Israel Ranks Third in Highest Daily Infection Rate Among European Countries, WHO Says

Palestinian death toll rising in the West Bank ■ Netanyahu admits economy reopened too soon ■ Three lawmakers, army chief, second cabinet minister quarantined

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Medical personnel take samples at a drive through COVID-19 testing facility in a Tel Aviv suburb, July 6, 2020.
Medical personnel take samples at a drive through COVID-19 testing facility in a Tel Aviv suburb, July 6, 2020.Credit: AFP
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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.

37,464 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 354 people have died. 

In the West Bank, there are 5,819 active cases; 34 people have died. In the Gaza Strip, 72 people were diagnosed and one person has died. 

LISTEN: Bibi's bonanza, arresting activists and the death of God TVCredit: Haaretz

■ Coronavirus tracker: Live stats of cases and deaths

LIVE UPDATES

8:42 P.M. Thousands protest poor government aid amid economic crisis

More than two thousand Israelis are protesting in Tel Aviv the government's handling of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers from the industries of hospitality, tourism, transportation, arts and culture declined an invitation by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to discuss the situation.

"The Israeli government and its leader are responsible for the failure in implementing aid programs," said the organizers, who called on the government to amend its financial aid packages.

On Thursday, Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz announced that self-employed individuals will receive an immediate 7,500 shekels ($2,150) stipend. They promised that money would be transferred to accounts by next week, following criticism that the two previous rounds of coronavirus aid were delayed and insufficient. (Bar Peleg and Lee Yaron)

>> Click here to read the full report

8:35 P.M. Seven more patients on ventilators, death toll rises by one

According to the Health Ministry, 1,360 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 since Friday evening, raising the total number of cases to 37,464. Of those, 18,296 are active cases.

One person has died since midnight, 134 are in severe condition and 49 are on ventilators. The ministry said 25,265 tests were conducted on Friday, and 122 patients have officially recovered on Saturday. (Haaretz)

3:53 P.M. COVID-19 deaths in the West Bank rises to 34

The Palestinian Health Ministry said three more people from Hebron died from COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the total West Bank death toll to 34. It said the number of patients in serious condition and the number of ventilated patients is also rising.

There are currently 5,819 active cases in the West Bank, the majority of them in the area of Hebron. (Jack Khoury)

2:10 P.M. Contact tracing reduced to ten days back from moment of diagnosis, Health Ministry says

The Health Ministry will now do contact tracing going back 10 days back from the moment a person is diagnosed, not 14 days, as was performed so far.

This is expected to lower the number of Israelis ordered to enter quarantine. The ministry’s decision came into effect on Friday.

The required quarantine period still remains 14 days.

According to the new guidelines, contact tracing for those who came into contact with a diagnosed person who is showing symptoms should go four days back from the moment the person started showing symptoms. 

If it is not clear when a person began showing symptoms, contact tracing will go back 10 days from the moment the patient is diagnosed. If a person who tested positive is not showing any symptoms, contact tracing should go back seven days from the moment of diagnosis. (Ido Efrati)

12:37 P.M. Israel ranks third in highest daily infection rate among European countries, WHO says

Israel is the country with the third-highest daily coronavirus infection rate in comparison to European counties, according to a World Health Organization published on Friday.

WHO data shows that Russia is the country with the highest daily number of diagnosed cases, with 6,635 new cases confirmed on Friday morning. It is followed by Kazakhstan with 1,726 new cases and Israel with 1,360 new cases as of Friday morning. (Haaretz)

9:49 A.M. Two more die in West Bank, raising toll to 31

The Palestinian Health Ministry said that the number of coronavirus deaths in the West Bank has risen to 31. The two recent fatalities are a 69-year-old man from the village of Yatta and a 95-year-old man from the Aida refugee camp in the West Bank. (Jack Khoury) 

FRIDAY

9:26 P.M. Palestinian Health Ministry records 5 deaths

There were 396 new cases diagnosed in the Palestinian Territories, 263 of which in the Hebron district, the Health Ministry said. Five people have died.

There are currently 5,477 active cases in the West Bank. Thirteen are in serious condition, with three on ventilators. In Gaza, the number of active cases has dropped to eight. (Jack Khoury

8:15 P.M. Over 100 principals call on government to cancel matriculation exams

On Friday, over 100 school principals signed a letter to Education Minister Yoav Gallant, calling on him to cancel high school matriculation exams as coronavirus cases rise.

"Due to the high infection rate in schools, teachers and parents fear holding the exams," the letter says. They added that a large proportion of teachers and students are in quarantine, and the rise in cases has caused a number of test supervisors to cancel at the last minute. Instead of holding the exams, the principals suggest giving students a grade based on their schoolwork from the course of the year. (Shira Kedari-Ovadia)  

7:01 P.M. Another 1,441 cases diagnosed in Israel in last day, three die 

Latest Health Ministry figures show that the total number of cases had risen to 36,266, of which 17,302 are considered active.

Three more people have died, bringing the total to 351 since the start of the outbreak. 

460 patients are currently hospitalized, with 130 in serious condition. Of those, 42 of them are on ventilators. (Haaretz)

6:28 P.M. Netanyahu, Finance Minister Katz meet representatives of the self-employed

The prime minister and the finance minister sat down with representatives of independent workers and the self-employed in an effort to find solutions to their financial hardship, as the coronavirus crisis continues to take a deep economic toll.

Netanyahu and Katz praised the economic aid package they unveiled on Thursday after weeks of protests. "Your pain is understandable," Katz said, adding that he hoped the set of policies would be approved by the Knesset in the coming week. 

"We will meet our obligations," Netanyahu said, "including expediting the immediate payment we want to give you." The package includes an immediate grant of 7,500 shekels (around $2,150). (Noa Landau)

2:40 P.M. Two additional MKs enter quarantine 

The Knesset announced that two additional MKs would enter quarantine after meeting with a confirmed coronavirus patient on July 1. Aida Touma-Sliman from the Joint List and Tehila Friedman from Kahol Lavan joined Likud MK and former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, who also entered quarantine earlier on Friday. They will remain in quarantine until July 14. (Haaretz)

1:00 P.M. Israel implements lockdown on Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh neighborhoods over coronavirus surge

A seven-day lockdown on neighborhoods in five cities went into effect Friday, following a government decision approved Thursday.

Neighborhoods of Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Lod, Ramle and Kiryat Malakhi were closed due to recent spikes in coronavirus cases.

Under the closure, entry and exit from the areas will be restricted and traffic and business activity within the areas will be severely curtailed. Residents will be allowed to exit the areas in order to receive medical care, attend funerals of first-degree relatives, and for the handover of minors whose parents live separately.

Soldiers, police officers and doctors are allowed to leave locked down neighborhoods to work, as well as other essential workers, subject to approval.

Entry to the areas is only permitted for the provision of essential goods and services, which includes journalists.

In Jerusalem, the neighborhoods under lock down until next Friday are Romema, Kiryat Sanz, Kiryat Belz and Kiryat Mattersdorf. (Haaretz)

12:30 P.M. Likud MK Nir Barkat enters quarantine

Nir Barkat, a lawmaker from Likud, entered quarantine Friday after he was alerted that he had come in contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient at the Knesset on July 1. Barkat will remain in quarantine until July 14, in accordance with the Health Ministry guidelines.

