Coronavirus Israel Live: Death Toll Hits 4,500 as Cabinet Mulls Longer Lockdown

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Burial society workers prepare the body of a COVID fatality in Jerusalem, January 25, 2021.
Burial society workers prepare the body of a COVID fatality in Jerusalem, January 25, 2021.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
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Haaretz

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After weeks of a steady rise in coronavirus cases, infection rates in Israel are showing positive signs amid a third national lockdown, while an ambitious vaccination campaign is underway.

Why Bibi won't stand up to ultra-Orthodox COVID scofflaws: LISTEN

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Meanwhile, Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip await vaccines, which could take at least a few more months to get to a big enough part of society. Infection rates in both territories, however, are being kept relatively low.

Israel currently has 74,323 active cases; 4,501 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 4,355 active cases and 1,464 deaths, and in Gaza 4,722 active cases and 513 deaths.

LIVE UPDATES

9:58 P.M. 900 Holocaust survivors died of COVID-19 in Israel last year

The coronavirus pandemic claimed the lives of 900 Holocaust survivors in Israel in 2020, with a total of 5,300 survivors testing positive for COVID-19, statistics released by Israel’s Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority on Tuesday showed.

The authority is the government department that oversees compensation for victims of the genocide committed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. It published these statistics on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. According to its data, victims of coronavirus made up five percent of the 17,000 survivors who died during the year. (Allison Kaplan Sommer)

>> Click here to read the full report

8:34 P.M. Israel passes 4,500 COVID deaths; Palestinian deaths near 2,000

4,501 Israelis with COVID-19 have died since the outbreak began, Health Ministry figures show.

Israel currently has 74,323 active cases, with 1,799 patients hospitalized. 1,173 of them are considered in serious condition and 313 on life support.

The West Bank has confirmed 1,464 COVID-related deaths, with 513 more in the Gaza Strip. In both territories, the number of active cases has been in decline over the past days, with fewer than 5,000 cases for each of them. (Haaretz)

8:11 P.M. Three elderly residents die amid COVID-19 outbreak in northern Israeli facility

Some 40 residents of a geriatric facility in northern Israel’s Kibbutz Beit Ha’emek near Nahariya have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past two weeks. Three of these peoplel have died.

The outbreak at Atzulat Beit Ha’emek began about a week after most residents had already received their first of two doses of a COVID-19 inoculation. About 15 staff memberrs have also become ill with the virus.

The facility’s director, Bashir Khoury, said the outbreak occurred after an employee was diagnosed as a carrier of the more contagious British variant of the virus. (Noa Shpigel)

>> Click here to read the full report

3:50 P.M. Israel to cap coronavirus fines at 10,000 shekels 

Israel's coalition government has distributed a new version of the law on coronavirus fines, limiting the circumstances in which a fine can be increased and setting a ceiling of 10,000 shekels ($3,050) for charges.

Under the proposal, the fine would only be imposed on the body responsible for the violation. The number of people in a gathering that would constitute a violation is yet to be determined. (Jonathan Lis)

3:35 P.M. Government extends quarantine in gov't facilities for arrivals from countries with high infection rate

The ministerial committee on the country’s coronavirus response has approved a 14-day extension on quarantines in government facilities for all arrivals from South Africa, Zambia, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates, the Prime Minister’s Office and Health Ministry said Tuesday in a joint statement. 

The extension will take effect on Thursday.

The committee also approved the recommendation that people returning from Portugal will also have to go into quarantine in government facilities, starting from the same date. (Ido Efrati)

1:54 P.M. Ultra-Orthodox protesters attack Fox News team in Jerusalem

Dozens of ultra-Orthodox locals attacked a Fox News camera crew that tried to enter the Haredi neighborhood of Mea Shea'rim in Jerusalem on Tuesday. 

A witness told Haaretz that the crew members were in life-threatening danger. "They threw stones, it was terrifying. They screamed 'kill them,'" the witness said. 

One local helped the crew safely leave the neighborhood and meet up with police just outside the neighborhood. 

Meanwhile, another press photographer was attacked in the neighborhood by protesters. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

1:34 P.M. WHO issues new directives regarding Moderna vaccine, including review of use on pregnant women 

 A World Health Organization (WHO) panel of experts recommended on Tuesday that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine be given in two doses at an interval of 28 days, which could be extended under exceptional circumstances to 42 days.

The WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, known as SAGE, advised in a series of recommendations issued after reviewing data that the vaccine not be used on pregnant women unless they are health workers or have conditions putting them at high risk. (Reuters)

12:11 P.M. Health Ministry ask to extend lockdown by at least a week

Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said he would ask to extend the nationwide lockdown for at least another week on Tuesday, addressing a query forwarded by members of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. 

"The only figure that shows the effectiveness of the lockdown the drop in the spread of infection," he said, adding that "the figures are still high, and there isn't the notable drop that we saw in previous lockdowns after the R number dropped."

"We will request to extend the lockdown at least another week until we see a reduction in the number of patients in serious condition," Edelstein said. (Jonathan Lis)

11:57 A.M. Ultra-Orthodox protesters harass officers in Modi'in Illit, police report 

Dozens of residents gathered tp protest restrictions to disrupt enforcing coronavirus regulations in the West Bank settlement of Modi'in Illit on Tuesday, police said. Officers detained three people for questioning. 

Police said locals stood on the road to block police cars from passing, clashing with officers dispersing the crowd. (Haaretz)

11:30 A.M. Three detained amid police clashes with residents in Beit Shemesh

Hundreds of protesters hurled stones and eggs at officers who had arrived to enforce coronavirus regulations in the city of Beit Shemesh, leading to three detentions, police reported on Tuesday.

Police said that they were continuing to work to restore order and had given out several fines for violations of the coronavirus lockdown regulations. (Haaretz)

11:01 A.M. Eight detained as Haredim clash with police over enforcement of regulations in Jerusalem

Police enforcing coronavirus regulations in Jerusalem clashed with residents of Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox Mea Shea'rim neighborhood, and detained eight suspects over disorderly conduct.

According to a police statement, the suspects were taken in for questioning after police cars were pelted with stones and other objects and roads were blocked with trash cans that had been set on fire. The police added that a bus had been damaged after residents blocked the road. (Haaretz)

10:47 A.M. Many ultra-Orthodox schools remain open despite lockdown regulations

Dozens of ultra-Orthodox education institutions are open Tuesday, despite lockdown regulations. Most of these belong to extreme Haredi factions or the mainstream Hasidic community, and have remained open throughout the lockdown that began in December.  

In recent days, several boy's schools belonging to the moderate Lithuanian – non-Hasidic – part of the ultra-Orthodox community have reopened, after its leader Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky approved the move. Some of these institutions partially opened with smaller classroom sizes, and others opened just grades seven and eight.

Schools for girls remain closed within the the  "Lithuanian" non-Hasidic community, as well as within the Sephardi-Haredi community. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

8:20 A.M. Vaccine side effects unknown to Pfizer appear in Israeli patients, senior medical official says

The head of the infectious diseases unit at Sheba Medical Center, Professor Galia Rahav, told the Kan public broadcaster that Israeli patients have experienced side effects after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine that were previously unknown to Pfizer.

Rahav said that patients who had received the Pfizer vaccine had come to the hospital complaining of numbness or tingling and facial paralysis, which were not reported in clinical trials.

"When we noticed it and started speaking about it, they started receiving reports [of similar symptoms]," Rahav said. "At first they said these were hysterical women, but apparently not, because we're seeing the effects in men as well."

The report did not specify how common these side effects were, how many patients were affected or the severity of the symptoms. (Haaretz)

12 A.M. Israel's airport shutdown goes into effect

Israel has banned most inbound and outbound flights, from midnight between Monday and Tuesday until the end of the country's nationwide lockdown, in an attempt to slow the spread of novel coronavirus variants.

Under the ban, planes of foreign airlines are not allowed to land in Israel until January 31, when Israel's third and current nationwide coronavirus lockdown is slated to end. In addition, exiting the country is limited to exceptional circumstances.

Israeli airlines aren't allowed to operate regular flights under these restrictions. (Judy Maltz)

>> Click here to read the full report

MONDAY

10:45 P.M. Health Ministry seeks to extend lockdown by a week

Health Ministry officials have recommended in talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials to extend Israel's nationwide lockdown, set to end on Sunday, by another week.

