orders. 

Businesses deemed nonessential were required to close from Friday at 5 P.M. to Sunday at 5 A.M. after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided against lifting weekend restrictions in a meeting with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and new coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu on Friday. (Bar Peleg and Almog Ben Zikri)

FRIDAY

6:30 P.M Almost 1000 new virus cases detected

934 new cases of the coronavirus have been diagnosed since Thursday evening, according to data released by the Health Ministry. 320 of those people are is serious condition, with 98 of those on ventilators. Meanwhile, 512 people have died of the virus. 70,970 Israelis have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, with 26,608 people who currently have the virus. (Haaretz)

5:03 P.M. Weekend restrictions go into effect; shop owners plan to disobey

Businesses deemed non-essential are required to close from Friday at 5 P.M. to Sunday at 5 A.M. after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided against lifting weekend restrictions in a meeting with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and coronavirus health czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu.

Non-essential retail stores as well as malls, markets, hair salons, zoos, museums and exhibition spaces, in addition to public swimming pools and tourist attractions, are ordered shut down for the weekend. The limitations don't apply to food stores, pharmacies, opticians and some other limited exceptions.

The authorities didn't impose any special restrictions on travel during the weekend.

A union of mall and retail store owners announced on Thursday they intend to flout the order and open their businesses anyway, arguing that "most cabinet ministers back opening malls," but a decision has not yet been made due to "pressure from the ultra-Orthodox parties." (Ido Efrati and Adi Dovrat-Meseritz)

2:20 P.M. Experts to propose new regulations to government

A panel of Health Ministry officials, led by coronavirus czar Prof. Ronnie Gamzu, will meet three times a week starting Sunday to devise new regulations for gatherings and operation of businesses and synagogues. According to the ministry statement, the government will vote on the panel's decisions on Monday. 

11:10 A.M. Nine more people die from COVID-19 in Israel

According to the Health Ministry, 546 new cases were registered since Thursday night, bringing the total to 70,582, of which 26,260 cases are still active.

There are 319 people in serious condition, and another 100 are ventilated. To date, 509 people have died. 

The number of tests has declined relatively over the last week, and on Thursday 20,850 tests were conducted.

THURSDAY

11:46 P.M. Death toll reaches 500, over 1,700 new cases since Wednesday

The coronavirus death toll in Israel has reached 500, according to updated Health Ministry numbers. There have been 1,737 new cases diagnosed and nine deaths since Wednesday. (Haaretz)

7:30 P.M. Netanyahu in deliberations over lifting weekend restrictions on public activities

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting at this time with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and coronavirus health czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu over possibly removing limitations put in place on public activity on weekends due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.

Last week new weekend limitations were imposed that don't limit travel from home but require the closure from Friday at 5 P.M. to Sunday at 5 A.M. of non-essential retail stores as well as malls, markets, hair salons, zoos, museums and exhibition spaces, in addition to public swimming pools and tourist attractions. The limitations don't apply to food stores, pharmacies, opticians and some other limited exceptions.

Sources say that Health Minister Edelstein and Gamzu support lifting the weekend limitations but a final decision requires additional work by staffers and Netanyahu's support prior to any formal vote on the matter by the cabinet. (Ido Efrati)

11:45 A.M. Israel registers 32,756 active cases

According to Health Ministry data, 1,063 new cases were registred, bringing the total to 68,769, of which 32,756 cases are still active. There are 336 patients in serious condition, and 99 on ventilators. Six patients have died of COVID-19 since the previous tally, bringing the death toll to 497. 

On Wednesday, Israel carried out 26,075 coronavirus tests. 

WEDNESDAY

7:35 P.M. Over 1,400 cases diagnosed since last night

According to Health Ministry data, 1,441 Israelis were diagnosed with the coronavirus since yesterday evening. This brings the national total to 67,734 cases since the outbreak began.

Of those, 34,521 are active cases. There are 328 patients in serious condition, and 99 on ventilators. One patient has died of COVID-19 since the previous tally. 

5:16 P.M. Netanyahu: Israelis to receive one-time coronavirus grant early next week

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the Israeli parliament had approved his grants program, with individual benefit payments to be paid into Israelis' bank accounts by next week. The plan calls for every person without children to receive a one-time payment of 750 shekels ($220), while families will receive between 2,000 and 3,000 shekels (between $590 and $880), depending on the amount of children.

"This is another step that will make it easier for you, and drive the economy forward," Netanyahu said.

"We have designed many steps like this one, amounting in the billions," he added. The one-time payment plan is expected to cost the Israeli state 6 billion shekels in all (around $1.7 billion). "There will be more steps so we can defeat coronavirus together." (Noa Landau)

3:10 P.M. Netanyahu at international coronavirus meeting: We must speed up testing, locating infections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined the leaders of Austria, Denmark, Greece and the Czech Republic over video conference Wednesday to discuss the second wave of the coronavirus and efforts to stimulate the economy while limiting infections.

"Our rate of testing is very high," Netanyahu said. "We're reaching 30,000 tests a day in a population of 9 million. I think that we will succeed in raising that number. We want an industrial-level mechanism that can carry out mass tests and a mechanism for very fast location and isolation" of coronavirus patients, he added.

Netanyahu also said that one of the lessons learned from the first wave is that gatherings in closed spaces must be limited to curtail mass infection. The leaders agreed that there is a need to continue limiting gatherings to avoid renewed outbreaks. (Noa Landau)  

12:59 P.M. Education minister releases plan for next school year

Education Minister Yoav Gallant officially released an outline for the next school year in the shadow of the coronavirus.

The outline, which was formulated in accordance with the Finance Ministry, will have a budget of 4.2 billion shekels and will be brought for government approval in the coming days.

According to the plan, grades one through second will learn in regular format, without splitting them into smaller groups. In grades third through fourth and in middle and high schools, classes will be held in a mix of home and at-school classes, with up to 18 students per class.

Splitting classes into small groups will requires a major increase in teaching staff. Gallant said this issue will be allocated 2.6 billion shekels out of the total budget. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

12:19 P.M. Health Ministry plans to reopen skies, waive quarantine for low-risk areas

The Health Ministry has developed a plan to open the skies, exempting arrivals from countries with low infection rates from entering 14-day quarantine and taking coronavirus tests.

Health Ministry Deputy Director General Itamar Grotto said that implementing the plan would require some preparation. “It can’t happen tomorrow morning, but we’ll do everything we can to promote it.” (Ido Efrati)

11:58 A.M Over a thousand new cases diagnosed, death toll rises by four

The Health Ministry said that the number of coronavirus confirmed cases has risen by 1,014, bringing toll to 66,805. Out of these, 33,618 cases are active and 32,697 have recovered.

The ministry said that 89 patients are currently on ventilators, adding that five more people have died from the virus, raising the death toll to 490.

In addition, 26,128 coronavirus tests were conducted on Tuesday. (Haaretz)

11:28 A.M. Arrivals from ‘low-risk areas’ may not need to enter quarantine, top health official says

Health Ministry Deputy Director General Itamar Grotto said that the ministry is expected to allow Israelis arriving from “low-risk areas,” where infection rates are low to enter the country without requiring them to enter 14-day quarantine.

As of March 8, all arrivals have been ordered into a two-weeks isolation.

Grotto added that “We would also like to launch a pilot of running coronavirus tests on arrivals from “red zones,” where infection rates have been high.” (Ido Efrati)

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Two people standing outside a store in Tel Aviv, July 2020.
Two people standing outside a store in Tel Aviv, July 2020. Credit: Eyal Toueg

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