11:00 A.M. Tel Aviv asks foreign worker community to close houses of worship

The Tel Aviv Municipality has asked the community of foreign workers in Israel to close houses of worship beginning this week to curb the spread of the virus.

Religious leaders in the community have been distributing informative videos to members of their communities, which emphasize the importance of social distancing and the guidelines. 

As of Wednesday, 4,300 tests had been conducted within the foreign worker community and among people without legal status in Israel in south Tel Aviv. Of the tests performed, 487 came back positive or 11.3 percent of the total. This is a much higher positive rate than the general population. (Bar Peleg)

9:45 A.M. Three people die in West Bank

Three COVID-19 patient died overnight Thursday into Friday in the West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry announced. The three patients, aged, 58, 71 and 87, were all from the Hebron area. The total death toll in the West Bank stands at 27.

9:06 A.M. Israel Health Ministry says over 700 new cases since Thursday night

The Israel Health Ministry said in an early Friday morning bulletin that the number of coronavirus cases in Israel shot up by 708 since Thursday night, bringing the total to 35,533. The number of active cases now stands at 16,651 with two new fatalities bringing the total death toll to 350. The number of patients on ventilators remains however relatively low, at 39, with the vast majority of those testing positive experiencing only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. (Haaretz)

THURSDAY

11:58 P.M. Israel to lock down neighborhoods in five cities to stem spread of virus

Israel will be imposing a seven-day lockdown on several neighborhoods in five different cities, a joint statement by the Health Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office said on Thursday night.

The lockdown on neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Lod, Ramle and Kiryat Malakhi will go into effect on Friday at 1:00 P.M. until the next Friday at 8:00 A.M., the statement said.

In addition, it was decided that an existing lockdown on three neighborhoods in Lod would remain in effect until Wednesday at 8:00 A.M., as it was set to expire on Friday morning.

The Health Ministry will also sign a warrant limiting the activity of educational activities from ages 10 and up in Modi'in Illit, Beit Shemesh and three neighborhoods in Ashdod.

These are the neighborhoods that will be locked down on Friday:

In Jerusalem: Romema, Kiryat Sanz, Kiryat Belz and Kiryat Mattersdorf

Beit Shemesh: Nahla, Menuha and Knei Bosem

In In Lod: Ganei Ya'ar, SH

In Ramle: Amidar, Bilu

In Kiryat Malakhi: Achuzat Rotner and Chabad Neighborhood (Haaretz)

8:39 P.M. Netanyahu announces economic aid package, admits economy reopened too soon

During a press conference announcing an economic aid package on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said restrictions on gathering places were lifted "too soon."

"However, many pushed us to do it," the prime minister added. "We did it because we listened to peoples' distress.I take responsibility for this step and the responsibility to fix it."

The economic support program will see independent contractors and the self-employed receive an immediate grant of up to 7,500 shekels. The money will be transferred to citizens' accounts "by next week," Netanyahu said, adding that unemployment benefits will be extended until June 2021.

Netanyahu said that those found eligible for the grant in the first coronavirus wave, will receive the aid funds again without new preconditions. "We don't ask questions, just send them the money."

After Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz presented the details of what the government called "a safety net for businesses." Any business with an annual turnover of up to 100 million shekels, whose sales turnover dropped below 40 percent, could receive an aid grant of 3,000-6,000 shekels every two months, Katz said.

In addition, a set expenses grant of up to 500,000 shekels, and a new business grant of 3,000-4,000 shekels. They would also be able to be reimbursed for their municipal tax.

Small businesses with an annual turnover of up to 300,000 shekels will receive a grant of up to 6,000 shekels once every two months, Katz said. These sums will also be disbursed by the end of June 2021.

The prime minister stressed that he was extremely busy with finding ways to surmount the bureaucracy involved in receiving the grants. (Haaretz)

7:24 P.M. Israel registers over 1,250 new cases in one day, two deaths

The Health Ministry said that 1,268 new coronavirus cases have been diagnosed since Wednesday, raising total to 34,825. Two more people have died, bringing the death toll to 348. The number of patients in serious condition increased from 405 to 434, out of which 39 are on ventilators.

The number of active cases stands at 16,025. Nearly 30,000 coronavirus tests were conducted on Wednesday. (Haaretz)

7:11 P.M. Two die in the West Bank, bringing death toll to 26

Two residents of Hebron, aged 77 and 68, died on Thursday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health announced. This brings the total number of deaths from coronavirus in the West Bank to 26. (Jack Khoury)

7:07 P.M. Netanyahu, finance minister to present economic aid package 

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz will unveil an economic plan at 8:00 P.M., the prime minister's office said in a statement. (Noa Landau)

5:10 P.M. Herzliya shuts down weekend transportation

Herzliya shut down special weekend bus lines that transported people to the city's beaches due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases and an inability to comply with the new regulations. 

The municipality said that due to regulations allowing only 50 percent capacity on public transportation, the minibuses would only be able to carry eight people at a time. In addition the municipality said that the windows on the buses do not open, and the regulations require that all buses travel with windows open. (Haaretz)

4:45 P.M. Israel signs scientific collaboration agreement with Italy

The head of Israel's Biological Institute, Shmuel Shapira, signed an agreement with the head of Italy's Careggi University Hospital, Dr. Rocco Damone, and head of The Life Science Foundation, Fabrizio Landi. The two countries will work together to develop innovative treatments for COVID-19, including exchanging serological and plasma samples from recovered patients, in order to develop an anti-viral treatment for COVID-19.

Italian Ambassador to Israel Gianluigi Benedetti said, "The understandings that were signed today between the leading institutions in the two countries, are a result of collaboration that was decided on in a phone conversation between Prime Minister Conte and Prime Minister Netanyahu." (Haaretz)

3:10 P.M. Chief of Staff Kochavi enters quarantine

Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi will enter quarantine for one week after coming in contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient. Kochavi was in contact one week ago with an IDF soldier who tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.

Subsequently, Kochavi and several other officers will be quarantined, and will carry out all operations remotely and on schedule, as much as possible. (Yaniv Kubovich)

3:00 P.M. Universities work out framework for some exams to be taken on campus

The Higher Education Council approved a framework to exempt some academic exams from the coronavirus regulations requiring that exams be administered remotely.

According to the decision, 10 percent of the exams will be held on campus for students who are unable to take exams remotely. For example, those without access to a computer or internet will be allowed to take their exams on campus, on condition that these cases do not exceed 10 percent of the total. 

Medical licensing exams will be held in person. (Shira Kadari)

2:50 P.M. Gantz approves calling up 2,000 reservists to help in virus fight

Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved the calling up of 2,000 additional reserve troops until the end of July to aid in the response to the coronavirus. In light of the recent spike in infections and the expected needs, including troops to deliver supplies to citizens in restricted areas, staffing of the "coronavirus hotels", aiding in information centers and strengthening of the homefront command.

The decision was made following a situation assessment between Gantz and senior defense officials, in which they also discussed the opening of additional hotels to house coronavirus patients. 

The Defense Ministry stressed that the troops will not necessarily all be called up at the same time, and reservists will be called as necessary. Until now, the defense establishment has approved calling up 750 reserve troops, almost all of whom have been utilized. Most of the reservists were called in for several days and subsequently released, in coordination with falling infection rates. (Yaniv Kubovich)

1:25 P.M. Interior minister approves bringing in more foreign caregivers

Internior Minister Arye Dery approved a plan to allow more foreign workers into Israel to work as caregivers, effective immediately. 