Discussions are set to resume on Tuesday. (Ido Efrati and Judy Maltz)

9:18 P.M. Bank of Israel opposes Netanyahu-Katz grants plan

The Bank of Israel on Monday slammed the economic plan set forth by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minsiter Yisrael Katz. The two hadn’t consulted with the Bank of Israel governor before announcing it.

The central bank commented that it received the plan’s principles shortly before its publication. During a meeting in the research department it emerged that the plan lacked many details that would allow a professional assessment of its costs and efficacy. In wake of the discussion, the central bank asked the Finance Ministry and other offices for relevant details. (Nati Tucker)

>> Click here to read the full report

9:03 P.M. Facebook blocks Netanyahu chatbot asking for details of Israelis unwilling to vaccinate

Facebook said on Monday it removed a post and suspended a messenger bot from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's page, after it posted that he wanted phone numbers to call and convince people to get COVID-19 vaccinations.

Netanyahu on Thursday posted a video on Twitter encouraging senior citizens to get vaccinated and ended with the line: "If you know someone who is nervous about getting vaccinated, send me their name and phone number, maybe they'll get a surprise phone call from me and I'll convince them."

The Facebook bot posted a similar line to the prime minister's page, which was later removed by Facebook over privacy concerns. The video was still up on Twitter. (Reuters)

>> Click here to read the full report

8:00 P.M. Education minister presents post-lockdown proposal to Israeli mayors, reiterates claim that closing schools is detrimental to health

Education Minister Yoav Gallant presented his post-lockdown proposal in a conversation with Israeli mayors on Monday, during which he reiterated his claim that opening schools does not increase infection rates, but closing them is detrimental to mental, physical and emotional health.   

Under Gallant's plan, immediately after Israeli's current lockdown ends, all kindergartens and schools would reopen in a format similar to the one in place immediately before the lockdown began. Kindergartens, grades 1-4 and grades 11-12 would reopen full-time, with fifth through tenth graders returning to school part-time, for half the week.

During the conversation, Gallant pointed a finger at the Health Ministry, claiming that it has refused to share data with the Education Ministry regarding how many teachers have been inoculated. He also reiterated claims he made previously, that opening schools does not lead to more infection, but closing them results in mental and emotional harm, violent behavior, eating disorders and other illnesses. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

7:10 P.M. Israeli health maintenance organization shares ‘very encouraging’ preliminary vaccine data

Maccabi Healthcare Services announced on Monday evening that only 20 out of 128,600 of its patient-clients who received both doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine were infected with the virus at least a week after having received the second and final dose. 

The preliminary data is “very encouraging,” said Maccabi, one of Israel’s leading health maintenance organizations (HMO), noting that all 20 of those infected have experienced only mild symptoms and most of them were infected following exposure to a confirmed carrier. (Ido Efrati)

7 P.M. Knesset votes for bill to increase fines for violations of coronavirus regulations

The Knesset approved in a first of three votes of a bill that would increase penalties for coronavirus restriction violations, doubling the maximum amount from 5,000 shekels (about $1,525) to 10,000 for those who open businesses, places open to the public, or hold events in violation of the coronavirus restrictions. Events would include parties, conferences, ceremonies, including religious ceremonies, as well as festivals, organized trips, sporting events and art shows.

52 lawmakers voted in favor and 23 voting against the bill, which still has to pass two more votes to become a law.

It has been referred to the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which will prepare it for the remaining votes.

The proposal includes a possibility that those operating schools would be subject to even greater fines, depending on the extent of the violation and the intensity of the danger posed by it. For example, a school that opens its doors in contravention of the restrictions for a large number of students would receive a higher fine than institutions open to a relatively low number of students. (Jonathan Lis)

6:04 P.M. What medical data is Israel sharing with Pfizer?

The coronavirus pandemic has created much public discussion on issues that would normally only interest the scientific community, such as the infection coefficient or herd immunity.

In light of the data-sharing agreement between Israel’s Health Ministry and Pfizer for its COVID-19 vaccine, considerable attention has been paid in recent days to the matter of research using medical data, a substantial chunk of which is conducted in Israel by designated institutes belonging to the health maintenance organizations. There have also been questions asked about existing protections to safeguard the privacy of the public whose personal information is being used for the vaccine research.

