Israel is in the midst of an extensive vaccination campaign, and is beginning to see a drop in COVID infections and severe cases. Israel exited its third nationwide lockdown, but inbound and outbound flights remain suspended except for special cases. So far, 5,526 Israelis have died of the virus.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip received 1,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, though it may take at least a few more months for their campaigns to reach enough members of the population. 1,629 people have died so far in the West Bank, while 543 have died in Gaza.
11:40 P.M. COVID ‘Green Pass’ app crashes evening before launch
- Full recovery lags for half of COVID patients, Israeli study shows
- Health Ministry pushes legislation to bar unvaccinated Israelis from certain jobs
- Israel still refuses to vaccinate Palestinian workers, but lets them return to West Bank homes
The Health Ministry’s ‘Green Pass’ application, which will allow Israelis to access several reopened venues, has crashed due to high traffic the evening before its slated launch on Sunday.
The Green Pass may be obtained by anybody one week after they received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine starting Sunday through the "Ramzor" (Traffic Light) app. After selecting the "Green Pass Issuance" option, those who are eligible to get it, will receive a moving animated image (GIF) of the Pass, indicating that the process has been completed. Once the Pass is issued, it permanently remains in the app.
The Health Ministry said it was aware of the issues and is working on fixing them.
The plan includes separate regulations for places that will open to the general public, including shops, museums and libraries, and those that will operate under the so-called Green Pass regulations, opening their doors only to people who have recovered from COVID or received both vaccine doses against it.
Green Pass venues include houses of worship, cultural events, gyms, hotels and swimming pools. To enter, those eligible to do so will be required to present valid ID and a so-called Green Pass, vaccination certificate, or official document stating they had the virus and recovered, as relevant. (Oded Yaron)
6:57 P.M. Israel has 'willingness' to vaccinate Palestinian workers, but not sure yet
Israel has yet to decide on vaccinating Palestinian workers in the country, officials told Haaretz, a day after the Palestinian Authority said Israel has agreed to do so.
Israeli officials stressed that any such decision would have to be approved by the government or political leadeship, and while “there is willingness” to advance the move, no decision has been made so far.
Israeli and Palestinian health officials met in Ramallah on Friday and discussed cooperation in efforts to curb the spread of the virus, and particularly new strains of it. (Hagar Shezaf)
6:38 P.M. Pfizer vaccine is 98.9-percent effective in preventing death, Israeli data shows
Data taken up to February 13, 2021 shows overwhelming success in preventing severe illness in people who have received two doses of the vaccine, Israel's Health Ministry said.
This also includes a 95.8 percent success rate in preventing the illness altogether. (Haaretz)
9:08 A.M. Israel secretly agreed to purchase COVID vaccines for Syria in deal to free Israeli
Israel has agreed to purchase hundreds of thousands of Russian-made COVID vaccines that will be given to Syria, according to foreign reports. The pledge to buy the vaccines appeared in a secret clause of a deal with the Assad regime to release an Israeli woman who crossed the border into Syria.
Syria's official news agency, SANA, denied reports of the vaccine agreement, saying that it was a lie meant to portray Israel as a humanitarian nation and improve its image. (Amos Harel)
10:30 P.M. U.S. 'welcomes reports of vaccinations in the West Bank'
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the U.S. "welcome[s] reports of vaccinations in the West Bank and Israel's provision of vaccine for Palestinian healthcare workers in the West Bank, and we welcome it because we believe it's important for Palestinians to achieve increased access to COVID vaccines in the weeks ahead."
Price added, "We are focused on ensuring the distribution of a safe and effective vaccine to the American people. But we know we can't put the scourge of COVID-19 behind us until the world has access to these same safe and effective vaccines. And we know that because we need look no further than the variants to this disease that have emerged."
"So whether it is in the context of the Palestinian territories, whether it is in the context of countries that may have access to that the vaccine through the COVAX facility, which of course the United States pledged an ambitious amount to today – $2 billion immediately, $4 billion over time – this is something that we are working to see happen," Price went on to say. (Ben Samuels)
8:52 P.M. Palestinian Authority says Israel agrees to vaccinate Palestinian workers
The Palestinian Health Ministry said Israel has agreed to vaccinate 100,000 Palestinian workers in Israel, following a meeting between Palestinian and Israeli health officials. According to the ministry, the sides also agreed to work together to curb the spread of new coronavirus strains.
The Palestinian Authority also asked Israel to ensure vehicles used by the Health Ministry are free to move around the West Bank, referring particularly to the area of Masafer Yatta, in the South Hebron Hills, where Palestinians say Israel has obstructed health workers' movement.
Israel has refused so far to vaccinate Palestinian laborers in its area. (Jack Khoury)
7:14 P.M. U.S. data shows no safety issues with vaccines so far
The two COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States have reassuring safety profiles with no concerning new issues found in data collected from the first month of vaccinations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Friday.
After administration of 13.8 million doses of the Pfizer/ BioNTech and Moderna Inc vaccines to the U.S. population, most reports indicated non-serious side effects of the type that had been expected, such as headaches and fatigue. No deaths have been attributed to the vaccines, the data showed.
The CDC collected data between Dec. 14, 2020 and Jan. 13, 2021 from both an existing national surveillance system for adverse events and its own safety monitoring system established for COVID-19 vaccines.
During that time, 6,994 reports of adverse events after vaccination were recorded in the national surveillance system with 90.8% of them classified as non-serious and 9.2% as serious.
Rare cases of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction requiring medical attention, were reported with both vaccines at a rate of 4.5 cases per million doses administered, down from the agency's previously reported rate of 5 per million doses administered.