Two months ago, Dery announced that the country's lack of caregivers has become a crisis, and prepared a plan to allow the re-entry of foreign workers who lived and worked in Israel before returning to their countries.

Their re-entry is allowed on the condition of an invitation from the family for which they worked (via the Populations Authority) and self-quarantining for 14 days upon their arrival in Israel, which will not occur in the family's home. The family will be economically responsible for the worker. (Lee Yaron)

1:10 P.M. Israel's Education Ministry unveils scenarios for opening school year

The Education Ministry presented its scenarios for opening the school year in light of the rise of coronavirus infection on Wednesday, each based on different levels of economic lockdown. In the worst case scenario, students from fifth grade and up will study only through distance learning, and lower grades and preschools will be divided into small groups.

A professional committee established by Education Minister Yoav Gallant formulated the proposals over the past few weeks as part of the ministry’s preparations for the planned start of the school year on September 1. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

>> Click here to read the full report

10:54 A.M. Israel confirms more than 750 new cases

Israel has confirmed 772 new coronavirus cases since Wednesday night, bringing the total number of cases to 33,947. Two additional people have died, bringing the death toll to 346.

According to statistics sent out by the Health Ministry, of the 15,209 active cases in Israel, 118 are in serious condition with 41 people on ventilators. An additional 45,973 people are in quarantine after close contact with a confirmed patient. (Haaretz)

8:57 A.M. Israeli minister self-quarantines after adviser tests positive

Rafi Peretz, minister of Jerusalem affairs and heritage, announced he is in quarantine after one of his advisers had tested positive for the coronavirus. Peretz's office stressed that he doesn't feel any symptoms, but will be tested according to the Health Ministry's guidlines. (Jonathan Lis)

7:52 A.M. West Bank man dies of COVID-19

A 59-year-old man from the Qalqilyah area has died overnight from complications from the coronavirus, bringing the West Bank death toll from the virus to 24. (Jack Khoury

6:01 A.M. Israel considers shortening compulsory quarantine

Israel's Health Ministry is considering shortening the mandatory quarantine period for people who are ordered into isolation after location tracking of their cellphone indicated that they had been in contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient.

Among other options, the government is considering shortening the quarantine period from two weeks to 10 days. (Amos Harel)

>> Click here to read the full report

WEDNESDAY

11:13 P.M. High school graduation party partly to blame for steep increase in cases in central Israeli city of Raanana

The number of coronavirus patients almost tripled in Raanana in recent days, from 63 to 154. This is due in part to a high school graduation party, as 54 of the new cases are local students who attended an end-of-year party in a local club on June 26.

Since then, close to a thousand tests have been conducted, with a 14.6% positive test rate. Out of 720 residents currently in quarantine, 200 are connected to the students.   

Raanana is one of the communities Israeli authorities are currently considering putting under lockdown due to the overall rise in cases nationally. (Bar Peleg)

11:00 P.M. Hours after announcing new restrictions, health minister attends party for wife's birthday

On Thursday last week, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced new coronavirus restrictions that banned gatherings of more than 20 people. He was criticized after it was found out he attended a party later on that day in honor of his wife, Irina Nevzlin's birthday in a private home in the wealthy coastal Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya.

Edelstein's office called the controversy "cheap gossip," saying that the new rules had yet to be implemented, and the party was not in contravention with rules in effect at the time – which limited gatherings to 50 people. (Haaretz)

8:15 P.M. Tel Aviv Municipality warns residents of increasing infection rate 

The Tel Aviv Municipality sent on Wednesday notices warning its residents about the increasing coronavirus infection rate.

"A message was issued to residents living in a number of neighborhoods in the city where there is a small increase in the amount of hospitalized patients," said the municipality. The statement emphasized that this message does not mean there is an outbreak in the city, but rather it's part of "an information campaign," to encourage residents to abide by Health Ministry regulations. (Bar Peleg)

8:00 P.M. Netanyahu, Health Minister discuss lockdown in several areas 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently holding consultations with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and head of the National Security Council to discuss declaring lockdowns in areas with a high rate of coronavirus infections.

The Prime Minister will convene the Ministerial Committee to declare closure on said areas immediately after finalizing the Health Ministry's recommendations.

Among the locals, either individual neighborhoods or whole cities, that are considered for harsher restrictions ranging from increased testing to full closures are: Jerusalem, Modi'in Illit, Ramla, Beit Shemesh, Lod, Kiryat Malachi, Bnei Brak, Ashdod, Raanana. (Noa Landau)

7:00 P.M. Israel confirms 953 new cases over last 24 hours

Israel confirmed 953 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 33,175. Two people have died over the last day, bringing the death toll to 344. Of the 14,516 active cases, 113 are in serious conditions with 39 people on ventilators.

5:45 P.M. Gantz says more 'coronavirus hotels' to open 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Wednesday on Twitter that within 48 hours, more so-called 'coronavirus hotels' will open to accommodate confirmed patients in light of the sharp increase in the number of cases. 

Gantz also said that they are preparing for a significant increase in the number of beds at said hotels in the coming days. 

Additionally, the Kahol Lavan chairman said that the Defense Ministry and the IDF, through the Home Front Command, have been stepping up their publicity efforts with local authorities and health funds in recent days to encourage the evacuation of confirmed patients to hotels, with emphasis on areas with a high concentration of patients. (Haaretz)

5:30 P.M. High Court rejects universities' petition to hold some exams in person 

The High Court rejected on Wednesday a petition by universities against Higher Education Minister Ze'ev Elkin demanding that he convene the Council for Higher Education to approve an outline for the possibility of holding some exams on campus, despite coronavirus restrictions.

In the absence of a solution to the issue so far, some planned exams have been postponed, with some indefinitely. According to the petitioners, the current state of affairs causes "unimaginable damage to the higher education system in Israel." (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

5:15 P.M. President Rivlin says Israel lacks 'battle plan' to combat the virus 

President Reuven Rivlin said Wednesday that Israel has not yet formulated a clear plan to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

"Up until this very moment, the State of Israel has yet to develop a clear and coherent 'battle plan' to combat the virus. We do not have one body coordinating the knowledge, struggle, management, control, and discourse with the public or for the public," said a statement by the president. (Haaretz)

3:00 P.M. Netanyahu holds economic consultation for virus aid package

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is holding an economic consultation with the Finance Minister and economic advisers on a possible "Corona Package" to aid workers, freelancers and those unemployed, which will be brought for government approval during the week. (Noa Landau)

11:21 A.M. Gantz enters quarantine after suspected exposure to confirmed coronavirus case

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Wednesday he is going into quarantine over concerns that he was exposed to a man with COVID-19 on Sunday.

The statement from the alternate prime minister said Gantz feels well and will continue to work in quarantine until he received his test results and an epidemiological investigation has been concluded. (Yaniv Kubovich)

11:14 A.M. Death toll, number of hospitalized patients rise

According to the Health Ministry, forty people were admitted into the hospital since midnight, bringing the total number of hospitalized coronavirus patients up to 397. In addition, the number of people in severe condition went from 86 to 107. Of those, 37 are on ventilators. Another patient died overnight, raising the coronavirus death toll in Israel to 343. (Haaretz)

10:11 A.M. Public transportation reduced to 50 percent of capacity

Public Transportation will be reduced to 50 percent of its capacity amid the spike in new coronavirus cases.