This discussion seemingly splits into two camps. One claims that personal information is totally protected and information-sharing can benefit all of humankind. The other declares that it’s impossible to completely protect the information while simultaneously using it to conduct research of significant practical benefit. (Asaf Ronel and Ido Efrati)

>> Click here to read the full report

4:00 P.M. Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine expected to be protective against new mutations

Moderna Inc said on Monday its COVID-19 vaccine produced virus-neutralizing antibodies against new mutations of COVID-19 found in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

A two-dose regimen of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be protective against emerging strains detected to date, the company said. (Reuters)

3:50 P.M. Israel's current lockdown might not be its last, says coronavirus czar, citing high burden on hospitals

The current lockdown might not be Israel's last, due to the spread of COVID-19 mutations, coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash said in a radio interview on Monday.

At the same time, Ash said that the Health Ministry has formulated a two-stage exit lockdown plan and although the timing has not yet been determined, three versions of the ministry's plan – one longer and two shorter – will be submitted to the government. 

In the first stage, the economy and schools would reopen, although as Ash noted, the first stage may be more limited in scope, depending on infection and hospitalization rates. In the second, those who have been inoculated will be allowed to engage in various activities, subject to the terms of the 'green passport.'

"So long as the burden on the hospitals remains high, we won't be able to exit the lockdown without fear," said Ash. According to him, the burden on hospitals, due to the rise in the number of patients in serious condition, has made exiting lockdown complex. The reality created by the spread of the mutations of the virus, and especially the British one, "requires us to proceed cautiously from this lockdown," he said. (Ido Efrati)

11:37 A.M. Haredi schools, institutions remain open

Dozens of Haredi educational institutions were fully operational on Monday in ultra-Orthodox cities, despite the lockdown regulations.

Both boys’ and girls’ institutions belonging to radical Haredi sects have remained open since the lockdown began, as well as those belonging to certain Hasidic sects and the Lithuanian sect, upon orders from the latter’s Chief Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky.

Some of the institutions have opened in a reduced format, and some just for grades seven and eight. Lithuanian girls’ institutions remain closed, as do the majority of schools belonging to the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox community.

Over the past few days, police forces have been active in Haredi neighborhoods with a large radical ultra-Orthodox presence in Beit Shemesh, Ashdod and Jerusalem, but most of the institutions in these areas remain open. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

11:00 A.M. Israel will need to close skies for weeks, not days, Health Ministry official says

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the Health Ministry’s head of public services, said Monday morning that in order to curb the spread of new coronavirus variants in the country, Israel will have to ban incoming and outgoing flights for weeks, rather than the six days that the cabinet approved Sunday.

In a Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meeting, Alroy-Preis said that closing the skies temporarily will not suffice, and that Israel will need much more time to inoculate enough people against the coronavirus. The committee convened in order to approve the cabinet’s order to stop incoming and outgoing flights for six days. (Jonathan Lis)

7:41 A.M. Over one million people have received second vaccine dose, health minister says

"Israel keeps leading the world," Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Twitter on Monday morning, with the number of doses given reaching 3.7 million. 

According to official figures quoted by Edelstein, 2.590 million Israeli residents have now been vaccinated, of whom more than a million also received a second dose.

Despite the progress of the vaccination campaign, the mortality rate from coronavirus in January remains the highest since the outbreak of the pandemic. According Health Ministry data published this morning, there have been more a thousand deaths in Israel since the beginning of the month, with the total death toll reaching 4,419. The number of patients currently hospitalized in critical condition is 1,140, of which 358 are on ventilators. (Haaretz)

6:00 A.M. Effects of new variants on children and expecting mothers still unclear, doctors say

There is a renewed focus on how children and pregnant women, groups that until recently were considered relatively safe from severe forms of the coronavirus, fare with the disease. That assumption has changed, leaving physicians with a wealth of theories but not enough clear answers.

The number of children and pregnant women with severe COVID-19 is still low, albeit higher than in the first months of the pandemic. But add to this the need to protect these groups and the possibility (not yet supported by data) that mutations could make the virus more dangerous to children, and you get a disturbing picture, particularly in light of the fact that the vaccines have not been approved for children under the age of 16. (Ido Efrati)

>> Click here to read the full report

SUNDAY

10:51 P.M. Haredi Knesset members slam police response to Bnei Brak riots, urge police to leave city

Knesset members from the Haredi parties held an emergency meeting in the Bnei Brak municipality on Sunday night, after riots broke out in the ultra-Orthodox city in protest of police enforcement of coronavirus regulations on Thursday and Sunday evenings.