A total of 113 deaths were reported and available information, including from death certificates and autopsy reports, found no causal link between COVID-19 vaccination and fatalities, CDC said. (Reuters)
6:24 P.M. Pfizer says vaccine can be stored at higher temperatures
Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE have asked the U.S. health regulator to relax requirements for their COVID-19 vaccine to be stored at ultra-low temperatures, potentially allowing for it to be kept in pharmacy freezers, they said on Friday.
An approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could send a strong signal to other regulators around the world that may potentially ease distribution of the shot in lower-income countries.
The companies have submitted new temperature data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to support an update to the current label that would allow vaccine vials to be stored at -25 to -15 degrees Celsius (-13°F to 5°F) for a total of two weeks. (Reuters)
5 P.M. Dead Sea hotel zone designated as a 'green island'
The Ein Bokek-Hamei Zohar hotel zone along the Dead Sea was designated as a "green island" by the ministerial committee on the coronavirus crisis on Friday, said the Prime Minister's Office and Health Ministry in a statement.
Acommodation facilities located in the zone may now open their doors to certain guests, as well as operate on-site swimming pools, dining rooms and houses of worship. In addition to those who have recovered from COVID-19 and those who have been vaccinated against it, anyone with a negative coronavirus test result obtained 72 hours before first arriving to a hotel may be hosted by these facilites.
Committee members approved the designation on the phone. (Almog Ben Zikri)
8:00 A.M. Israeli data indicates Pfizer's COVID shot 85 percent effective after first dose
The first dose of Pfizer Inc and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is 85 percent effective, a study of Israeli healthcare workers published in The Lancet medical journal has found.
The research was conducted on more than 7,000 health care workers who were vaccinated at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Researchers saw an 85 percent reduction of symptomatic COVID-19 between 15 and 28 days after they were given the vaccine.
Overall infections, including among asymptomatic patients, were reduced by 75 percent. (Ido Efrati and Reuters)
8:55 P.M. Israel extends ban on inbound and outbound flights
The coronavirus cabinet extended the restrictions banning inbound and outbound flights until March 6.
Under the ban, which was announced by the cabinet on January 25 and was supposed to be in effect until February 20, planes of foreign airlines are not allowed to land in Israel and Israeli airlines aren't allowed to operate regular flights. (Judy Maltz)
4:01 P.M. Palestinian workers in Israel allowed to return to West Bank
The Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said Thursday that Palestinian workers currently residing in Israel are allowed to return to their homes in the West Bank.
Since the start of the third lockdown, some 30,000 Palestinian workers have been sleeping in Israel on a daily basis and assessments are that many others return to the West Bank each day illegally. (Hagar Shezaf)
3:10 P.M. Israel extends quarantine hotels for returning citizens
The government approved Thursday an extension of the mandated quarantine in hotels to all returning Israelis.
Those who are required to quarantine can shorten the period from 14 to 10 days at the hotel if they take two coronavirus tests that come out negative. Citizens who can provide vaccination documentation or proof of COVID recovery upon arrival at Ben Gurion airport will be exempt from quarantine. (Haaretz)
2:05 P.M. UAE to supply 20,000 doses of Russian COVID vaccine to Gaza
A shipment of 20,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine are expected to arrive in the coming days to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and without Israeli involvement, the Palestinian Authority announced Thursday.
The Russian-made Sputnik V vaccines will be transfered to Gaza through Egypt by the UAE.
On Wednesday, Israel allowed the transfer of 1,000 Russian-made Sputnik V vaccines through the Kerem Shalom border crossing into Gaza – the first batch of vaccines to have arrived in the Strip. The vaccines were donated by Russia and transferred from the Beitunia border crossing in the West Bank with the approval of the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh announced Thursday that the shipment was donated by the UAE with the aim of aiding the citizens of Gaza during this critical stage of the pandemic. Shtayyeh said that the distribution of the vaccines will prioritize Gaza medical officials, the elderly and the sick. (Jack Khoury)
1:10 P.M. Health Ministry, police discuss enforcement plan for falsified vaccination certificates
The Health Ministry held a meeting on Thursday with senior police officers to discuss enforcement and punishment for issuers and users of falsified green vaccination certificates, said the Health Ministry's director-general Chezy Levy, as Israel continues to the next phase of COVID lockdown exit plan.
"We are disgusted by the false information undermining the foundation for vaccination that does not serve the public health," Levy said.
Levy emphasized that health remains the ministry's number one priority and incentive also at this point in time, when immunizations, reduced infection rates and proper conduct mean that we are now "facing a point in time when we can reopen some of the activities we all so desperately want to participate in."
As for the activities to be reopened, he explicitly referred to "the pool, the gym, a restaurant, all sorts of activities in the future, also abroad." (Ido Efrati)
1:00 P.M. Health Minister: Israel won't fine unvaccinated, but won't be allowed to attend events
"There is no, and there will not be any, obligation to get vaccinated in the State of Israel, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Thursday, amid controversies revolving around whether or not Israel can force residents to vaccinate, noting that it is "their right" to choose not to get vaccinated.
"There will also be no personal sanctions against anyone who is not vaccinated," Edelstein said, noting that Israel "does not do such things" and that getting vaccinated is "a great privilege given to all of us and does not exist in many countries in the world."
That said, Edelstein also said that beginning on Sunday, Israel will green light and hold events in which hundreds of people who have been vaccinated can participate, and emphasized that masks are still important.
Edelstein said that the trial run of opening thes kinds of events over the next two weeks is anticipated to have glitches, and as such requested that "mountains not be made of mole hills." He also noted that nearly three million people have downloaded the ministry's Green Certificate (Tav Yarok) app.
Edelstein also noted that the ministry is aware of the possibility that people will make and use forged certificates, and emphasized that those who do could wind up in jail under any of a number of legal prohibitions that already exist. (Ido Efrati)