According to the agreement between Transportation Minister Miri Regev, the Health Ministry and the National Security Council, buses will continue to be air-conditioned, but their windows will be open at all times to allow ventilation.

In addition, the Transportation Ministry will be in charge of ensuring passengers are following Health Ministry directives, including wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing.

Bus lines will end their operation at 10 P.M. during weekdays, and will not operate on Saturday.

“New data released by the Health Ministry obligate us to make some adjustments, and I call on the public to show patience and understanding, while adhering to the orders and social distancing to prevent contagion,” Regev said. (Haaretz)

8:34 A.M. Lockdown on Israeli settlement postponed to 1 P.M.

The lockdown slated to be imposed on the settlement of Beitar Illit at 8 A.M. on Wednesday will go into effect at 1 P.M.

On Tuesday, the Health Ministry said that there are 240 active coronavirus cases in Beitar illit, adding the rate of infection there increased by 224 percent over the past week.  

A ministerial committee decided that the community would be a restricted zone for a week, limiting exits and entrances, as well as traffic and business in Beitar itself. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

TUESDAY

11:05 P.M. Israel confirms hundreds more cases

1,437 new cases of the coronavirus were detected in Israel on Tuesday, with 13,653 active cases, according to data released by the Health Ministry. 86 people are in serious condition, with 34 of those on ventilators. Meanwhile, 342 people have died of the virus. (Haaretz)

11:00 P.M. Another Israeli city declared restricted zone

The Health Ministry declared on Tuesday that the town of Beitar Illit will be a restricted zone for 7 days, starting on Wednesday, July 8 at at 8:00 A.M. until Wednesday, July 15 at 8:00 A.M. Exits and entrances to the city will be limited, as well as traffic and business in the city itself. (Noa Landau)

9:52 P.M. Knesset panel to reconsider Shin Bet tracking if errors not resolved

The Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman, Zvi Hauser, said he would “reconsider extending” cell phone tracking by the Shin Bet security service, following widespread criticism of citizens’ inability to appeal quarantine orders issued as a result.

"The economic crisis is growing," Hauser said, "we do not have the option of quarantining thousands of citizens and cutting them off from the workforce for two weeks without checking if they were actually exposed to a confirmed patient."

He said that he received assurances from the Health Ministry Monday that by Wednesday, they would reinforce an appeals center for those who received Shin Bet messages, where they would be able to get necessary clarifications.

"If the ministry does not find a solution to this oversight in the coming days, I will be forced to reconsider approving a continuation to this tracking," Hauser said. "It's an important tool, but it is a complementary tool, and can in no way stand as a means with no supervision or accuracy." (Jonathan Lis)

9:45 P.M. New coronavirus rules threaten fatal blow to many Israeli businesses

Monday’s government directive closing bars, events halls and sports facilities as well as limiting crowds at restaurants will finally lead to a surge of small business bankruptcies, Sigal Yakobi, the acting director general of the Justice Ministry, told TheMarker.

The order, which comes as the government tries to rein in a resurgent coronavirus pandemic, will cause many businesses that survived the first lockdown in March and April to finally collapse, she warned. She had previously expected a rise in bankruptcies in the tens of percentage points, but now said the increase will be in the hundreds of percent. (Efrat Neuman, Adi Dovrat-Meseritz and Hadar Kane)

>> Read the full report

9:15 P.M. Shin Bet chief, officials to meet over phone tracking criticism

An emergency meeting will convene Wednesday at the behest of the Shin Bet to discuss the security service's handling of cell phone tracking to locate people who were in the vicinity of coronavirus carriers.

The renewal of Shin Bet tracking has been widely criticized after tens of thousands of Israelis received messages sending them into quarantine. Many of those who received the texts claim that they mistakenly received the texts, and complain that it is incredibly difficult to find a way to appeal their quarantines.

Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman opposed using the Shin Bet's tracking system for this purpose; no Western country is taking similar measures. Argaman feared the complications involved in running the system, the possible mistakes in identification, the potential exposure of the Shin Bet's abilities and entering a field in which there is widespread friction with ordinary citizens.

Argaman, National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabat and health and finance ministry officials will meet Wednesday against the backdrop of these errors and criticism. It is likely that they will make changes to the way the system operates going forward, but it is hard to believe that the tracking will end as coronavirus cases continue to rise and the government finds itself under increasing pressure. (Amos Harel)     

8:00 P.M. Almost two-thirds of Israel's coronavirus cases infected at home, study finds

Roughly 65 percent of the cases of coronavirus infections in Israel in which the source of the infection is known involved patients who contracted the virus in their own homes, the Knesset Research and Information Center reported on Monday.

According to the center, so far the Health Ministry has released information on the source of infection in 21,562 of the more than 30,000 reported COVID-19 cases in Israel, figures that also include people who have recovered. In 12,581 of the cases, the source of infection is unknown, but the most common established location of infection is the patients’ own home – involving 5,907 of the cases.  (Jonathan Lis)

>> Read the full report

7:06 P.M. 1,137 diagnosed in largest daily spike since beginning of outbreak 

Health Ministry statistics show that 1,137 more people were diagnosed with COVID-19 since yesterday, bringing the national total to 31,886. 5.2 percent of test results came back positive, a significant rise, marking the first time in a month that the rate reached five percent. 

There are currently 13,352 active cases, of those 86 are severe and 34 are on ventilators. 

Eight people have died since yesterday, bringing Israel's coronavirus death toll to 342.

6:46 P.M. WHO acknowledges 'emerging evidence' of airborne spread of coronavirus 

The World Health Organization on Tuesday acknowledged "emerging evidence" of the airborne spread of the novel coronavirus, after a group of scientists urged the global body to update its guidance on how the respiratory disease is spread.

Speaking at a briefing in Geneva, WHO expert Benedetta Allegranzi said the organization believed it had "been open to the evidence on modes of transmission" of the new virus. (Reuters)

6:40 P.M. PA to extend West Bank lockdown

The Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila announced that her ministry will recommend that the Palestinian Authority extend its lockdown for another nine days. The closure is supposed to lapse tomorrow (Wednesday) after five days of lockdown. Al-Kaila said the recommendation is to be approved by the government, as infections in the West Bank continue to rise and there is a need to break the chain of infection.

In two days, severe cases of the coronavirus have risen in the past two days from 13 to 23, six of whom are on ventilators. According to Palestinian Health Ministry statistics, the number of active cases stands at 4,390. In the past week, 12 Palestinians have died of COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 21. (Jack Khoury)  

6:10 P.M. Police commissioner responds to reports of police violence in mask enforcement

In a speech to senior police officials, Police Commissioner Moti Cohen called enforcing mask orders "an important mission for the benefit of preventing the spread of the virus, and alongside this, is corrosive and complex," adding that it is "fighting an invisible enemy" and that its results are not immediately visible to the eye, so it is unknown how many lives the effort will save.

"A decisive majority of police interactions with those not wearing masks are handled "with dedication and admirable professionalism," Cohen said.  "Alongside this, anomalous conduct that does not meet the values [of the Israel Police] or the norms of conduct expected of every officer will be investigated and dealt with accordingly by figures with the authority to do so."