During the meeting, they roundly criticized the police for their actions during the riots, including one case in which an officer, surrounded by protesters pelting them with stones, fired his gun into the air because he feared for his life.

Mayor Abraham Rubinstein said that “The Bnei Brak Municipality, in all its parts and partners, condemns and decries the acts of violence against Israel’s regime equivocally and in every forum. Every act of violence against a person, property, and against every figure is an unforgivable crime that we do not agree with in any form.” He said that the events will be handled “educationally and rabinically,” and that community leaders are responsible.

He also called on the police to leave the city, and to “let the city carry on its way of life as usual, as it has for decades.”

Yaakov Litzman, chairman of the United Torah Judaism list, said that people violate coronavirus guidelines in Tel Aviv and at protests against the prime minister as well. He condemned the police and called for an independent inquiry into the report.

The chairman of the Knesset finance committee, UTJ MK Moshe Gafni, also harshly condemned the police’s actions. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

7:39 P.M. Health Ministry identifies four cases of Los Angeles COVID strain

The Health Ministry said on Sunday four cases of a new COVID-19 variant originating from Los Angeles, California had been detected in Israel. (Haaretz)

5:20 P.M. Police arrest four in Bnei Brak in attack on cops

Police arrested four in Bnei Brak Sunday afternoon on suspicion of attacking police officers in an incident in the ultra-Orthodox city on Thursday night.

The police said they opened an investigation after receiving a report that three officers were targeted in a “severe attack” while carrying out their duties.

According to the police statement, a number of suspects had gathered around a vehicle in which the on-duty officers were seated, and threw stones and planks at them, causing injury.

After the four suspects were identified by a police investigation, which is still ongoing, they were arrested and brought in for questioning.  

Tensions have run high between members of the ultra-Orthodox community and police during the coronavirus lockdown, as police attempt to rein in illegal gatherings and enforce the regulations. Many Haredi educational institutions have reopened despite the ongoing lockdown. 

4:30 P.M. Israel halts inbound and outbound flights to curb spread of new COVID variants

The cabinet approved Sunday the halting of inbound and outbound flights, beginning at midnight between Monday and Tuesday and lasting until January 31, in an attempt to slow the spread of novel coronavirus variants.

According to the proposal, planes of foreign airlines will not be allowed to land in Israel beginning at midnight between Monday and Tuesday until January 31, when Israel's coronavirus lockdown is meant to end. In addition, exiting the country will be limited to exceptional circumstances. (Judy Maltz)

Click here to read the full article

1:15 P.M. Israel record highest monthly COVID deaths in January 

The mortality rate in January was the highest since the outbreak of the pandemic, new data from Israel's Health Ministry reveals.

Since the start of the month, 1,036 Israelis died from the coronavirus crisis. January has the highest number of deaths from the coronavirus since October 2020, when 970 died. Since the start of the pandemic, 4,631 Israelis have died from coronavirus. (Ido Efrati) 

11:04 A.M. Four cops wounded as clashes erupt between police and ultra-Orthodox

Four cops were wounded in clashes between ultra-Orthodox residents and police in the port city of Ashdod. Police confirmed the reports of the injured officers, adding that four were arrested.

Police forces arrived at the Grodno Hasidic institution in the city to prevent studies from taking place in breach of coronavirus regulations. “Throughout last week, police had enforced the regulations at the site, whose heads had refused to stop its activities. A crowd gathered at the site and issued calls against the police, and attempts were made by some of the crowd to force their way into the institution,” the police said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of ultra-Orthodox residents also clashed with police in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea She’arim, throwing stones, eggs and garbage at them.

The police arrived at the scene to disperse a gathering held in violation against coronavirus regulations at a synagogue belonging to the Satmar Hasidic sect.

The police said that “Dozens of people gathered at the site, and hundreds more joined following police activity there.” The police are using water cannons to disperse the crowd and so far one arrest has been made.

Ultra-Orthodox institutions also opened Sunday in the ultra-orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak.

On Saturday night, the leader of the Viznitz Hasidic sect ordered all of its institutions to open on Sunday, in breach of the coronavirus regulations. Viznitz is the third largest Hasidic community in Israel, and thousands of children are enrolled in its schools. (Aaron Rabinowitz, Bar Peleg and Almog Ben Zikri)

SATURDAY

10:45 P.M. Netanyahu to propose stopping all flights to and from Israel to slow spread of virus variants

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that he would bring forth a proposal Sunday to stop all flights in and out of Israel for two weeks to slow the spread of new variants of the coronavirus.

In debates over the weekend, Netanyahu and senior officials in the Health Ministry, Transportation Ministry and National Security Council had agreed upon several restrictions which would be brought to the government for approval.

These restrictions include: Banning entrance or exit of Israeli and foreign travellers, limiting operations at Ben Gurion International airport, and forming a set of regulations for special humanitarian circumstances.

The restrictions would be in place for 14 days and will take effect following the approval of the government. (Judy Maltz)

9:07 P.M. Israel to consider limiting operations at Ben-Gurion International Airport

Officials are set to discuss restricting operations at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Sunday in light of the pandemic. The government  approved regulations last week requiring all arrivals to present a negative coronavirus test conducted no more than 72 hours prior to landing.

Restrictions barring Israelis from leaving the country have not been approved because of legal issues.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet with top officials in the National Security Council, Health Ministry and Transportation Ministry on Sunday to discuss additional limitations on travel into and out of the country.

Last week, Haaretz reported that the government was considering implementing strict limitations on international travel. Among the options being weighed are restrictions that would only allow Israelis to leave the country for diplomatic or business trips, humanitarian needs and extraordinary cases to be reviewed by an exemptions committee. Officials have also discussed putting a mechanism in place to compensate travelers who were kept from flying. (Judy Maltz)

8:15 P.M. Rebbe of Vizhnitz Hasidic community orders reopening of schools

The rebbe of the Vizhnitz Hasidic community called on Saturday for Hasidic schools to be reopened despite the national coronavirus lockdown, giving instructions to open all religious elementary schools in the community and to publish these instructions in the community’s official newspaper. The rebbe told followers that they should not clash with police arriving to enforce the lockdown, and that they should refer officers to him. As the leader of the third-largest Hasidic community in the country, the rebbe oversees the education of thousands. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

7:10 P.M. British variant found in six out of seven samples taken from seriously ill pregnant women

Israel’s Health Ministry said Saturday that the British variant of the coronavirus is liable to cause serious illness in pregnant women.

The Health Ministry said that in light of the sharp increase in serious coronavirus cases amongst pregnant women, it had taken samples for the purpose of genetic sequencing. Ten samples were taken from pregnant women who are in serious condition with the coronavirus.

Of the seven samples that have been sequenced so far, six have been identified as the British variant. (Haaretz)

7:00 P.M. Leading rabbi approves reopening ultra-Orthodox schools despite lockdown

The leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, has approved the reopening of religious elementary schools, beginning Sunday despite a spike in COVID-19 infections and nationwide lockdown.

In recent days, sources close to Kanievsky told the Health Ministry that if a plan for opening the Talmud Torah schools is not agreed upon, the rabbi would approve their reopening.

In recent days, Israel Police have entered areas where extremist Haredi sect members live, after months of steering clear, even as many have openly defied lockdown restrictions to hold religious gatherings, weddings and funerals, as well as opening schools. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

Click here to read the full story

6:30 P.M. Health clinics start vaccinating 11th and 12th graders

Israel's health clinics said on Saturday that it began vaccinating teenagers born in 2003 and 2004, or 11th and 12th graders, over the weekend.

A source from Israel's Vaccine Priorities Board told Haaretz that it's important to vaccinate 16 to 18 year olds to ensure examns can be held but also to to "give them back their lives" as much as possible. (Ido Efrati)

5:30 P.M. Wolfson hospital won’t take any new COVID patients due to overflow

Wolfson Medical Center in Holon said on Friday that it won’t admit any new COVID-19 patients. This comes as the hospital has seen a sharp increase in patients, with 75 people currently hospitalized, of whom 40 are in serious condition.

A sharp increase in younger patients has also been detected with 10 people under the age of 45 currently hospitalized. (Haaretz)

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