>> Read the full report

4:39 P.M. Hundreds gather in Tel Aviv to protest handling of economic crisis

About 200 self-employed Israels kicked off a demonstration in front of Tel Aviv's Bank Hapoalim offices to protest the government's inaction at the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus. 
Signs carried and masks donned by protesters referenced cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who last week said that "it's rubbish" that people are going hungry. The demonstrations are set to continue until 11 P.M. (Bar Peleg)

3:00 P.M. Minister Miri Regev participates in event with over 20 attendees, counter to guidelines

Transportation Minister Miri Regev participated in the inauguration of a new interchange in Ashkelon Tuesday that had more than 20 attendees, which is forbidden under the new coronavirus guidelines.

The new law barring open-air gatherings of over 20 people has not yet gone into effect; the chairman of the Health Ministry has yet to issue an order on the matter.

Regev addressed the socially-distanced crowd, which included a few dozen people, saying "We're not quite holding to the rules issued by the Health Ministry…Yes, we're in an open space, but we need to have fewer and fewer people." She added, "From now on, I will make sure that these things happen as we are requested, there's no other way and we must follow the Health Ministry guidelines." (Almog Ben Zikri)

1:27 P.M. Interior Minister: Knesset should ‘rise above’ other considerations and back the gov’t in COVID-19 fight

Interior Minister Arye Dery called upon the Knesset to “rise above any [other] considerations and back the government in the difficult battle against the coronavirus.”

Referring to the cabinet’s decision to limit business activity amid a major spike in COVID-19 cases in Israel, Dery said, “It’s very difficult to close [event] halls, restaurants and businesses in general, but we have no alternative.”

Speaking at a meeting of the Central Elections Committee, Dery, who is the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said “anyone who is familiar with the data has a hard time getting to sleep at night. The figures are very bad.” Israel had successfully navigated the first wave of the virus by imposing a lockdown on the country, but is now facing an even more serious situation since the country has reopened, Dery warned.

“We are very much in need of the assistance of the Knesset and the courts in dealing with the virus. We have received the court’s backing in all of the steps that we have taken, including infringing on individual liberties, because everyone understands the huge challenge that we are facing.”  (Jonathan Lis)

12:37 P.M. Ministers agree on AC in public buses, despite Health Ministry recommendation

Transportation Minister Miri Regev and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein have decided that public buses would be air-conditioned to “allow drivers and passengers to comfortably ride the bus.”  

The decision comes after the Health Ministry recommended ordering public bus companies to keep the windows open to allow ventilation and refrain from air-conditioning, claiming it helps to spread the virus.

On Monday, the government approved a series of restrictions amid a spike in the number of new patients, including limiting the number of passengers in public transportation at any given time to 20. (Haaretz)

11:26 A.M. Gantz vows to salvage ailing entertainment and leisure sectors

Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz met with the self-employed and business owners, as well as figures in the entertainment sector, assuring them that the government will support them through the economic crisis brought upon by the coronavirus.

“Taking care of your livelihood comes first,” Gantz said ahead of the release of the six-month rescue plan meant to help all those harmed by the pandemic.

“Our goal is to find the best solution for you. We won’t let you collapse and we won’t tend to anything before securing your livelihood,” Gantz said.

“We’ve taken hard decision, but they are the right decisions at the moment, and I can’t promise they’ll be the last,” Gantz added. (Yaniv Kubovich)

10:28 A.M. Israel's director of public health resigns amid spike in cases

Professor Siegal Sadetzki announced on Tuesday morning that she was resigning her post as director of public health services and leaving the Health Ministry.

In a Facebook post, Sadetzki wrote that "In recent weeks, Israel is moving toward a dangerous place. The data and current morbidity map and future projections testify to this like a thousand witnesses."

In the post, Sadetzki claims that Israel squandered its success with the first wave of the pandemic by allowing social activities too soon. She added that the response to the initial outbreak was characterized by professional and ethical leadership. "I feel that as time passed we turned from professionals reacting to events in a proactive way to accountable people with no authority who are responding late."

Unfortunately, Sadetzki wrote, "it has been several weeks since Israel's compass for treating the pandemic has lost its bearings. Despite repeated, organized alarms sounded off through various channels, in different discussions and forums, we watch with frustrations how time and opportunities are running out."

Given the new conditions created, in which her professional opinion is not accepted, Sadetzki wrote, "It is no longer within my ability to help mount an effective response to stymy the spread of the virus." (Ido Efrati)

>> Read the full report

8:58 A.M. Over 1,000 new cases diagnosed, 4 fatalities since Monday

The Health Ministry said that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen by 1,057, bringing toll to 31,186. Out of these cases, 12,717 are active, of which 36 are on ventilators. Four more people have died from the pandemic, raising tally to 338.

The ministry added that 23,046 COVID-19 test were carried out on Monday. (Haaretz)

4:40 A.M. Knesset approves bill allowing gov't to bypass parliament on COVID-19 regulations

The Knesset approved a bill allowing for government decisions made to combat the coronavirus to go into immediate effect – even before being debated and passed through parliament.

The bill allows the government to sidestep Knesset committees on grounds that that it must avoid delays in implementing its decisions. The law was approved in its third and final Knesset reading in the early morning on Tuesday, with 29 votes in favor and 24 against.  

According to the bill, while the government decisions will go into effect immediately, relevant Knesset committees will have seven days to debate them, with the option of a three-day extension. If the relevant committee does not approve the government decision within this time frame, it would be presented for a Knesset vote. If either a committee or the Knesset decide not to approve a decision – or if no final decision is made within the aforementioned time frame – the decision will be canceled. (Jonathan Lis)

>> Read the full report

00:10 P.M. Knesset passes bill doubling fine for not wearing a mask

The Knesset has approved in second and third vote a law increasing the fine for not wearing a mask in public to 500 shekels ($145) from 200 shekels. The measure was supported by 34 Knesset members and opposed by 24. The new regulations also authorize cities to use municipal inspectors to enforce coronavirus restrictions. (Jonathan Lis) 

MONDAY

10:00 P.M. Staffer at President's Residence tests positive

A staff member at President Reuven Rivlin's Residence has tested positive for coronavirus, said the residence's spokesperson, prompting several other staff members to be quarantine. (Jonathan Lis) 

9:35 P.M. Knesset approves in first reading bill allowing government to implement decisions without its approval, new measures 

The Knesset approved the first reading of the bill that will allow the government to implement coronavirus regulations and decisions before a Knesset debate. The bill will also allow the government to skip the Knesset committees' debates, if they go on for too long, as Knesset proceedings are delaying the government's implementation of emergency decisions. The law was supported by 47 Knesset members, while 34 opposed it. (Jonathan Lis)

9:15 P.M. Poll shows drop in public's satisfaction with Netanyahu's handling of coronavirus crisis

A new Channel 12 poll published on Monday indicates a decline in public satisfaction over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's role in managing the coronavirus crisis. Of those surveyed, 62 percent said Netanyahu was managing the economic crisis badly, and 49 percent said he was handling the health crisis badly. Meanwhile, 46 percent of respondents said that Netanyahu is handling the health aspect of the crisis well, and 33 percent responded similarly to his treatment of the economic crisis. 

In a previous Channel 12 poll published 12 on June 28, 58 percent of respondents expressed dissatisfaction  with Netanyahu's handling of the economic crisis, and 36 percent expressed dissatisfaction with his handling of the health crisis. In a May Channel 12 poll, 43 percent showed dissatisfaction with his handling of the economic crisis, while 23 percent felt the same on on the health issue.

The respondents were also asked whether or not they trusted the government in managing the second wave of the outbreak. 59 percent responded that they did not trust it, while 37 percent said they did. 46 percent of the right-wing respondents said they did not trust the government, compared to 82 percent of center-left voters. (Haaretz)

8:30 P.M. Knesset discusses bill allowing government to implement decisions without its approval

The Knesset discussed Monday night a bill that would allow the government to immediately enforce coronavirus regulations, even before they were debated in the Knesset.

Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli of the Labor party introduced the bill, and his fellow party member, Merav Michaeli, was the first to rise to the speaker's stand to oppose the law. "The government says that this law is not that bad," she said. "It is another step that violates the most basic rights of citizens here in the name of performance and governance."

MK Ofer Cassif of the Joint List also opposed the law, and called upon Israelis to "Go for a nonviolent civil war against this dictatorial government." According to Cassif "This dumb and dangerous law is an economic death sentence for most citizens of the State of Israel, but it is also the concentration of power by the government and the head of it. You concentrate all the power into one person's hands and let him do what he wants."

MK Mickey Levy of Yesh Atid said that this law is "a crazy, horrible law that allows the prime minister and the government to pass laws without the Knesset's approval. The law eliminates the need for the Knesset. It no longer exists. It's a black day." (Jonathan Lis)

8:20 P.M. Health Minister hopes new regulations will stave off second lockdown

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said during a Monday night press conference that "in order to save the Israeli economy, we must flatten the curve." He went on to add that "the simple steps the government has taken today give us hope that in a week or two we will not have to declare a general closure." 

Edelstein spoke after the government endorsed the Health Ministry’s recommendations to shut down event halls, concert venues, night clubs, bars, swimming pools and gyms, in a bid the curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Edelstein added that the Health Ministry will step up its epidemiological investigations to break chains of infection more quickly. He introduced a new tool in the fight against virus, saying it was a "smart system that makes use of artificial intelligence and is capable of tracing all the chains of infection." (Haaretz)

8:00 P.M. Dozens protest against government decision to bypass Knesset approval on coronavirus measures

Dozens of Israelis protested Monday evening in Tel Aviv against the government's approval of an amendment to legislation on emergency measures that would limit parliamentary oversight of its decisions. The measure is currently being debated in the Knesset, and will only go into effect if it passes a Knesset vote.

The protests, a part of the so-called Black Flag movement against corruption in government, are demonstrating against the new bill, according to which any restrictions or measures the government decides on would go into immediate effect, and only later be voted on by lawmakers. (Bar Peleg)

7:25 P.M. Israel records 791 new coronavirus cases in a day

The number of people diagnosed with the coronavirus increased by 791 on Monday, according to the Health Ministry, with 12,359 active cases in Israel, of which 88 are in serious condition and 35 on ventilators. Two more people died, raising the death toll to 334. 

To date, 30,749 people tested positive for coronavirus in Israel. Nearly 19,000 tests were performed on Monday. (Haaretz)

3:20 P.M. Government decides to close bars, gyms, limit public transportation

The government endorsed the Health Ministry’s recommendations to shut down event halls, concert venues, night clubs, bars, swimming pools and gyms, in a bid the curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Other measures approved by the government, all subject to a Knesset vote later on Monday, would limit crowds at restaurants and places of worship, and restrict public buses to no more than 20 passengers at any given time.

Restaurants will remain open, but crowds will be limited to 20 people at a time indoors, and up to 30 people outdoors. Houses of worship will also be limited to 19 people at a time. Summer schools and camps will continue to operate for kids up to fourth grade. (Noa Landau)

3:00 P.M. Ministers approve bill obviating need for parliamentary approval before new measures go into effect

The government approved an amendment to legislation on emergency measures that would limit parliamentary oversight of its decisions. According to the bill to be voted on by the Knesset later on Monday, any restrictions or measures the government decides on would go into immediate effect, and only later be voted on by lawmakers. 

Should lawmakers not approve any specific measure decided upon by the government within seven days, the government could request a three-day extension. At the end of that time, a measure not approved by lawmakers would be revoked. (Noa Landau)

2:45 P.M. Netanyahu says stricter regulations are necessary

If Israel does not impose stricter regulations, it could find itself with hundreds of hospitalized patients and a health system collapse within weeks, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a government meeting, “We are required to take immediate measures in order to prevent more extreme measures down the line.” 

Netanyahu also vowed an economic relief package “to help all those affected by the measures we’re enacting.” (Noa Landau)

12:50 P.M. Health Ministry wants stricter policy

The Health Ministry called on the Israeli government to reimpose several restrictions to limit large crowds, as ministers meet to discuss measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

The ministry’s recommendations include shutting concert halls and event venues, which are currently allowed to host up to 250 people, closing down bars, gyms and places of worship, and limiting capacity at hotels and restaurants.

The Health Ministry also recommended to limit gatherings in parks and beaches and cancel summer camps for children older than 10.

The ministry did not make a recommendation regarding yeshivas, despite reports Sunday that 140 students got infected in one Bnei Brak yeshiva.

A vote on the proposed measures is expected later on Monday. (Ido Efrati)

11:45 P.M. Palestinian Prime Minister calls on Israel to close crossings

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on Israel to close all crossings into the West Bank, in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Speaking ahead of a government meeting in Ramallah, Shtayyeh said the Palestinian Authority would take the issue up with the United Nations, claiming Israel has prevented Palestinian forces from setting up road blocks in the West Bank to control citizens’ movement.

Shtayyeh also called on community leaders to urge the public to avoid holding large events, particularly weddings and funerals. (Jack Khoury)

11:42 A.M. West Bank records 64 new coronavirus cases

A Palestinian woman from the area of Hebron died on Monday from COVID-19, bringing the total death toll in the West Bank to 20, eleven of them died over the past week.

According to the latest figures from the Palestinian Health Ministry, there are currently 4,089 active coronavirus cases in the West Bank, the majority of them in the Hebron area. Eight patients are in serious condition, three of them are on life support. (Jack Khoury)

11:00 A.M. Israel records 204 new coronavirus cases

The number of people diagnosed with the coronavirus increased by 204 on Monday morning, according to data released by the Health Ministry, with 11,856 active cases in Israel. One more person died overnight, raising the death toll to 332. 

To date, 30,162 people tested positive for coronavirus in Israel. Nearly 19,000 tests were performed on Sunday, with 4 percent testing positive. (Haaretz)

10:30 A.M. Knesset panel approves doubling of fine for not wearing a mask

The Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved a cabinet request to increase the fine for failure to wear a facemask in public from 200 shekels ($58) to 500 shekels ($146). 

In addition to increasing the fine, the measure would give municipal inspectors authority to enforce coronavirus-related health regulations that currently only the police have the power to enforce. Committee chairman Yakov Asher of United Torah Judaism said the law clearly says that officers must exercise judgment at the scene. In addition, the committee rejected a cabinet request that would have limited the period during which fines must be paid from the current 60 days to 45

Before taking effect, the measure has to be passed on second and third votes by the full Knesset, which is expected later in the day Monday. 

The measure passed the committee by a vote of 7 in favor and 4 against along party lines, with coalition members supporting it and members of the opposition voting against. At the request of the opposition, the committee will vote on the legislation a second time as well on Monday. 

Karin Elharrar of the opposition Yesh Atid party said the cabinet was treating the Knesset as a rubber stamp to approve major policies. (Jonathan Lis)

9:45 A.M. Tourism agreement with Cyprus, Greece is 'off the table'

Israel's Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir told Kan Bet public radio that the agreement with Cyprus and Greece to renew tourism starting August is “off the table, as it seems,” citing growing infection rates in Israel.

Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said regular flights from Israel to Greece and Cyprus would be renewed by August 1. Since then, Israel has seen a record-breaking surge in new coronavirus cases. 

Last week, the European Union published a list of recommended 14 countries with which members could reopen their borders. Israel did not make the last, neither did the United States. (Haaretz)

SUNDAY

11:14 P.M. Israel records further coronavirus cases

The number of people diagnosed with the coronavirus increased by 719 on Sunday, according to data released by the Health Ministry, with 11,677 active cases in Israel. 86 people with the virus are in serious condition, and 27 are on ventilators. The death toll remains at 331. 

16,271 virus tests were conducted Friday. 4.4 percent of those tested received positive results, compared to 6.66 percent on Saturday. (Haaretz)

9:33 P.M. Psychometric exams cancelled, but may still go ahead pending government approval

The National Institute for Testing and Evaluation, which is responsible for the psychometric exam and additional admissions exams, on Sunday cancelled the exams scheduled to take place in the coming days. Earlier on Sunday, the center announced that following the Healthy Ministry decision to ban on-campus exams, and given the fact that the Council for Higher Education has not yet been convened to discuss exceptions to these regulations, exams which are regularly held in higher education institutions will not be held.

Higher Education Minister Zeev Elkin told Haaretz that the decision was made without consultation with the Council for Higher Education or the Health Ministry. He added that the ministry has not prohibited conducting psychometric exams. A study conducted by the Council for Higher Education, with the Health Ministry's legal advice, showed that psychometric exams can be excluded from the ban on on-campus exams because the ban concerns the institutions themselves.

The National Institute for Testing and Evaluation subsequently removed the notice cancelling the exams from their website, but they have not yet updated students as to whether the exams will go ahead. Center officials say they are awaiting official approval from the Health Ministry to permit on-campus exams. The exams conducted by the instutute are expected to begin on Tuesday. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

7:18 P.M. Coronavirus cases in Israel continue to climb

617 new people were diagnosed with the coronavirus on Sunday, with 11,540 active cases, according to data released by the Health Ministry. 86 of those are in serious conditions, with 27 on ventilators. Meanwhile, 331 people have died. 12,172 virus tests were conducted on Sunday since midnight, of which 5.07 percent were positive (compared to 6.66 percent on Saturday). (Haaretz)

7:15 P.M Tens of thousands in quarantine through Shin Bet tracking

The Health Ministry confirmed that tens on thousands of Israelis have been ordered to enter quarantine as of Thursday after the Shin Bet security service digital tracking system reported that they had been in close proximity with confirmed coronavirus patients. 

On Wednesday, the Knesset approved a bill allowing the use of the system, despite concerns voiced by Shin Bet officials over the use of its capabilities to tackle what they say is a purely civilian issue.

A source familiar with the system told Haaretz that it underwent very few changes since it was first used during the first outbreak of the virus. However, now that the country is no longer under lockdown, more people are coming into contact with others, which explains the much larger numbers of people ordered into quarantine over the past few days.

Responding to criticism by people ordered to self-quarantine who argue they were at home during the time they were allegedly in contact with somebody confirmed to have the virus and say they have no way of appealing the order, the Health Ministry said that they can in fact appeal it, but “waiting times are very long.” The ministry added that it is working to improve the services of its call center.

The source referred to allegations of system malfunctions, saying "the system is accurate, but of course there can be malfunctions because it is tailored to the war on terror and not health needs." He added that "there must therefore be an effective epidemiologic system that will respond to people who claim to have not been in contact with a [coronavirus] patient and examine the claim," he said. (Josh Breiner)

>> Read the full report

5:05 P.M. Knesset coronavirus committee approves new restrictions, limits gatherings to 50

The Knesset Coronavirus Committee approved new rules, forbidding gatherings of over 50 people in houses of worship, event venues and bars.

The new restrictions will not apply to workplaces, commercial premises and malls. The government will discuss maximum capacity in restaurants on Monday.

The rules, which will go into effect on Monday July 6, were submitted to the Knesset for approval, as a High Court ruling now requires parliamentary oversight of emergency regulations issued by the government.

The government also decided Friday to limit gatherings in “other closed spaces” including private homes, to 20 people. (Ido Efrati

3:18 P.M. Fourth coronavirus death reported in West Bank since last night

The Palestinian Health Ministry reported the fourth coronavirus death in the West Bank since last night. A 70-year-old woman from the Al Fawwar Refugee Camp near Hebron became the territory's 19th fatality to the disease. 

The ministry reported 208 new coronavirus cases since yesterday, 185 of them in Hebron. There are currently 3,771 active patients in the West Bank. (Jack Khoury)

2:00 P.M. 'Israel has days to contain coronavirus outbreak, or health services could collapse'

A panel of experts advising Israel’s National Security Council on the coronavirus pandemic recommended Saturday that Israel immediately announce a state of emergency, amid a spike in new cases.

Hospitals may collapse amid an increase in numbers of seriously ill patients and "the health system will be in danger if the outbreak is not contained in the coming week," the panel wrote. Additionally, the panel, which had issued similar warnings before, called for management of the crisis to be moved from the Health Ministry to the army. (Amos Harel)

>> Read the full report

1:41 P.M. Deputy Health Minister: Second wave more severe and dangerous than the first

Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish of Likud told the coronavirus cabinet that during the first wave of the outbreak, there were about 10,000 active cases, but that numbers have now passed 11,000. "We're in a second wave more severe and dangerous than the first," he said. 

He also said that the percentage of confirmed cases has risen from .5 percent in mid-May to five percent today out of all tests conducted. The number of diagnoses has doubled in 10 days, he said, and there is a much larger number of new severe cases. 

"We must take significant action to limit mass social events. We must pray outside and in small groups," he said. (Ido Efrati)

12:40 P.M. Netanyahu says new economic plan, further restrictions to come

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly government meeting that he intends to present a special economic plan in the coming days. It will include the self-employed, who were largely left out of relief plans and suffered heavy losses during the previous coronavirus lockdown.

Netanyahu also spoke of "a renewed coronavirus assault," adding that further steps will be taken in addition to the restriction announced last week. 

11:54 A.M. Coronavirus hospitalizations rise by 13% in less than a day

Israel recorded a 13% rise in coronavirus hospitalizations in less than a day, Health Ministry data shows. The number jumped from 296 on Saturday to 335 on Sunday morning. There are now 11,189 active COVID-19 cases, of which 86 are in severe condition and 29 are on ventilators.

Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen of Kahol Lavan also announced this morning that she has entered quarantine after an aid at her daughter's kindergarten tested positive, and her daughter had to enter isolation until her test results come in. (Jonathan Lis

11:45 A.M. Bar Ilan University student tests positive

A student at Bar Ilan University in central Israel tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend, after he took exams on campus. The university told 10 students who were in the classroom with him to enter quarantine, and the classroom will be disinfected. 

Starting today, all exams at the school will be conducted remotely. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

11:09 A.M. Israel records 196 new virus cases

The Health Ministry announced that the number of coronavirus cases in Israel had risen to 29,366 – an increase of 196 cases from the previous night. 

Israel has over 11,000 active cases, the vast majority of which are in mild condition; 86 people are in serious condition with 29 on ventilators. (Haaretz)

11:06 A.M. Epidemiological investigations units are overworked, understaffed

Top official Siegal Sadetzki requested additional human resources from the Health Ministry to conduct epidemiological investigations in light of the recent spike in cases and criticism that the state was not doing enough to map and break chains of infection.

In a letter to the Health Ministry's director general, Sadetzki wrote that district offices have carried out more than 20,000 epidemiological investigations since the coronavirus broke out in Israel.  It carried out 198 investigations on an average day, in April the average was 360, and in May 41. With the new rise in cases in June, the ministry’s offices did 220 investigations per day on average, with health staff working seven days a week, nearly 24 hours.

According to Sadetzki, there are currently 27 positions for epidemiological nurses and 29 positions for senior physicians who are meant to support epidemiological investigations. Sadetzki said not all the positions are filled, with the main obstacle being employment conditions, and requested the addition of 200 positions. (Ido Efrati)

9:32 A.M. 140 students diagnosed with coronavirus in Bnei Brak yeshiva 

The city of Bnei Brak confirmed that 140 students at the Beit Matityahu yeshiva tested positive for coronavirus. Most of the students have been moved to a coronavirus hotel, while 60 are still waiting for evacuation, the city said. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

9:00 A.M. Police to enforce regulations in buses, trains 

The Israel Police said its operation to enforce coronavirus regulations will be expanded countrywide and include enforcement in public transport, with thousands of police officers inspecting restaurants, event venues, shops, buses and trains. 

The police statement said the operation will focus on the most crowded venues, restaurants and bus lines, where infection on a large scale is most likely to take place. (Josh Breiner)

8:55 A.M. Israeli coronavirus death toll rises to 330

A 69-year-old man has died of COVID-19 at the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Sava, central Israel. He had been admitted to the coronavirus ward in March in severe condition. The hospital said that it allowed his family members to remain by his side through using protective means. (Bar Peleg)

8:20 A.M. West Bank death toll rises to 18

Two men died from coronavirus in Hebron on Saturday night. The total West Bank death toll stands at 18. (Jack Khoury)

7:20 A.M. West Bank death toll rises to 16

A 72-year-old woman from Nablus died from coronavirus. The death toll in the West Bank stands at 16. (Jack Khoury)

SATURDAY

10:50 P.M. Public Security Minister in quarantine

Israel's Public Security Minister Amir Ohana is in quarantine after coming in contact with Border Police Chief Yaakov Shabtai who tested positive for coronavirus on Friday, said a ministry statement. (Josh Breiner) 

10:25 P.M. Rivlin, Gantz and Kochavi not required to quarantine

President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and military Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi will not be required to quarantine, said the Health Ministry, after they came in contact with Border Police cheif Yaakov Shabtai who tested positive for coronavirus on Friday. (Haaretz)

10:20 P.M. Over 30,000 Israelis ordered into quarantine as digital tracking of coronavirus patients resumes

The Health Ministry sent messages on Thursday and Friday instructing more than 30,000 people to self-quarantine after the Shin Bet security service cellphone tracking system reported that they had been in close proximity to confirmed coronavirus patients.

However, some of those who were ordered into quarantine say they were at home at the time in question and were not in contact with anyone, but that they have no means of appealing the order.

The messages were sent after the Knesset on Wednesday passed a temporary legislation allowing the Health Ministry to avail itself of Shin Bet assistance to locate people who had been in the vicinity of confirmed patients. (Josh Breiner and Bar Peleg)

>> Read the full report

9:45 P.M. 11 cases diagnosed at Tel Aviv assisted living facility

Eleven people have been diagnosed at the Palace Tel Aviv assisted living facility. All residents in the facility were tested after one was found to be positive. A caregiver at the facility was identified as the source of the infections. (Haaretz)

9:30 P.M. Two Jerusalem prison officers diagnosed with coronavirus

Two prison officers at the Jerusalem Detention Center have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The facility has suspended taking in new prisoners, the prison authority said, and all prisoners and prison officers will be tested and, if necessary, enter quarantine.

9:20 P.M. 237 new cases diagnosed in West Bank

There were 237 new coronavirus cases diagnosed in the West Bank on Saturday, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, bringing the total number of active cases to 3,588. Of the 237 new cases, 173 were in the Hebron area. (Haaretz)

9:30 P.M. Israel records 977 new virus cases, 4 new deaths

The Health Ministry announced that the number of cases of the coronavirus in Israel had risen to 29,032 – an increase of 977 cases from the previous evening. Over the past 24-hours, Israel has recorded more new cases than Italy and Spain and France combined. In addition, four coronavirus patients died, bringing the death toll to 330.

Israel has 10,929 active cases, the vast majority of which are in mild condition; 84 people are in serious condition with 32 on ventilators.

7:05 P.M. Nearly 1,000 cases in West Bank are in minors

There are 994 coronavirus cases in those under the age of 18 in the West Bank, including 406 under the age of nine, the Palestinian Health Ministry’s figures show. Only 95 are over the age of 70. A rise in cases has not yet been reflected in a rise in hospitalizations and serious cases. (Jack Khoury)

6:00 P.M. Universities in Israel move exams online

Israel's higher education system announced Saturday that exams will no longer be administered on campus starting July 5, and will fully move online instead, a day before the government order banning in-person exams is to go into effect. 

The decision comes after a dispute between institutions of higher education and government orders. A committee within the Higher Education Council had drafted an outline on Firday, according to which 50 percent of exams in the sciences will be held in-person, and the rest will be administered remotely. The proposal also called for 25 percent of exams in other departments to be held on campus.

Higher Education Minister Zeev Elkin and the Health Ministry are demanded that no more than 10 percent of exams be held in classrooms. (Lior Dattel)

5:15 P.M. Border Police chief tests positive; Rivlin, Gantz, Kochavi may need to quarantine

Yaakov Shabtai tested positive for coronavirus on Friday and is in stable condition. The police and Health Ministry began an epidemiological investigation to locate anyone who had been in contact with him in recent days.

Shabati attended a ceremony on Thursday that included, among others, President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, military Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, MK Miki Zohar and other senior officials. The attendees maintained social distancing regulations and wore face masks, but they may still be required to enter quarantine.

Also, on Wednesday, Shabati attended a border commanders ceremony in the Occupied Territories, an event in which senior police officers were present. During the week Shabtai met with several senior commanders, some of whom are expected to quarantine as well. (Josh Breiner)

1:05 P.M. Designated coronavirus ward opens in Hebron hospital

A spokesperson for the Palestinian Health Ministry said medical teams have begun monitoring confirmed coronavirus patients, aiming to break the infection chain and put those infected in quarantine. In addition, a ward designated to treat coronavirus patients opened in a state-owned hospital in Hebron, where the number of confirmed patients in the highest in the West Bank.

The spokesperson added that the lockdown imposed on Friday throughout the West Bank, along with the implementation of recommendations to prevent infections, are supposed to curb the increasing infection and number of coronavirus patients in the West Bank.

Out of the 3,348 active cases in the West Bank, 13 are in serious condition, of which 2 are on ventilators. (Jack Khoury)

12:33 P.M. Palestinian woman dies of COVID-19, raising toll in West Bank to 15

The Palestinian Health Ministry said that another Palestinian woman had died from the coronavirus, bringing the death toll in the West Bank to 15. 

Over the past 24 hours, the number of confirmed cases has risen in the West Bank by 244, and the number of active cases now stands at 3,348, with most cases diagnosed in the Hebron area. (Jack Khoury)

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